Product feedback: the proof of the pudding is in the eating

You’re ready. You believe in your product, it’s brilliant. So you release it, and no doubt market it as “cutting-edge” or “leading”. But unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how great you think your software product is, or how many flashy adjectives you use to big it up. It only matters what users think.

For all your hard work, users will decide your success. Products come and go in today’s saturated tech scene, but basic customer needs and groups tend to stick. So, if you don’t give users what they want, it’s not too difficult for them to find an alternative solution. (A solution that will likewise claim to be “best in class” and “innovative”.)

To keep feeding your product with what users want, you need to keep listening to their product feedback.

Why is getting product feedback important?

Software products can be amazing, but have no market. Or, they might have a market, but need serious improvement. Chances are, your product is somewhere in the sweet spot between the two. Your products are only ever drafts of the next release, and product feedback can be the tool you use to chisel ongoing improvements.

Product feedback helps you know where you stand with the people who matter: your users. It gives you an insight into how people interact with your software product. You get the chance to learn which features are popular, and which aren’t. You can discover any usability issues that are putting off your customers, and any needs that your product isn’t quite meeting yet.

This helps you determine how you spend one of your most valuable resources: the time of your development team. Developers are typically distanced from the experience of using a product, as they’re wrapped up in the business of building it. Product feedback helps them determine the most important features to code, rather than ploughing away on product upgrades that users don’t want or need.

Without feedback, you’re blind as to how users perceive your product. Product feedback, then, can be your objective eyes and ears. It serves as a guide to assist you in shaping future direction and feature decisions.

Why is giving product feedback beneficial?

Giving product feedback can be just as worthwhile as getting it. It’s a chance for customers to voice concerns and issues with the product. (Without harming your brand in a frustrated social media rant.) A simple whinge can work wonders – if it’s listened to by an understanding ear.

Everyone wants to have their voice heard. Collecting product feedback from your users has the added benefit of showing that you’re listening; that you care about their needs and opinions. This makes users feel more valued, and is a great way to support your efforts in building customer loyalty.

Collecting product feedback – customers

So, product feedback is important. But how exactly do you go about getting your hands on it? Firstly, your customers are the most important source of product feedback. These are the people eating the pudding. Collecting feedback from customers can come in the form of surveys, review sections, comments, and conversations, to name a few.

Unfortunately, customer time is precious, and not always easy to obtain. Plus, you’ll likely have a wide variety of customer categories — from new subscribers to your product, to those that have been using your services for months or years. Although that might make collecting feedback a little less straightforward, it’s great for your overall purposes.

That’s because product feedback matures with use. Younger customers will tell you what’s confusing at the start, like onboarding issues or initial interface confusions. Customers that have used your product for a while will highlight frustrations or limitations with your product, release process and company communication.

So, it’s important that you ask the right people the right questions, based on your goals. For example, if you want to understand why people aren’t using a specific feature your product has, ask the customers that don’t use it. If you want to improve a feature, talk to those who do. It also helps to pay attention to the type of customer you’re asking. A paying customer is more likely to ask for improved features, while free users will likely be after new ones.

Collecting customer feedback – support team

Another way to collect product feedback is through your support team. Whenever a user experiences an issue, difficulty or confusion with your product, they reach out to support.

Every call, chat, and ticket your support crew handles is rich with product feedback. Your customers are giving you direct information on the areas they’re finding problems with — problems important enough to warrant a support session.

So, by coordinating with your support team, you get a direct line into daily product feedback. Importantly, it will be feedback focused on the features and functionality of your product that may need attention. By looking for common or recurring complaints and problems, you can identify issues affecting the most customers, and consider fixes for your next update.

Using product feedback

When using product feedback, be discerning. Take time to analyse and consider the solutions, fixes and changes that will best suit your product and your brand. Don’t charge in straight away and try to fix every even slightly negative comment that you receive. There’s only so many hours in the day, after all.

Equally, don’t use product feedback as your sole guideline for making product changes. We all know the famous faster horses quote, right? You can’t expect your users to come up with game-changing ideas and innovations on your behalf, and it’s your job to be the expert in your market.

Instead, use product feedback to listen, learn, and tailor your product to your customers. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of the product is in the using.

Useful links

Are you eating your own dog food?Overengineered software and the Juicero problemThe death of the unique feature set
What is product discovery, and why is more than a buzzword?Yes to YAGNIFeature creep: is your software guilty?