Most companies would agree that customer feedback is the most effective way to understand your product and the people who are using it day-to-day.
However, what they fail to realize is that collecting that feedback is just the beginning.
Spencer Coon, Co-founder, and COO at Beamer, talks us through how to manage a continuous customer feedback loop that provides valuable, actionable information you can use to consistently improve your product, and why there’s no such thing as bad feedback.
- What a feedback loop is and why it’s so important to a SaaS business
- How Beamer handle their feedback loop
- Tips for creating an effective feedback loop
- How to strike the right balance between automated and in-person feedback strategies
Q: What is a feedback loop, and why is it so important for a SaaS business?
A: The feedback loop is a process of gathering customer feedback and using that feedback to build a better product.
It’s typically comprised of five stages: measure, learn, build, update and engage.
When measuring, you’re going to be doing things like looking at product analytics, asking for feedback directly, using tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey tools, or having a public roadmap and allowing your users to suggest new features.
Learning means analyzing the different feedback you get, identifying trends, and identifying possible features you could build.
The building stage is creating a feature or an improvement within your product, and the super important part at the end is updating and engaging - this means announcing your new features or updates and having users discover them.
You can measure how users are reacting to these new features with direct feedback, and utilize product analytics to see if they're actually using them.
Treating this as a continuous cycle allows you to adapt really quickly to market demands, which is extremely important in SaaS, with there being so many different options and pretty low switching costs between different tools.
Companies definitely need to differentiate themselves and provide solutions that really allow them to retain their customers, and the feedback loop is definitely an integral part of that.
Q: How do you handle the feedback loop at Beamer?
A: We use a variety of different tools and internal processes.
For product analytics, we use some internal processes plus tools like Hotjar, Mixpanel, or Amplitude.
We're constantly talking with our customers - this gives them the sense that they’re being heard and if they do offer feedback it will be acted upon promptly.
Our philosophy is to make many incremental changes over having a few really big launches. It’s much easier to measure and correct those smaller changes and ensure they’re bringing value to the customer.
We try to announce changes consistently and use segmentation so they’re relevant and engaging.
Q: Do you have any tips for creating effective feedback loops?
A: My top tip would be to ask customers for feedback directly.
When you announce something new, directly ask the user what they think about that new product update or new announcement.
Using tools like Net Promotor Score (NPS) is a great way to measure user sentiment over time - by asking how likely they would be to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague, and seeing if it differs by different user groups or segments.
In terms of creating an effective feedback loop, as I mentioned before, just announcing the updates consistently and to the right groups, using a variety of models; pop up snippets, tooltips, sidebar feeds, as many different engaging ways to match the tone and the type of content you're sharing is so important.
Make sure you respond to customer feedback but don't just collect it, make the user feel heard.
Even if you're not going to necessarily prioritize and make that product change the user is asking for, at least make them feel heard.
If you're not going to make the change, try to help them understand why it doesn’t make sense for you to do it at this time. This level of communication will help them feel like their feedback is valuable, and they’ll be more likely to give you feedback in the future.
Q: What's the best way to use the data you get from customer feedback?
A: Don't always do exactly what the customer says. Really think about the problem they're trying to solve, the customer is an expert on the problem, but not necessarily an expert on the solution.
It's like Henry Ford said, "If I'd have asked people what they wanted, they would have said they wanted faster horses." they're not always going to be right.
What a customer says they want, might be very different from what they'll actually use in practice. That's where measuring what customers are actually doing, versus what they're saying, is important.
Here’s an example from a previous company that I co-founded - we built a collaboration platform and our customers were asking for more test management tools, but when we looked at product analytics, 90% were using the product for this very simple live chat feature that we had built-in. So we ended up building a standalone chat as a separate product that was much more successful than the original collaboration platform.
Q: How do you handle negative feedback?
A: For us, there really is no negative feedback.
Feedback is an opportunity to improve your product and show your customers that you're working to solve their problems.
You always have an opportunity to convert negative feedback into a positive product experience.
If you solve a customer problem quickly, they're often happier with quick and efficient help in resolving that issue than if they'd never had the problem in the first place.
Another tip is to always be polite and respectful - even if their tone is a bit negative or abrasive- I really believe this leaves a professional and positive image for the user and customer.
Q: How do you strike the right balance between automated and in-person feedback strategies?
A: We definitely prefer automated - I just believe it removes that bias people often have of not wanting to offend a real-life person.
Unsupervised and anonymous feedback is much less inhibited, and it's going to give your product team real and useful feedback to act on.
We have an NPS survey tool with Beamer where people can leave a score, and when they leave us a relatively low score, we'll contact them personally to ask them what we can do to improve. I'd say eight or nine times out of 10 they'll regret their low feedback and say, "Oh, it's not really that bad," because they don't want to say those things to a real-life person.
I’d recommend using as many tools as you can to automate that feedback, and just remove that live component so you get a more honest answer.
Q: How do you go about identifying trends in customer satisfaction?
A: This is a really cool new area we're going to be putting a ton of focus on internally at Beamer and building out different capabilities that will help our customers do this.
For example, with our NPS tool, people can leave a rating, and you can ask a follow-up question like, "Why do you feel like that? Why did you leave a positive score or a negative score?"
We use some AI capabilities, like building different tools to identify keywords and tags.
If 20% of users are leaving responses like 'easy to use’ with the word 'easy' in it, you can identify and understand that, okay, ease of use is something our customers identify with, find value in, and we need to double down on that.
Automating as much of that trend identification as you can is definitely helpful.