So you’ve done the hard work of gathering customer feedback and are wondering “what now?” Well, first of all, congratulations! It’s a big achievement to even be in the position where you have enough customer feedback (also known as The Voice of Customer- VoC), to work with. As a product manager, there is nothing more valuable than understanding the user, so being able to collect, process and gain insight from the VoC is a critical skill to master.
The 5 steps to gain actionable insight from customer feedback are:
- Centralize, clean and categorize your feedback
- Define the question you want to answer
- Tie it back to key business metrics
- Analyze the finding
- Take action and repeat
As you begin to develop your customer feedback strategy, you’ll ultimately make modifications to fit your company and team. This is natural and you shouldn’t be afraid to create a system that works best for you. Implementing new processes is always a challenge, but when it is done right, you can begin to get your ROI quickly by gaining insight into the low-hanging opportunities to delight your customers. Let’s help you get started by expanding on the 5 steps above.
Step 1: Centralize, clean and bucket your customer feedback
Your customer feedback is most likely sitting all over the place- Zendesk, Jira, Excel, Slack, and even on your desktop notes. I know the feeling. When customers care, they give feedback in whatever way they can, and it is often difficult to find a “one size fits all” way to collect, clean, and categorize them. But this is one of the most important parts to gaining insight because while individual feedback can give you an idea, seeing them together can make trends and themes visible. So what is the best way to centralize, clean, and bucket your customer feedback?
As a general rule, the must-have information when centralizing customer feedback is the Who, When, and What. Keep your method for centralizing feedback simple while you figure out what feedback management system works for your product.
Afterward, you can begin to add in the optional information to bucket the feedback in various ways. Some examples of buckets are by:
- Customer type (internal, external, prospect, specific account, etc)
- Initiatives or features (user management, pricing, etc)
- Type (feature request, question, improvement ideas, etc)
- Level of difficulty & Impact
- Source (Facebook, Zendesk, Forums, etc)
- Categories (needs, wants, expectations, etc)
From my experience, I’ve found that the biggest challenge is in making sure that the method is not over-engineered. It is easy to fall into this trap of wanting to add more and more information. Often, the tools you are using to centralize and manage your customer feedback do more harm than good because of all the ways you can customize it. For example, I’ve used Jira to manage my customer feedback and soon found myself over-engineering it by linking it to existing Epics, adding tags and labels, and playing around with various integrations.
Step 2: Define the question you want to answer
When you are reviewing the Voice of Customer, it is easy to get lost in the weeds since there is often no direction or a single thing that is talked about. You can overcome this by asking questions you want to have answered. The questions will act as the filter and make it easier to cut through the noise.
Examples of questions to guide you:
- Why is our churn so high?
- What is the most requested feature?
- What are our customers most satisfied with?
- What are the FAQs?
These questions can further be broken down into buckets based on your hypothesis. For example, thinking about the question “Why is our churn so high?” I might think of a couple of reasons:
- Poor customer service
- Not enough value for the price
- Difficult onboarding experience
- Lack of features
Next, I would go through the VoC and try to validate this by categorizing the feedback into these categories. One piece of advice here is to keep an open mind to discover new things. Your users will use your product in ways you did not intend or could even have thought of. Don’t ignore it, rather embrace these new insights. If you find common themes starting to emerge, there might be a hidden opportunity there that is waiting to be discovered.
At the end of the day, it is unlikely that all of your questions will be answered by looking at the VoC, however, it can be an invaluable tool to help you form the hypothesis that you can go and start to test. This might mean reaching out to your customers with follow-up questions or conducting a survey of a specific segment you want to know more about. In the case where you are going out to actively collect user feedback, you want to start by knowing the questions you want to have answered.
Step 3: Analyze the finding
Once your data is cleaned and organized, and you have the questions you want to answer, it is time to start digging. You may have found out a lot during the data collecting and organizing phase, but in the analysis phase, you are taking a deeper look into your findings.
The initial analysis of the VoC will most likely leave you with more questions than answers. During the analysis phase, you want to take your initial questions and hypothesis and create a strategy for the second round of data gathering.
The difference this time is that you are looking for ways to validate your hypothesis. Though this can be both qualitative and quantitative, you want it to be as objective as possible, and measurable if possible. This will help you organize your findings in the final step, and get stakeholder buy-in for the resulting action items.
Going back to our example of “why is our churn so high?” we came up with 4 possible reasons that we might explore. If the initial VoC had a lot of users talking about the missing features or price, I might want to conduct a feature trade-off analysis with some of our existing customers to see which features they find valuable and worth paying for. This way, we can start to validate our assumptions around why our churn is high, and gather data specific to the hypothesis we have set earlier.
Step 4: Tie your findings back to key business metrics
At the end of the day, you need to give your stakeholders a reason to care about your findings. The best way to do this is to tie it back to key business metrics that are measured by your organization.
For example, you may be looking at the Net Promoter Score to give you insight into customer satisfaction. You see that it has recently dropped since the last release of your product and want to dedicate resources to understand and resolve the issue. This sounds reasonable, but with competing priorities in your company, the best way to secure resources is to explain what impact this is having on the bottom line and what the anticipated benefits are.
Some questions to guide you in this step are:
- What are your organizational short term and long term goals?
- What is considered the highest priority?
- What metrics are used to track it?
- What implications do your findings have on the key business metrics?
Some common key business metrics that might be important to our organization might be:
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Retention Rate
- Customer lifetime value (CLV)
- Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
- Lead Velocity Rate (LVR)
- Cost per Unit
Step 5 Summarize the findings and act
The last step of the process is to communicate your findings to key stakeholders with the objective of getting their support. The common mistake when summarizing the findings is that the audience has the same level of understanding as you do. The fact is, nobody in the organization has thought this as much as you, so you truly are the expert here.
An effective process for summarizing findings to key stakeholders is:
- Define the problem statement and supporting data.
- Provide potential solutions, their respective risks/opportunities
- Select a solution and provide supporting evidence as to why it is the best choice.
- Define the key metrics to see if this solves the problem, including guardrail metrics.
- Provide potential risks, and ways to address them.
By using a framework like the one above, you can keep the information bite-sized and help your audience follow your train of thought.
Once you are aligned with your key stakeholders, it is time to act on the plan. Make sure to keep your communication open through this process as things will inevitably change, and new information will be found. After executing on the plan, track and measure the impact of the changes, and follow up with your findings again.