Design | 3 min read

3 Rules for Customer Feedback

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Gathering useful timely feedback from customers can be a long process. Intercom makes it faster and easier than ever before but just because it’s now easy to ask it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to waste your customers’ time. Answering a question well is always tougher than asking it.

When users take time to offer useful feedback, you have to consider what their experience is like. Usually it’s the ones who care most that take their time to send you thoughts and ideas. By ignoring them, you’re telling your best customers that you don’t care. Hardly what you set out to do. If you’re gathering feedback only to look like you care, then ironically it just highlights that you don’t.

The balancing act

Reading feedback is difficult. On one hand, you have to be willing to keep the faith and deliver on your vision. On the other hand, if eleven people out of twelve are telling you that they need time tracking, then it’s possible that your vision has a blind spot.

1. You have to be ready

Never solicit feedback unless you’re able to act on it. If nobody is available to start coding or designing within the foreseeable future, then you’re not in a position to act.

It feels constructive to run surveys, but if their only purpose is to make you feel busy, then you’re fooling everyone. Feedback must result in action. Turning the feedback into a to-do list with no one responsible, or sticking it on a whiteboard of “stuff to do someday, maybe” is the equivalent of saying “whatever” to your users. They won’t be keen to talk you again.

2. You have to be be open

If you only ever implement feedback that you immediately agree with, you probably don’t need the feedback in the first place. For feedback to be useful, you must at least consider implementing changes you don’t agree with. The whole idea is to solicit opinions that you didn’t come up with yourself. How else will you discover your blind spots?

A simple test to see if you’re open to feedback is this: if lots of feedback asks for a feature or change you don’t like, will you discard it, or will you explore it? If it’s the former, then you’re not open minded… you just like playing with survey tools.

3. You have to ask the right customers

All customers are not the same. All feedback is not equal. This is what all general surveys get wrong. They treat all customers equally, lumping a large customer with 20+ teammates in with a solo freelancer, and a 36 month veteran in with yesterdays sign-up.

  • If you want to hear about how to improve your onboarding, talk to this weeks sign-ups—it’s fresh in their mind.
  • If you want to hear how your interface scales, talk to the guys with hundreds of active projects (or galleries, libraries etc).
  • If you want to understand the challenges in getting an entire team to switch to your app, talk to people who have just added their whole team.
  • If you want to understand what triggered people to switch to your product, ask them shortly right after they register.

The golden rule for feedback

Intercom makes asking for targeted customer feedback really easy, but before you go run surveys for fun, always remember that you’re spending your customers’ precious time. Is it worth it? Are you ready to act on it? Are you open to what it could say? Every time you decide to gather opinions, ask yourself this first.

Am I asking the right customers the right question, at the right time, in the right way?