How to Get Customer Feedback (Even When You’re Short on Time)

Illustration of Facebook likes, reactions and comments on a computer screen

Ask any product manager about how they set priorities, and all of them will be quick to mention customer feedback.

To successfully launch products, you need to have an intimate understanding of your customer.

  • What are their goals?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What do they like?
  • What do they dislike?
  • What does a successful, helpful product look like to them?

Those are all important questions to answer—and, you won’t be able to do so without investing some time in collecting valuable customer feedback.

But, here’s the challenge that so many product managers run into over and over again: a short timeline. Getting your hands on feedback takes time, which is often something you don’t have a lot of.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”6fjEh” via=”yes” ]It’s crucial to get customer feedback, even when you’re short on time.[/ctt]

“Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges of managing product at software companies is that the pressure to move fast leads people to substitute their own experiences for market validation,” explains Christian Bonilla in a post for Mind the Product, “Product failures often trace back to a misunderstanding or outright ignorance of what users (and buyers) really care about.”

This doesn’t just apply to software companies—it’s an issue that all product managers will find themselves running into.

So, here’s the dichotomy: You know customer feedback is critical, but you don’t have tons of time to collect it.

It seems like you’re left with a choice between launching a successful and relevant product slowly or launching a lackluster product quickly—neither of which are solid game plans.

Fortunately, there’s another option.

You can indeed get the insights you need, without it involving a huge investment in time. Use these tips and you’re sure to streamline the process of gathering that oh-so-necessary customer feedback.

1. Start With a Specific Question

The process of collecting feedback about a product can often feel overwhelming. But, much of that has to do with the fact that the general goal of “get feedback” can feel intangible and insurmountable.

That vague mission has no explicit goal. There’s no question that you’re aiming to answer. Instead, you’re throwing your product out there and hoping that your customers will have something—anything—to say about it.

But, what’s going to happen when that feedback returns?

You’ll have a tangled mess of criticisms that will not only be tough to sort through, but also difficult to actually implement.

The best way to think about market research is as a quest to find an answer to a specific question.

If it’s a mobile app, for example, perhaps you want to know why so your customers are unwilling to foot the bill and upgrade to the paid version.

Why aren’t those features worth it to them?

With that in mind, you can dig through data and seek out much more relevant, targeted feedback that will help you make real progress on a problem that’s plaguing you.

Starting with an idea you’d like to validate or a question you’d like to answer will keep you focused—and avoid the major time suck of needing to filter through every piece of feedback that comes your way.

2. Leverage Surveys

If you don’t have hours to invest in actually speaking to your customers, surveys can be an efficient and effective way to get their insights and suggestions. You just need to spend the time to set it up, and then it will do the rest of the legwork for you.

“Surveys are the bread and butter for getting feedback. They’re easy to set up, easy to send out, easy to analyze, and scale very well. What’s not to like?” – says Lars Lofgren in a Kissmetrics post.

There are a couple of ways that you can leverage surveys to your advantage.

If your survey is longer (although, be forewarned, you always want to keep it as short and concise as possible—your customers likely aren’t willing to invest a ton of time here either!), you can use a tool like SurveyMonkey and then send it out to your email subscribers or promote it on social media (which, by the way, is another great place to keep your eyes peeled for what your customers are saying!).

Or, if you’re planning to use a short and snappy one or two-question survey, you can host it right on your website.

In most cases, you’ll want the survey to pop up in front of your visitors, so make sure the included questions are relevant to whatever website page the survey appears on.

While surveys involve a little bit of elbow grease to develop initially, once they’re created they’ll do all of the dirty work of collecting feedback—without requiring a ton of your time and attention.

3. Create an “Idea Community”

When it comes to gathering feedback, getting people to provide you with their insights is half the challenge. Unless something really bothers or pleases your customers, they typically keep their mouths shut.

To avoid spending a lot of time chasing down people who might be willing to provide feedback, consider creating an “idea community.”

This is a core group of engaged users and customers that you can turn to for feedback when you need it.

“You can set up these ‘idea communities’ on your website or social networks and invite people to join throughout the year. By having this community already in place, you’ll have a group that is not only willing to give feedback when asked, but also eager to do so.” – explains Heather McClosky in a post for ProductPlan.

The less time you have to spend searching for users to provide feedback, the more time you can spend actually analyzing and utilizing it.

4. Enlist Other Types of Feedback

As the product manager, it’s easy to get “tunnel vision”—meaning, when it comes time to collect product feedback, you only think of reaching out directly to your customers. You want insights and criticisms straight from the horse’s mouth.

However, there are other sources you can tap for valuable input that have nothing to do with getting in touch with your customers. In fact, you can get a lot of great information internally.

Ask your sales team what they’ve heard in their sales efforts.

  • What objections do they face when selling?
  • What are customers most excited about?

You can also connect with your customer support team for similar insights.

  • What are they hearing from your customers?
  • What are some common questions they’re faced with?
  • What frustrations do your customers have?

Having those conversations can give you a look into your customer’s mind—without ever having to reach out to them directly.

Moving Forward

There you have it—four tactics to help you collect customer feedback, without needing to invest tons of time and elbow grease. Even when you’re short on time, you should be able to get some valuable suggestions and insights with these methods.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”Tb492″ via=”yes” ]Remember to develop a detailed plan for actually implementing feedback.[/ctt]

The last thing you should do? Develop a detailed plan for actually implementing that feedback.

How will you sort through it, analyze it, and then leverage it to make your product better for your customers?

Map out a roadmap for yourself, follow it, and you’re sure to increase your chances of launching a product that’s well-received by your customers.  

July 24, 2017