Every company wants user feedback – lots of it. They want the good, the bad and even the baffling. But how do they make sense of it all? In this guest post, Ally Howell explains how the team at PowerInbox incorporates user feedback into their product.
How to get the most from your users: let them take the wheel
Face it, the country would not have gotten very far without the results of the Industrial Revolution. A hundred and fifty years of innovation has lead to today’s extensive take on revolutionizing technology. The technology sector’s exponential growth patterns has landed it in entire dependence on the people its serving.
User testing and customer satisfaction is essential to proper and auspicious product development. In this day and age, maintaining a relationship with your users encourages sustainable customer loyalty and community expansion. Most successful companies operate on a straightforward, “no consumer, no product” mentality. They put their targeted demographic in the driver’s seat. Reality is, this quite possibly could be the only way to ensure that you deliver a product that is high in demand, and that has the potential to sustain ideal growth rates.
Let’s break it down now.
Step one: The more the better! Collect collect collect.
This is one of the most important steps, so at PowerInbox, we make sure we are reaching out to our users directly (in doing so, we personalize the outreach messages and avoid sending mass emails – this increases the influx of replies). In accordance, composing the right questions and following up once you receive the responses you’re looking for will drive innovation and improvement and acquire the strong relationships you’re looking for.
Getting it all started can be the toughest part, but the rewards are guaranteed to prove worth it. An additional benefit? This initiative fuels conversion rates through the power of personalization and recommendation. It demonstrates how valuable the customer role is to product growth. So, the advice here – reach out to a generous number of users, anticipate a response rate of roughly 50% and get as many emails out there so the feedback pool begins to accumulate a substantial amount of data to analyze.
Step two: Sift and toss
At this point, obtaining the feedback may seem like the easy part! Staying on top of the inbound questions, comments, and concerns can appear to be a daunting task, but as long as each user response is stored as it comes in, the advantages of obtaining thoughts and impressions are detected immediately. Not to mention how amazing it feels when periodic, positive feedback and encouraging notes begin to roll in! We’ve embraced this feedback tactic and recently heard some wonderful news from a dedicated user, Nihit, making the whole team smile: “Definitely! Its mind blowing. Just loved this development from you and your team.” Granted, there are going to be a lot of “interesting” responses on top of these, but more often than not, what users have to offer determine the product’s direction and success.
Methodically organizing the thoughts as they come in can be a savior once your team is compiling hundreds of different ideas, praise, criticism. There are a number of methods that can get this job done, so we tried some out and found that settling on the one that works with our company and product came naturally. At PowerInbox, dissecting each individual’s response, separating their suggestions into categories, and compiling the individual pieces of data in a spreadsheet by genre allows us to see exactly what aspects of the product and PowerInbox community (including the website, press releases, write ups, etc) is getting the most recognition, what the most pressing complaint is, what the favorite feature is, and other common elements. This way, all the content is easily sharable with all members of our team and we can maximize the effects in collaborative efforts.
It is key to choose a productive approach to organizing the feedback. As mentioned, categorizing has always helped at PowerInbox since it adopts a structure that visually guides our attention to each category and segregates the feedback into what we’ve labeled Praise, Concern, Confusion, and Recommendation. That being said, we focus on feedback frequency. It is the most commonly occurring suggestions, ideas, and complaints that spark change and immediate action, driving business decisions and giving an outside perspective on features. As they roll in, it would be wise to curate the responses and fabricate the bigger picture of the message. But there is a fine line between committing to a strategy solely based on what users say and integrating their experiences and suggestions with the pace of the company’s internal business method. Great end products result from changes to a direction or concept, not necessarily to a specific area or feature (unless you’re discussing bugs, of course).
Don’t let the less than positive feedback bring you down or discourage your enthusiasm and energy. It is important to realize that the prized possession you’re creating is not for everyone. And that’s OK! There is always a target audience and group of personas that any good product appeals to. Focus on them. Make sure that you take that constructive criticism and implement changes, modifications, and removals for the better. Avoiding or being closed to the negatives means it is harder to improve. At PowerInbox, we accept all types of feedback. And we love to hear the variety of perspectives. It keeps everything interesting and serves as a challenge! For instance, although there was a particular area that frustrated a user, he was open to reintroducing the tool to his inbox environment because of his confidence in the product and its evolution. Luke initially told us that “this was a deal breaker for me so I quit using it” and followed up with eagerness to “install it again and see if it does the same thing now that i have a new computer.” We respect his honesty in reporting exactly what he felt, and in turn, the outcome will be amiable for him, us, and other users in the community who experienced a downside to the product.
Sometimes users aren’t optimizing your product and their feedback seems irrelevant – this is where the “toss” action could come into play. But the best business strategies never throw away data unless it is one hundred percent irrelevant. In the case of user test, we don’t believe anything is irrelevant because if a user doesn’t seem to understand the product – they may not be the only ones and this is an opportunity to show how invested you are in the user experience and nudge them in the right direction. You could end up a being a converting guru!
Finally, the “baffling” component. There will always be thoughts rolling in that are hard to understand or appear difficult to apply. They are also easy to dismiss! But wait, true development stems from exploring those comments at a deeper level and learning of the impression your product has made on people outside your immediate bubble. Thus, the analysis.
Step three: Analyze user voices
We get to see and hear everything! It’s been incredible to see the amount of growth that stems from this kind of testing. It is an inside scoop on where they are dissatisfied, what makes them happy, and how to fix it and make it even better.
From this experience, we’ve deduced that our users appreciate hearing from the team and are happy to relay their experiences; they become a key liaison to ensuring that a useful, impactful product is delivered. One common response form reaching out that we love to read has been, “Thanks again for making a great product and soliciting feedback.” Clearly, the positive effect on customers confirms their appreciation and assures them that the product they’re using has received all the time, energy, and resources necessary for the highest quality delivery. It is important to value your users and let them know that they’re in control of the product. So, let your consumer base have some say in your future and development work.
For example, a high volume of users inquired about Apple Mail and suggest other email clients that they would like to see PowerInbox integrate with. It would be unwise not to listen to the voices of our users, so the development team has taken action to implement a functioning PowerInbox feature to the email client. Another example references our dedicated user, Mo, along with a number of other PowerInbox users who suggested that a notification system for our Sidebar would be beneficial – “I think what would be really cool is if there was a notification system on the email Sidebar. Since I mainly check my social profiles to see if someone messaged, wall posted, comment etc., being able to see this on the sidebar would be awesome! It would pretty much eliminate my need Facebook directly from FB site. Same with Twitter and LinkedIn.” After curating all the user feedback, the frequency of this suggestion was overwhelming, and thus, the implementation of notifications looks to be in the near-future works.
Step four: Predict your market
Finally, it would be misleading to report that PowerInbox thrives solely on user reviews and product features. We are more than that, we focus on the entire community we have created and the best interest of current and future customers. They aren’t just users of the product, they are an integral part of who we are as a company.
This means that feedback can’t be the only resource that fuels our innovation. It’s like the classic Steve Jobs quote that has impacted the technology industry: if a company only grows based on what customers demand, by the time that something is delivered, they’re going to want something new, something else.
The key here is to anticipate the market and visualize what users will want as a tool in not only the next year but for a more permanent future span of time. So a productive next move is to expand feedback and research beyond the user base. Take a fresh pair of eyes or reach out to someone who is removed from the industry and consider their viewpoint. You never know, you may be talented at recruiting!
The fusion of these tactics will help strategize and define your road-map while developing features that will be high in demand.