Bridging the gap between Feedback and Product

Bridging the gap between Feedback and Product

I recently received the following email from O’Reilly: The CTA button leads to SurveyMonkey, where I was asked to fill in a survey. Super easy to do and in fact, I did complete the survey. It will help the PM get the info they want and act accordingly. However, structured surveys are not the only source of feedback.

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The CTA button leads to SurveyMonkey, where I was asked to fill in a survey. Super easy to do and in fact, I did complete the survey. It will help the PM get the info they want and act accordingly. However, structured surveys are not the only source of feedback. I have been following the Intercom success almost from the beginning. Then came Drift. Some years ago, I worked on a project where clients used to file tickets with Bugzilla. The previous company I worked for has a custom user voice mechanism in place, whereas the current one uses Zendesk. A friend of mine is a Freshdesk and Freshchat client and the list goes on.

Although I am neither an expert in customer support nor a product manager, I can imagine that choosing among the endless options and migrating from one to another can be very time-consuming and frustrating.

walking

I have worked with several product teams and collaborated with many product managers. The one thing that has always caught my attention was that more than a few user requests get either ignored or forgotten. Product managers always do their best to keep up with the vast amounts of feedback and each of them has developed a somehow unique system for organising and prioritising feedback.

Almost always there is some spreadsheet where the PM keeps a list with the most interesting, relevant or recent feedback items. Spreadsheets tend to grow unusable and the list of feedback channels seems kind of ill-defined.

We’ve tried to discover patterns and found only one: Custom spreadsheets

Thus, for the past couple of months, I, as a member of an awesome team, have been trying to comprehend how companies collect feedback and how product managers use it in order to improve their product. We’ve tried to discover patterns and we found only one: Custom spreadsheets.

As of February 2019, Zapier lists 35 customer support software apps, with the majority of them being helpdesk tools.

Searching in Capterra with the keyword “customer” yielded more than 10 different software categories:

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Searching for “feedback” produced one more category, namely “360 Degree Feedback Software”, but it’s totally unrelated to this study.

If we add up all the products in the different categories, we end up having 1563 products. I know this number is not accurate since many products can belong to more than one category, however, the number of options on seems overwhelmingly high.

In addition to the above software categories, after discussing with more than 15 product managers, we came to the conclusion that channels for user feedback include social networks as well, since most -if not all- modern software companies have an active Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page, where a -most probably significant- portion of their users are active.

Searching on Twitter for “feedback” and “product” a very popular pattern we easily noticed was:

“Thanks! We’ll pass your feedback along to our product

This is by far most common reaction to any suggestion, report or complaint by users (if any at all).

Although I guess customer support experts dictate that this is the most appropriate reaction to a complaining user, I‘ve been wondering whether such promises really come through or get lost among hundreds of requests and product planning meetings.

After several interviews with product managers, we concluded that there is a gap between Customer Support and Product Development. Some bug reports come through, some feature requests get lost. It depends on customer support agents’ subjective judgment, workload, and other unpredictable factors.

Our take here is that user feedback has a ton of undiscovered invaluable information. PMs want to listen to the customer. Preferably without spending 10% of their time skimming through conversations. They just want to know what is going on.

I’d like to borrow a phrase by Tarif Rahman:

A tight & continuous feedback loop = a better product

During a user interview, a product manager working for a large corporation told us that the most valuable thing we could build for him regarding customer feedback would be a magic wand to connect the dots.

That’s why we decided to build Feedgrip. To connect the dots and fill the gap.

Post Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash.

Dimitris Kotsakos
Authored by Dimitris Kotsakos
Software engineer, product guy and avid reader. Feedgrip is one of his side-hustles.