Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Why You Need Customer Feedback
A thoughtful system for gathering and evaluating customer feedback can help founders effectively cut through the noise to get to the right insights and improve the customer experience, drive growth and strengthen their position in the marketplace.
In other words, as essential as it is for founders to stay attuned to customer needs and solve pressing problems, customer feedback can sometimes be a lot of noise. It can be difficult to pick the most valuable insights out of a cacophony of voices and then translate that feedback into constructive action.
To filter feedback, leaders must implement a systematic framework, taking into account the value and effort of building new features or products. Requests that seem like a good idea from one side are often not aligned with other parts of the business. Founders must consistently view decisions at the company level, rather than optimizing for just one metric.
Gather and Store the Data
Once you’ve begun collecting input from customers, the first step to building a better customer feedback loop is to gather all that data and store it in a way that’s conducive to reporting.
For our team at Finch, an effective system starts with consolidating data from all of our channels and touchpoints, including direct email communications, support requests, social media comments, surveys and quarterly business reviews into a customer relationship management platform. Next, we break this data down by product, use case, customer segment and other relevant categories.
Keyword tagging can be particularly useful here. And when it comes time to distill insights from our data, easy-to-interpret dashboards and automating reporting help us move with speed and clarity.
Ultimately, the intention here is to create a seamless workflow and transform raw feedback into actionable insights that align with your company’s guiding vision and purpose.
Develop a Framework for Prioritization
Next, with your insights in hand, develop a framework for prioritization. Every company has to walk a fine line between investing into meeting existing customer needs and striving toward new growth opportunities.
At Finch, we’ve used the RICE model to help us strike the right balance between addressing the feedback we receive on current products and paving the way for new offerings that will attract future customers and help us stay ahead of market trends.
RICE, which stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort, offers a method to quantify the value and effort of launching a new feature. Calculating multiple RICE scores, one for current and one for future customers, gives us clear, data-backed guidance around where to put our immediate focus and where to move the needle on our most pressing business objectives.
After all, the best initiatives unlock opportunities to boost revenue — that is, known pipeline and current deals — and expand the total addressable market (TAM), including all net new possible deals.
In addition, it’s important to factor competitive differentiation into prioritization. What features or products will set your company apart in the marketplace today and the years to come? How can you build on your company’s core competencies to carve out a unique niche and stay ahead of the curve? Competitive differentiation can be a significant factor in how you calculate your RICE score for future customers and growth opportunities.
Identify Groups and Establish Loops
To supercharge how you capture and evaluate customer feedback, it’s essential to identify stakeholder groups, both internal and external, and set up clear communication loops. While external stakeholders include your customers, internal stakeholders may include teams across customer service, product development and sales. Each of these internal groups will play a different role in gathering, analyzing and acting on customer feedback, so it’s important to foster alignment between each department to create a systematic flow of data.
For example, your customer service team, often the first point of contact for customers, may be responsible for gathering and sorting through initial feedback. Your sales people may have a similar role, as they collect feedback from leads and prospects.
Then, this data might travel to your product developers, who cull and synthesize the most important insights to inform plans of action. To encourage this continuous communication loop, frequent meetings or other regular touchpoints can help ensure everyone stays up to date and has access to the right information.
At the same time, build communications loops with your customers. Acknowledge their feedback, send them updates about any new changes you’re implementing based on their suggestions and encourage them to continue to share their thoughts and opinions with your team. Establishing strong, interconnected communication loops creates a well-oiled machine for filtering customer feedback while simultaneously ensuring all stakeholders feel heard, engaged and valued.
Look for Trends and Win-Wins
As you sift through your customers’ feedback, pay attention to where you see patterns or common themes. Are there features many customers and prospects are asking for? Or are they frequently running into similar issues? These trends can act as guideposts, helping you identify areas for improvement or growth.
At the same time, keep a close eye out for win-win opportunities that would allow you to deliver on the needs of existing customers and progress toward future business goals. For example, are there features you can build today that will provide an underpinning of another future product already planned? Prioritizing instances like these makes the most of the feedback you receive and helps upgrade your product while propelling your business forward.
Solve the Hard Problems
It’s one thing to hear your customers’ feedback and deliver exactly what they ask and another to anticipate their needs and offer them something they may not yet know they want. So go beyond listening to customer feedback. In the words of Henry Ford, don’t just give them faster horses. Show them a better, more elegant solution.
For founders, this means delving into the tough issues and having the courage to solve hard problems, whether they be complete product overhauls or systemic operational improvements. Allocating sufficient resources and fostering a culture of challenging the status quo enables founders to encourage their teams to push the boundaries of innovation and spark transformative growth. After all, the most complicated projects can yield the biggest rewards, both in terms of customer satisfaction and product quality.
Customer feedback should be a tool for founders — a compass guiding their direction, not dictating it. With a truly strategic approach to incorporating customer feedback into their product roadmaps, founders can deliver solutions that exceed customer expectations and also unlock new possibilities for innovation and success.