Over 3/4ths of the work I do every day involves user feedback in some way. In the morning until noon, I’m fixing bugs that users send my way. Then in the afternoons, I pick which features I want to focus on by using user feedback data collected by the multitude of feedback mechanisms. Then, in the evening we wind things down by speculating how the product could evolve in the next 2 months by, you guessed it, talking about what our customers had to say that day. Everything from our pitch, core functionality, UX, and business model have been shaped and molded by our lovely customers.

The opportunity to have conversations with our customers is what keeps us productive on a day-to-day basis, and we cherish it. Our team knows first-hand the difficult struggle of low splash page traffic, having no customers to talk to, and turning to unproductive internal speculation when the sound of crickets gets too frustrating. When we see other companies squander the potential to interact with their customers to collect their feedback, we cringe. In the same way we would cringe if they were driving on the freeway with their eyes shut, because user feedback is a golden compass that guides you to product/market fit, enriching both your business and customer.

That being said, here are some common pitfalls I’ve observed pertaining to collecting user feedback.

Not Caring about Feedback

This is by far the biggest and most obvious mistake among those new to building a product or business. We were even guilty of it ourselves, and were punished by spending months building a product that nobody wanted (luckily, we pivoted). The solution to this pitfall is education in both user feedback tools and the values of collecting feedback. A few useful tools we use are Olark, Qualaroo, UserVoice, Vanilla Forums (or any PHP forum software), Google Forms, and our Google Voice telephone number. Installing each tool takes minutes and each creates a unique channel that allows feedback to start flowing in. Creating multiple different channels to collect feedback is essential to reaching all of your customers, as each customer has their own preference on how they want to interact with you.

Mistaking Non-Customer Feedback for Customer Feedback

How could one possibly make this mistake? Isn’t it obvious who a customer is? A customer is somebody who pays money for your product or service. And how much of a customer they are depends on how much they spent. That means your investors (if they don’t use your product), free users, and your own social circle are NOT customers. However, many people take their feedback at the same, or even greater, regard as their actual customers. This results in wasted time spent:

  • Optimizing parts of the site that regular customers don’t touch.
  • Building features that regular customers don’t care about.
  • Changing your business model to avoid taking in revenue (if you’re listening to most VCs), and thus eliminating any possibility of true customer feedback.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this chart below and it should sound very familiar what comes out of your FREE users.

These are all dangerous, even possibly fatal to your business and make this pitfall one worth avoiding.

Measuring Everything, Learning Nothing

Oftentimes, too much data can be as straining as too little. It’s easy to hook up hundreds of analytics events and then get overwhelmed when trying to look at what it all means. We still measure everything through analytics, but now instead of trying to distill meaning from every event, we only look at the data when we need help making a decision. This helps keep cognitive overhead in processing user data low, increasing the team’s willingness to turn to data during decisions of whether or not to build feature A or B.

Worrying about Nothing

You could be worrying about nothing for two reasons:

  1.  No matter what choice you make, it is possible that the feature or change you are arguing about will not move the needle.
  2.  The decision you are making about the feature or change is unjustified by default without any user feedback data.

Listening to customers and analyzing their behavior through analytics can prevent both of these possibilities. That is why whenever our team is speculating about which decision to make regarding a new feature, we cut it off after 5 minutes and say, “Hey, let’s look at the data”. And most of the time, we realize, “Why are we arguing about a feature that nobody has ever emailed us about, and that less than 1% of our customers use?“.

Forgetting to Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit

Before, when we thought about collecting user feedback, we were always scared away by how much it costs or how meticulous we would have to be. But sometimes, there are quick, simple hacks you can do to get the most relevant feedback with the shortest amount of effort. Some ideas that have been successful for our team:

  • Plant a google form on a page where you anticipate to place a new feature that you debating whether or not to build. In the form, ask them to enter their email if they’re interested in the feature and for any feedback on how they would like to see the feature built. In 10 minutes you can start having easily accessible, detailed, and relevant feedback. We did this with our referral system when we were deciding whether or not to build it out, and started learning about what people about the feature even BEFORE we released it. Nice!
  •  Trigger an email when people deactivate or cancel their accounts to ask why they cancelled, and how you could improve to retain them as a customer. We recently started doing this about a month ago and received some of the best feedback this way.

Have you noticed other common user feedback mistakes we missed? What are some successes or mistakes you’ve made that you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!

-Ryo, Dev