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How to get customer feedback in SaaS: top methods, tips and pitfalls

15 min read
Anastasiya Mudryk
Anastasiya Mudryk
20 Sep 2022
How to get customer feedback in SaaS: top methods, tips and pitfalls Cieden
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Intro

To stay in the competitive market, a product must be customer-centric. This principle implies permanent focusing on a customer's core interests and actual needs. But how would you know them unmistakably, when even the slightest deviation from real-life objectivity threatens to wipe your product out of the industry? 

Guessing? Research? Tarot card reading?

Clearly, the only incorruptible source of this data is the feedback from your client in the flesh, with their voice raised in statistically meaningful numbers.

The modern technological capacity allows for almost instant collecting of customer service feedback, with its insights being implemented within days. To give a user the opportunity to leave operable feedback, you need to properly organize the process of its collection, consolidation, and synthesis. Otherwise, it will be sporadic, inconsistent, and mainly obscured by your product and sales teams. 

This article shows how to approach this challenging task based on the best practices and trends of the modern SaaS UI/UX design.

Why customer feedback is important?

In the customer-centric culture, there is no other way to find out what the users really think about the product, without asking them directly.

Collecting the user feedback also addresses the main existential risks of any SaaS company, such as:

  • friction points of the onboarding process;
  • major technical and UX problems emerging in the interaction with your technology;
  • key disruptors of customer loyalty;
  • main edges of your competitors making your customers churn in their favor.

Besides, systematic listening to your users adds to the overall image of your brand as caring and heeding the views of its clients. The research of Microsoft shows that 77% of customers give preference to companies collecting and using their feedback.

How to organize the process of gathering customer feedback

So, for proper organization of the feedback system consider the following steps:

Customer feedback process
1. Select a few high-priority channels to work with

While every communication channel has its place when dealing with a particular task or challenge, for everyday use choosing several key sources is more convenient and realistic.

2. Identify the most effective communication techniques for your target audience. 

For example, you may find out that most of your target users belong to Z Generation, never willing to go the extra mile. They would not deal with extensive surveys or mailings, so it is wiser to resort to social media or live communication for getting their feedback.

3. Determine the points of the customer journey where feedback is most justified.

Assign your product team to prevent the emergence of additional friction points confounding a user amidst an important operation.

4. Use built-in analytics for feedback processing

While some data needs to be explored directly with the human eye, most of the trends in user attitudes have recognizable and recurring patterns. Thus such tools as Google Analytics are good enough to extract the structured essence of your user opinions, expectations, and behaviors both on-site and in public spaces such as social networks.

5. Collect feedback both inside and outside the platform

Along with reaching your clients on the platform and via official company channels, also monitor their activities on social media and third-party review websites.

    6. Thoroughly approach the format of in-app tools best suited to your product.

    For example, quick one-sentence questions or ratings are good for quitting a working session or completing an operation. Pop-up windows can effectively serve to evaluate new features or propose amendments. Importantly, for keeping them user-friendly, popups emerging during user interactions with your app should never occupy the full screen.

    7. Consider qualitative vs quantitative data

    Quantitative feedback is perfect to identify general trends in user needs, preferences, and challenges, while qualitative data is indispensable for revealing the underlying causes of these trends and discovering the best ways for dealing with them. So they both need to find a decent place in your customer feedback strategy. 

    Main methods of collecting customer feedback for SaaS product

    The most straightforward way to learn what customers think about your SaaS product is to ask for their feedback within the app. But it is better to combine different platforms and forms of input, such as:
    Main methods to get customer feedback

    Score surveys

    Different kinds of ratings make the most famous form of feedback requests in SaaS. Virtually every Internet user encountered it one way or another. This is a quantitative method for assessing conditions or processes based on a certain scale.

    The three most important types of this option include:

    1. a) net promoter score (NPS). It assesses the index of the customer's overall satisfaction with the product and their brand loyalty on a scale from one to ten, by generally asking a user “how likely are you to recommend [a product] to others?”;
    Net Promoter Score (NPS) Form Template

    Source: https://www.surveymonkey.com

    c) customer satisfaction score (CSAT). Similarly, based on a 1-10 numeric scale or, more rarely, on visual semiotics (e.g. emoji, stars), it aspires to discover the quality of a customer experience after a particular in-app session or activity. 

     

    Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) Form Template

    Source: https://monkeylearn.com/csat/ 

    b) customer effort score (CES). This technique focuses more on the technical aspects of user experience, by asking a user to measure convenience and easiness with accomplishing an operation or resolving a task. It usually has a semiotic scale, e.g. from “very easy” to “extremely difficult”, or from “without a problem” to “complete failure”.



    Customer Effort Score (CES) Form Template
    Source: https://www.questionpro.com/

    Edges: brevity and simplicity for responding, easy technical implementation, high response rates, high analytical value, considerable reliability.

    Pitfalls: lack of details and absence of clarity about “why” and “what”, high dependency of the results on the user’s mood.

    Tips:

    • use appealing visual aesthetics;
    • consider moments when a client may be emotionally vulnerable. For example, if they are an employee at the end of a video meeting at a corporate virtual workspace, then instead of in-app CSAT better embed and send it in email;
    • add an explanatory note for a user on the importance of their unbiased feedback for improving the product quality and customer satisfaction in the future;
    • include a follow-up one-question survey offering a user to justify their ranking decision and add any details they like.

    Questionnaire surveys

    Surveying is a research method usually based on a structured questionnaire and aimed to collect data from a sample group of respondents representative of the target customer group. 

    An Example of an Email with an Invitation to Take a Survey by Slack

    Source: htthttps://slack.com/ 


    Edges: simplicity, easy implementation, quick results.

    Pitfalls: too general results, difficulties in finding and incentivizing the respondents. 

    Tips:

    • assign it to a user research professional to prepare a questionnaire. Remember that the result fully depends on the competent choice and formulation of questions;
    • make it as short and simple as possible: most people dislike long inquiries and may quit them before completion;
    • if it cannot be short and simple, pay the respondents or incentivize them in some other way. As evidenced by Survey Monkey research, even the most uncooperative users will be motivated to communicate with a tangible reward at stake;
    • know and filter your target user. Paid surveys may attract non-target audiences thus making the results irrelevant and all your efforts vane. So you should clearly define and apply criteria for finding a perfect fit for your buyer personas;
    • use special customer feedback tools to make things easier, because they are already designed with consideration of all peculiarities and limitations of the surveying process. You may use Typeform, SurveyMonkey, Userpilot, or any other product you like. Some popular tools are outlined at the end of the article;
    • add a bit of fun and humanness to the process. With emotionally engaging textual and visual injections or gamification elements, a user is likely to become more inspired and active. This will in turn reflect in more detailed and meaningful customer responses.

     

    Although it may vary depending on the research objectives, the survey design is usually centered around four pillars such as: 

    • patterns in user behaviors and attitudes;
    • service quality;
    • product problems/issues; and 
    • sales/marketing trends. 

    It does not make sense to go through all questions you can find in SaaS customer surveys because their potential number is infinite. But at their core they all can be reduced to the following themes:

    • “what do you want to get from a product/feature?”;
    • “what problems/challenges do you experience?”;
    • “would you recommend it to others?”;
    • “what do you like and hate in our platform/brand/company?”;
    • “why...?” - regarding all the above questions.

    Helpdesk tickets/reports

    For this method, you don't need to take any special action to request customer success feedback. Users would do it by themselves. So the only thing you need in this case is to organize proper tracking, collection, and managing of data on interactions between users and the support team.
    An Example of Helpdesk Ticketing System with a CTA Button
    Source: https://worldoftanks.com/

    Edges: indicating about most critical “soft spots” of your customer experience and technical problems that have a “red code” priority for customer retention and conversion rates.

    Pitfalls: highly personalized data is not fully amenable to automation and formal analysis.

    Tips:

    • provide seamless customer support to increase positive feedback while reducing emotional replies without substance;
    • combine automation tools of feedback collection with human-led analysis of its insights whenever appropriate;
    • select and configure communication channels that will be not only convenient for clients but also efficient for feedback collection. For example, you can use an in-app live chat for letting a user most easily get in touch with your team, but then redirect the customer conversations to the mailbox where feedback data can be more easily processed with a customer feedback collection tool; 
    • ensure fast response to a user's request. Along with customer dissatisfaction, the more delayed your reply is, the more likely a client to kick back by ignoring your feedback request;
    • be sensitive to the timing's relevance. It may look tempting to ask for feedback right after closing a ticket upon resolving a complicated issue. But consider their distress, fatigue, or hurry to proceed with the previously interrupted task. So instead of attacking a client with an immediate pop-up message, it is more relevant to send a follow-up email with an opportunity to reply at any convenient time later. 
    You can find more information on the effective work of customer support in our article dedicated to customer retention.

    Bug reports

    While every founder dreams about the absolutely seamless and trouble-free work of their technology, in reality, stuff happens within any SaaS ecosystem. Perhaps every encountered a proposal to send a bug report after a system failure. Collecting data on errors and bugs for the immediate consideration of your developer team is a must for your product streamlining and improvement.
    Reporting bugs in Asana

    Edges: early detection of technical problems, constraints, and gaps;  informing dev teams on the most troublesome aspects of technology. 

    Pitfalls: unwillingness and/or incapacity of a user to report on a problem in a consistent and competent way, high technical competence required for “reading” and understanding the feedback data.

    Tips:

    • use automation tools such as bug tracking software to automatically detect and record meta-data on disruptions and failures during in-app operations of your subscribers. This would reduce dependency on a user's deliberate consent to fill in and send a bug report;
    • don't neglect to propose a customer send a bug report voluntarily, alongside automatic data tracking. In this way, you can get more detailed feedback on particular circumstances and implications of a system disruption;
    • design a template for a user report to simplify both their response process and your subsequent analytical work. Include such key issues as “what” is the problem; “how” it happened (what user actions preceded failure); technical environment (operating system, hardware, browser version, etc), gravity and detriment to a user's interests, the divergence between anticipated and real results of work.

    Video chat / Phone interview.

    As an independent method and not a part of customer support, direct live communication can be used when you need to go really deep for grasping a certain problem or an opportunity. For example, it often makes the key component of usability studies aimed to ensure product quality at different stages of its development. 

    Edges: dynamism, flexibility, opportunity to modify the interviewing process just along the way, a relatively free format leading to exceptional insightfulness.

    Pitfalls: low formalization eligibility, time- and energy-consuming procedures.

    Flawless implementation tips: 

    • prepare an interview script in advance, to effectively guide an interviewee toward resolving a research problem, set clear goals and expected outcomes;
    • research your interlocutor's background to find some common ground and empathic connection before the meeting;
    • equip a user with the necessary auxiliary materials, information, and contact details in advance to save time and simplify their problem-solving process;

      create a friendly supportive atmosphere putting a user in the mood of sincerity and result-oriented thoroughness;
    • apply a semi-structured scenario, with an optimal balance between the key preset milestones and the space of spontaneity. The latter lays the ground for unanticipated revelations and breakthroughs to new realms that can show up during the process;
    • make sure your questions and tasks are reasonably simple, clear, and short;
    • enlighten a user about the strategic value and practical importance of your interview for the product and user experience.

     

    Public space for product feedback

    If your product has an active community it makes a lot of sense to create a public chat/forum, a lab, or a suggestion board on its ground. This is the place where users may talk about the most debatable development issues, create discussion groups, and publish requests on the UX challenges and suggestions for product improvement. 

    As a result, the collective thought makes preliminary (and most often relevant) validation of all the diversity and multiplicity of ideas and concepts submitted by users, thus saving your time and resources.

    Forum of Hubspot Where Customers Can Leave Feedback and Exchange Ideas

    Source: https://www.hubspot.com/ 

    Edges: freedom of expression almost not bounded by any frameworks and formats, the self-motivated activity of participants, natural patterning of subjects and priorities, cost-free feedback generation; constant liaison with the public opinion as a way to test customer reaction on updates and innovations without marketing spendings, vast room for moderation and experimenting.

    Pitfalls: a big amount of unstructured and/or unsolicited content, time-consuming analysis, labor-intensive alignment of users' proposals and rhetoric with the brand image, business strategy, and the company roadmap, moderation challenges (e.g. balancing freedom of speech with combating utter negativism and hate speech).

    Tips:

    • implement design solutions that would guide and structure user communication “at the door” (e.g. by suggesting keynote rubrics and topics for discussion, embedding feature/service ranking tools, etc);
    • assign and incentivize a leading group of loyal customers to moderate the work of chats and forums. They can answer frequently asked questions, give advice, and guide the thinking process toward a constructive and problem-centered direction;
    • use analytical tools to search keywords and inquiry statistics to distinguish the most disturbing problems from peripheral one-time issues;
    • engage users in practical exercises on engagement with the product, such as creative contests and challenges, prize lotteries, beta-testing of new features, etc. This will both make their feedback more valuable and practically focused, and encourage them on more active in data generation in the long run.


    Feature requests

    Most often, the feature request option acts as a component of a community lab or forum. However, it deserves special attention due to its highly specialized, deeply practical, and narrowly focused mission. This source of feedback represents a hub where every user can suggest an idea about a new component or service. It aims to improve the product while being in line with its basic intended use.
    Feature Request Board by Frill

    Source: htthttps://frill.co/ 

    Edges: a cost-free think tank within your company, an inexhaustible source of new ideas and insights about the technological perfection of your SaaS.

    Pitfalls: the risk of opening a “Pandora's Box” of clients bombarding your team with countless feature requests most of which would never be implemented while creating false expectations.

    Tips:

    • educate your customers about the principles of relevant feature requests. Explain the need to be constructive and realistic, as well as declare preserving the company's right to implement the suggestions selectively;
    • establish the basic structure of the process. Organize the algorithm around your business growth objectives, the product strategy, funding limitations, and analytical insights already acquired by your team from the market research;
    Feature Request Board within Moz Community

    Source: https://moz.com/ 

    • inform your customers on every case of taking their ideas into account, as well as give detailed justifications for proposals that were denied, to show the value of their feedback and encourage further ideation;
    An Example of Closing Feedback Loop - Informing A Customer about Taking Their Feedback Into Account by Survey Monkey

    Source: https://twitter.com/ 

    • make a clear and easy-to-spot CTA button giving a user a reference point for joining the process;
    • crowdsource and globalize the feature-requesting process by publicly posting the product roadmap on external platforms. For example, many SaaS companies use Trello or similar sharing platforms to invite additional resources of intelligence to their product development. 

    Additional off-site sources of feedback

    You often have to take pains to make your customers talk to you on the platform. But everywhere else, be assured they would eagerly chit-chat even without being invited. Your customers will take every chance to show what they think about your platform, for good and for bad, in such external spaces as:

    • posts on social networks;
    • comments on your bloggers' articles;
    • positive and negative reviews at online software stores like Google Play;
    • testimonials at third-party review sites, etc.

    There is not much room to manage and control this process, but certainly, it makes sense to watch and learn from it. 

    Automation tools to simplify feedback collection process

    With the modern SaaS instruments specialized in customer feedback collection and analysis, there's actually no need to reinvent the wheel. If you are not a billion-funded corporate giant with special needs, the wisest solution is to use a ready-made instrument for automating most of the process.

    While you will still need to implement direct tailored solutions on collecting feedback for specific tasks/phases of your product development, available tools help to eliminate the most routine and unproductive part of the process. 

    But the main edge of the purpose-made feedback tools is their function of centralization. All the data from both inside and outside of your platform is collected and aggregated within one space where you can further effectively work with it for the purposes of analysis of product improvement. 

    That is why, when choosing such a product for your needs, first of all, look for an all-in-one feature like a dashboard with functions of basic analysis and assessment. After all, you need feedback not for itself, but as an instrument giving you viable insights and guiding lights in your SaaS strategy. Here are several top-of-the-market products that you can safely begin with.

    1. Canny

    This is a special recommendation of our agency. This customer analytics tool proved to effectively meet the needs of feedback collection/analysis of most different SaaS products. Apart from gathering feedback data from everywhere, it has a powerful analytical component with the generation of automated reports helpful in designing roadmaps and white papers.

     

    The Customer Analytics Tool Canny

    Source: https://canny.io/ 

    2. Delighted

    The platform provides a truly incredible range of options for configuring, conducting, and basic analysis of most different types of surveys, from simple net promotion scores to the most sophisticated research polls. 

    Online Survey Tool Delighted

    Source: https://delighted.com

    3. Freshdesk


    You can use this solution to configure a user-friendly omnichannel system of communication with your customers. Clients may choose a channel that is most suited to their needs, while customer managers get equipped with powerful analytical tools to better understand and categorize a customer's request. 

     

    Online Cloud-Based Customer Service Tool Freshdesk

    Source: https://freshdesk.com/ 

    4. Intercom

    The product focuses on optimization of the customer service that is in turn reflected in more positive and meaningful feedback. It specifically allows for decreasing an average response time, response automation with AI-based chatbots, and connecting different sources of your in-app feedback for simplifying its management.

    The Customer Communication Platform Intercom
    Source: https://www.intercom.com/



    5. Groove HQ Inbox

    This product takes mailing automation to a whole new level with an intelligent email agent. It keeps all the correspondence between your team and clients in one place and has options for its categorizing by priority and real-time notifications.The Messaging Platform Inbox from Groove HQ

    Conclusion

    Hopefully, even if you got a little bit tired from reading so much text, it has totally paid off with the abundance of helpful insights and practical tips on the topic. Every piece of this information will be of great service when you start organizing the feedback system adjusted to your SaaS platform.

    To create a system of user feedback, you have to 1) explore your target user for finding the most relevant communication approaches, 2) choose several most convenient feedback channels, 3) monitor and collect information both inside and outside your platform, 4) use automation tools and analytical algorithms to simplify data processing, and 5) take care of UX convenience, structure, and language of your feedback requests. 

    The most far-reaching sources and channels for collecting feedback include scores, surveys, helpdesk tickets, bug reports, live communication, custom in-app features and tools, on-site community space, external public resources, feature requests, and user acceptance testing. Of course, this list is not exhaustive but it is more than enough to cover your needs in listening to your customers and incorporating their sound ideas into your product strategy.

    By the way, come back after you collect enough valuable feedback from your customers. We can help you convert it into a powerful product strategy, in the next feature article of our series.
    Anastasiya Mudryk by Anastasiya Mudryk

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