Product teams constantly look for ways to improve their product and build functionality that meets their users’ most important needs. While quantitative inputs like product usage data play a large role in understanding what users are doing in the product, it’s important to also understand why they’re doing it—which is where feedback comes into play.

Customer feedback is information provided by customers (or users) about their experience with a product or service, helping to reveal their level of satisfaction and alert product, customer success, and marketing teams where there is room for improvement in the product experience. 

Product-led companies, though, take feedback a step further. They don’t just collect customer feedback—they build scalable, automated processes to help gather and centralize feedback data so that teams across the company can leverage it. Paired with product usage analytics, customer feedback helps create a common language among departments and informs decision making at every stage of the product development lifecycle.

How to collect customer feedback

It’s helpful to think about customer feedback in two ways: sometimes you’ll ask for feedback from your customers, and sometimes customers will proactively share their feedback and requests. These two methods are referred to as active and passive feedback. Here’s a deeper dive into each and some examples to inform your own feedback strategy:

Active feedback: This is when a company directly asks for feedback from customers. It’s useful for gathering feedback on specific product releases or updates, and is often measured over time to assess progress. Examples include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Polls and surveys
  • User interviews / focus groups

Passive feedback: This refers to feedback that is instigated by customers themselves. You can think of these as “always-on” methods for collecting customer feedback. Examples include:

  • In-app feedback or feature requests
  • Social media
  • Support ticket data
  • Product usage / analytics

Since there are so many sources of customer feedback (and multiple teams that care about it), companies often operationalize these efforts using a voice of the customer (VoC) program—which hinges on not just collecting feedback, but understanding it and taking action. 

Whether you choose to create a formal VoC program or not, be sure to leverage a combination of active and passive feedback tactics to ensure users can easily share their thoughts when and where they arise. Product-led companies lean on the product itself to do the heavy lifting here—for example, with in-app surveys or an in-product customer feedback portal.

How customer feedback fits into the product roadmap

A product roadmap is a visual summary of a product’s vision or desired direction. Rather than using the roadmap as a glorified release schedule, product teams should use it as a vision-setting tool—one that offers a high-level view into the product’s future, supported by key themes and initiatives.

At product-led companies, the product roadmap is also extremely valuable in helping to facilitate (and scale) communications with customers, prospects, partners, and internal stakeholders. In other words, it’s not just for the product team. A good product roadmap lets users know you’re constantly working to improve their product experience, and keeps customers and internal teams aligned on the product and company’s future trajectory.

Here’s the primary inputs to consider for your product roadmap:

  • Company strategy and goals
  • User analytics
  • Customer feedback
  • Prospect requests
  • Market trends

Feedback plays an important role in the product roadmap, representing the needs and wants of your customers in both the short and long term. For current product work, customer feedback helps validate (or raise the need to pivot) what’s in flight by adding context to product usage data that, on its own, might not be as valuable. And when planning future products and features, feedback allows you to learn from customers’ experiences with your current offerings and better plan for what comes next. Not to mention, requests and feedback from prospects are a great way to benchmark your product and understand how it compares to competitors.

This type of qualitative insight is a powerful source of product inspiration—especially when paired with quantitative user analytics—that helps product teams know where to focus energy and resources so they can build a roadmap that reflects the product’s direction.

Why a partnership with customer success matters for feedback

Although everyone at an organization benefits from access to customer feedback, the customer success (CS) team plays an important role in championing these efforts. Since customer success managers (CSMs) interact with customers every day, they have a direct view into how customers engage with the product and any associated anecdotal feedback.

Where the product team might be focused on analyzing quantitative product usage data, the CS team can help provide qualitative insight and context—empowering both groups with a deeper understanding of the full customer experience. Through these efforts, the product organization gains a key strategic partner and CS is better able to stay up to speed with the latest product developments and communicate them to their accounts.

This makes it even more crucial to establish a single place where customer feedback lives. Product teams should work with their CS counterparts to build a feedback or VoC program that both departments can access and derive value from.

How to take a product-led approach to customer feedback

A successful feedback program hinges on the ability to understand your customers’ wants and needs holistically, and then take the appropriate action. A product-led approach to customer feedback also requires scalable processes that empower teams across the organization—and don’t keep customers in the dark. Here are four best practices to keep in mind:

Set up feedback collection for scale

As companies grow, it’s increasingly difficult to stay close to customers—and no longer effective to base product decisions on a handful of anecdotal customer conversations. In order to scale how you collect feedback, product teams should leverage the product to administer a combination of active and passive feedback methods. This not only makes it easier for users to provide feedback, but also improves the quality of the feedback being submitted. When people are already engaging with your product, their experience is top of mind, making them more likely to share their thoughts compared to an email or survey sent after the fact.

Since in-app feedback can mean a lot of different things, here are some ways your team might use the product to capture input from users:

  • Create an in-app feedback portal where users can submit feedback to the product team whenever they’d like, allowing you to track feedback constantly and on an ongoing basis 
  • Use in-app guides to solicit feedback about a new feature, targeted at users who have engaged with it
  • Serve users an in-app NPS survey after they complete a certain task or workflow 
  • During research phases, use an in-app poll to understand what functionality users feel is missing from the product

Centralize feedback data

While you should  capture the customer voice from a number of different places, it should all ultimately live in a single, central location. This prevents valuable qualitative data from slipping through the cracks, and democratizes customer feedback so that everyone in your organization has access to it.

Since customer feedback is even more powerful when it’s combined with product analytics, ideally these two sets of data can live in the same system. No matter which tool you choose to use, though, always consider these three factors:

  1. How easy it is to update with new feedback
  2. How easy it is to organize and manipulate the information
  3. How accessible it is to everyone at your company

Close the loop

For product-led companies, collecting customer feedback is only half of the equation. Equally (if not more) important is to communicate back to those who submit feedback so they know that their voice has been heard. And while product teams don’t need to act on every single piece of customer feedback, it’s important to at least acknowledge every request in some capacity.

For each method you’re using to collect customer feedback, think about what type of follow-up mechanism you need. Is one team responsible for responding to NPS surveys? How will you notify customers that you’re working on a feature they requested? Given their reliance on the product as a communication tool, product-led companies also utilize in-app guides to follow up on customer feedback and requests. (Ideally, your feedback platform offers the ability to automate some of these communications.)

This is also where a Product Feedback Policy comes in handy, which is a document that outlines how to submit feedback and lets your stakeholders know how it will be managed and used. Setting these expectations with both internal teams and customers helps build trust and avoid any confusion or frustration around the feedback process. 

Create processes to empower other teams

Although the product team might be responsible for building a feedback program in the first place, customer feedback is really the job of everyone at an organization. Make sure you’re creating processes that support this notion, first and foremost by establishing ownership over your key feedback inputs. For example:

  • How will you solicit ongoing, in-app feedback?
  • Who owns responding to NPS submissions?
  • How will you route feedback from social media to your central feedback system?
  • Who has the ability to send out user surveys?
  • How should the CS team provide insight to inform product roadmap prioritization?

The last thing you want is a product that’s built in a silo. Your customer-facing teams are the ultimate source of insight since they talk to customers and prospects day-in and day-out. Creating processes around feedback helps ensure this valuable information doesn’t go unseen, and that customers continue to feel valued by your organization.