Ever been in a video meeting where multiple people start talking at once? You know they’ve each got something valuable to say, and you want to understand it all—but you can’t actually make out what any one person is saying?
Now imagine there are hundreds of people talking at once in this meeting (or even thousands). And you, unfortunately, have been deemed notetaker.
If you’re wrangling customer feedback for your product team, this might sound a little familiar. It’s what some product teams experience every day as they try to make sense of the mountain of valuable feedback they get from their customers.
In this piece, we’re sharing the three most common challenges we see in product feedback loops—and sharing best practices for product teams to tackle each of them.
Read on for the full list of best practices, or check out the YouTube video below for a 5-minute walkthrough of how it could look in an example workflow.
Challenge #1: feedback isn’t actionable
As Michica Provato from Intuit put it, feedback from your customers isn’t just feedback. The nuggets they share are “gifts that we get from our customers”—a chance to get a peek into your product’s real-world applications, and to hear from the people you made it for.
Valuable as it is, not all feedback is inherently actionable. For example, maybe you got a piece of feedback that says “I found a bug” with a screenshot, or a one-line critical comment with no context, and no contact information to use for followup. Both pieces of feedback are important—but it’s hard to know what to do with them unless you get more context to make them complete.
The fix: standardize your feedback
The best way to avoid dead-end feedback is to standardize what you collect. For example, maybe your team needs to know when the feedback was submitted, and contact information they can use to follow up. Or maybe your team needs more data, such as:
- Attachments: For images or screenshots that add context
- User type: To quickly identify who the feedback is coming from (e.g. internal employee or customer)
- Feedback type: To help categorize the type of feedback it is (e.g. praise, bugs, or requests)
But the metadata you need all depends on your team, and your business. The product team at Airtable, for example, collects the submitter name, the feedback giver (submitter or customer), related product area, customer email, and optional examples (e.g. screenshot) with each piece of feedback.
> Dig in: see how Airtable experts collect and standardize feedback
If you’re not sure what to standardize, start by asking your team. You could run a survey, or even conduct a set of internal interviews to see how your product team wants to work with feedback. Focus on learning what information they’re looking for, how they categorize information, and what they do when they can’t get enough context. That should help you narrow down the right list of metadata to start with.
No matter what you need, the key is to standardize what you take in so your team can compare and contrast each piece of feedback apples-to-apples.
Challenge #2: too many feedback silos
More often than not, feedback comes from a mixed bag of sources. We’re talking Zendesk, Salesforce, social media, customer meetings, and everyone’s favorite: one-off Slack pings.
It’s a challenge that product teams like Frame.io’s have been open about. It’s not just a pain to manage; it means it’s hard to find relevant information fast enough to act on it.
Like we talked about in the last point, no one source is more or less important than another. But when feedback is collected in tons of different apps, documents, pings, and tickets, they tend to create information silos: isolated islands of information that’ve been inadvertently locked into their respective sources.
And while it might be helpful to have feedback that’s categorized by where it came from, context switching between a handful of feedback sources makes it all but impossible to spot trends at scale. So to make heads or tails of it, we need to break those silos down. Or at least: we need to get them porting information into one shared location.
The fix: centralize your feedback into one place (dynamically)
Saying that you need to “break” your silos might be a bit of a misnomer—you do need the information they have, after all. And we’re definitely not suggesting you do away with all of your software and documentation (though that’s your prerogative, of course).
Instead, the idea is to port information from multiple sources into one central place—without requiring you to manually ferry data from point A to point B through copy-pastes and data entry.
One way to start is by building a singular, ongoing feedback form that includes the metadata your team needs. In Airtable, you can build a feedback form that feeds directly into your base. That means any time someone submits feedback via the form, you’ll see it instantly appear in the base you’ve built. It’s especially great for fielding direct customer feedback, or internal feedback.
> Build your own: centralize feedback in Airtable with our product ops playbook
From there, you’ll also want to pull information in from those sources we talked about earlier. You can do that by creating a single source of truth for feedback: one that automatically syncs in data from your surveying tools, ticketing tools, CRM, and more to create a single pool of feedback.
Challenge #3: trends are buried
Working with small batches of feedback is a luxury that few product teams have. And as you get more and more product feedback, it gets harder and harder to figure out what that feedback is telling you.
By the time you’re fielding thousands of feedback submissions per week, it can get pretty daunting: an ever-growing catalog of individual submissions, balled up into one chaotic sea of untamed data. Without a sense of where it’s guiding you, it’s easy to get lost.
At that scale, success is less about dissecting every piece of feedback individually, and more about grouping like with like. By sorting out clumps of feedback with similar asks, you can use it to parse actionable customer opinions out of a mass of data—a sort of representative voice of your customers’ asks. The question is: how do you find that voice?
The fix: synthesize at scale with lightweight bucketing
Like any data-based problem, finding the answer starts with some analysis. One effective way to do that is by slicing and dicing your data: looking at it through multiple always-on lenses to see if you can spot a trend.
The buckets you group your feedback into will depend on your team, and your product. For example, you could try slicing by product area, by sentiment, or by customer type. To figure out how you want to view your data, ask yourselves questions like:
- What products, or which areas of the product are we expecting to drive our goals? Is there more emphasis on growing and improving a specific part of the product you work on?
- Within your product, what areas are in a steady state vs. in early stages? Are there newer surface areas where you’re expecting an influx of feedback?
- Who are the customers you’re most eager to please? Who are you most focused on right now, and what’s the best way to identify them in the data?
Whatever metadata you choose to slice by, make sure it either a) maps back to the metadata you’re collecting in your feedback, or b) is something you can pull in from your other systems, like your CRM, for example.
> Dig in: learn how Airtable experts make roadmap decisions with feedback
Once you’ve chosen your buckets, the next (and arguably, most important step) is to cement those buckets in a dynamic dashboard, like an Airtable interface. That way, as feedback rolls in, you can spot trends at scale and get clues on where to dig in.
Feedback is at the center of the product development process. Each piece of feedback is more than an opinion, or a one-off point of view; it’s a priceless artifact from a user that cares enough about your product to help you improve it. Securing and wrangling that feedback is a job in itself—but it’s well worth it if both your team and your customers stand to benefit.