How to Effectively Collect, Manage, And Respond to Customer Feedback

Successful businesses must align their products and services to meet customer needs, expectations, and realities. Collecting and acting on customer feedback is a significant factor in creating great customer journeys.

What Is Customer Feedback?

There are different ways for businesses to identify and meet customer needs. For instance, general market research will inform decisions. Sales data can indicate what is working with leads. And, especially if the product is an online service, usage data can reveal insights about the product’s performance. Used wisely and alongside each other, such sources can support more effective decision-making. 

Customer feedback is not an alternative or replacement to those other sources. Instead, it is a powerful boost: an extra tool in the armory.

So what is customer feedback? In short, it is about capturing the customer’s voice first-hand. It is where customers share their opinions, ideas, or experiences directly with a business. It can take many formats. For example, it may be a survey or form, an interview or focus group, an email, or some other feedback mechanism. It can be brief or involved, quantitative or qualitative.

Mind the gap!

Market research, team feedback, sales figures, and usage data are invaluable sources of insight. They help businesses build a picture of their customers. 

Some of the ways these sources can provide insight are: 

1. Market research captures significant trends within customer segments, helping you target your customers more accurately. 

2. Team feedback helps leverage expertise from your sales agents. This helps you pinpoint any recurring issues.

3. Financial (sales) results provide details of your product's performance. This provides useful firmographic context and insight into the success of your products.

4. Usage data gives enormously rich detail on how customers interact with your service (particularly SaaS, allowing you to identify areas of improvement or success.)

All of the above have value in indicating customer preferences, behavior, and experiences. However, more value can be added to these sources by using them alongside a sophisticated approach to customer feedback. This will give you a more detailed view of your customer.

Why Does The Customer’s Voice Matter?

It is crucial to ask why you are collecting customer feedback before considering how to do it. Indeed, the why will often determine the how.

So why put in the extra work hearing from customers directly? The answer to this is simple: it helps businesses make better decisions. Without it, it is possible to draw the wrong conclusion as you don’t have access to all the relevant information. They may point your thinking in a particular direction. And, often, that direction may be correct. But, other times, it could lead to damaging assumptions. For example:

  • Generic market research questions may provide a broad overview of your target audience and would be helpful if complemented by more specific feedback from your customers. 
  • Your sales teams may feel a particular feature of a service is problematic. But, by asking the customer directly, you could identify exactly what the problem is. 
  • Your sales figures may be excellent. Yet they may conceal growing challenges for the future. Perhaps client budgets are getting tighter. Maybe customers are starting to look at a competitor’s service more favorably.
  • Usage data may reveal that a particular feature is under-utilized. By analyzing it alongside customer feedback, you can identify if it is less important than other features or if customers just don’t know enough about it.

Relevant customer feedback can help support other sources of data. It can push decision-making in radically different directions. You may see how customers behave without it. But only when you hear from them can you understand why. Without it, there is ambiguity.

Customer feedback gives a deeper understanding of your customers’ contexts. It validates (or challenges) your thinking about them. And it can lead you to discover new insights–to help all areas of the business.

How To Build A Customer-Centered Business

Customer feedback helps put the customer at the heart of decision-making: the implicit (and easily overlooked) can become explicit. In a truly customer-orientated business, your understanding will be better.

Without it, you may miss valuable insights. The customer’s world will remain a shadow.

A business’s approach to collecting, managing, and responding to customer feedback is thus a question of how it treats its customers. Are they selling to segments on a chart, shadows from whom to extract income? Or are they putting customers at the center, thinking of them as real people with complex needs? 

This question is of fundamental importance. In the former scenario, customers are seen in the abstract, and the immediate transaction is valued above all else. (For example, you have got their electronic signature on the deal, so the job is done.) In the latter scenario, business becomes more of a relationship: a collaborative, supportive, and ongoing process. 

Customer feedback should facilitate fruitful, longer-term client relationships. So much of what follows flows from appreciating this. But it needs to be done well.

Customer Feedback: How To Build A Customer-Centered Business

The Two Types Of Customer Feedback

There are two types of customer feedback: active and passive. Businesses can benefit from using both.

Active feedback

Active feedback involves reaching out to customers directly. It can take many formats, including survey questions, polls, interviews, focus groups, and emails. For example, pop-up questions might appear within a service, asking the user a single question. Or a client may be interviewed about their needs.    

Many businesses use active feedback to capture the following metrics.

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)

Over time, these metrics can monitor product performance and customer sentiment. For instance, such health checks could take place bi-annually. Or they could be linked to updates or product releases. 

Other active feedback will be more qualitative and can add detail to the picture. Interviews, focus groups, and free-response survey questions provide rich, qualitative evidence. 

Neither a quantitative nor qualitative approach is better than the other. It depends on the intention. Both will be useful at different points. Indeed, use them to corroborate, challenge, or extend each other. 

Active feedback like NPS can be super useful to understand which of your customers are ready for an upsell or cross-sell pitch. You can use Breadcrumbs to create your upsell and cross-sell scoring model. How?

1. Connect your data sources with Breadcrumbs
2. Determine what makes a customer ready for upsell in the Fit model (e.g., 50% for last NPS score, 50% for opening support tickets) 
3. Determine what makes a customer ready for upsell in the Activity model (e.g., 30% attended a customer webinar, 40% viewed a support or resource article)
4. Choose your lead score threshold (e.g., 70)
5. Set the scoring model live

Learn how to create your upsell scoring model with Breadcrumbs today.

Passive feedback

Passive feedback is offered freely by customers themselves–that is, it is unsolicited. However, that does not necessarily mean it is uninvited. And, once again, it can take many forms.

It includes customers reaching out to your business by email, phone, or social media. They may have a problem or a complaint, and this in itself is feedback. After all, if there is an issue for this customer, others may also face it. For example, a support ticket raised for one customer may indicate a broader problem to address.

Rather than seeing such incoming feedback as a problem, frame it as an essential part of a customer-first approach. Customer feedback should be encouraged. As customers, it is their product as much as yours. If customers encounter a problem, it is best you know. If customers have a suggestion, why not make it as easy as possible for them to share it?

There are ways to encourage such engagement. Marketing and product messaging should make customer contact easy via different channels. And, if your business is SaaS, include a feedback feature within the application: perhaps a simple, ever-present’ Tell us something’ button. Make it clear that this is not just for reporting bugs–suggestions and other comments are always welcome.

How To Manage Customer Feedback

With so many possible sources of information about customer opinion and behavior, it can be tricky to make sense of it all. It is crucial to bring some rigor to its collection, management, and analysis. If not managed robustly, customer feedback can become little more than noise

Establish who ‘owns’ the customer feedback for a given product. (Many companies have ‘Voice of the Customer’ initiatives to address this.) Whatever the exact configuration, customer feedback champions are needed: named individuals who will ensure that the customer gets heard across the business.

The idea is to tie together the various sources of customer feedback (alongside all the other information sources mentioned earlier) into as complete and coherent a picture as possible. That can then feed into future planning.

Act On Customer Feedback: Pandadoc Example
Screenshot taken from Pandadoc

Customer feedback is gold, not just when it comes to improving services–but also for lead scoring models. Lead scoring has the potential to become much more than an acquisition tool, as each customer interaction uncovers valuable insights into their behavior and preferences that can be used throughout every stage of the customer journey.

This is where a tool like Breadcrumbs comes into play. When creating a scoring model with Breadcrumbs, you’ll be able to trigger the right action at the right time by mapping intent to the customer journey. Here are some of the most common scenarios:

  • Nurture leads that are not ready to buy with an email marketing campaign that includes valuable educational content.
  • Reach out to leads that show higher intent and are ready to start a conversation with your sales team.
  • Explore upsell opportunities with your current customers that are approaching their plan threshold and have a positive NPS score.
  • Enhance the customer experience by cross-selling other solutions that help them meet their goals based on the feedback they’ve given you.
  • Prevent churn by monitoring product or service engagement data and engaging with inactive accounts, and responding to negative feedback.

Make sure your customers’ voices are heard–Book your FREE Breadcrumbs demo today and start creating scoring models to accurately track and respond to their feedback.

Informing The Product Roadmap

Whoever owns customer feedback for a product needs to establish many things.

  • Where are we already capturing customer feedback? 
  • Where does that feedback go? 
  • How is it processed and collated? 
  • Where else would customer feedback be beneficial? 
  • What does all this information indicate about customers? 

Develop a feedback strategy. Each stage of the product’s lifecycle will require different information. For example, the issues pertinent to a young product will differ from those of a product that may be retired soon. Customer feedback should support the product roadmap, helping to make the next steps more successful.

This strategic approach to customer feedback needs–of course–to consider product development. For example, how can feedback inform future updates and changes? What further customer feedback will keep the product cycling up the path of improvement?

However, it is not only about product development. It is also – crucially – about broader business development. For instance, how does the feedback strategy maintain and extend client relationships? How can those relationships be deepened and made more collaborative?

A holistic outlook, taking account of the broader business plan and objectives, is therefore essential when formulating a customer feedback strategy.

Graph Of The A.c.a.f Customer Feedback Loop

How To Collect Customer Feedback 

There are a few core principles that will help to optimize the benefits of customer feedback. 

1. Automated and scalable for teams

As your customer base grows, your approach to customer feedback may also need to evolve. A more qualitative and one-by-one approach may suffice in the early days. But as the number of customers (and their diversity) increases, a more quantitative approach may also be necessary to ensure a broader representative sample of customers. Moreover, with more customers to consult, the work involved in collecting feedback can also increase.

For these reasons, growing businesses should embrace automated and scalable approaches to customer feedback. Relying solely on your team to reach out to customers is unlikely to be sustainable. Here are some ideas that support scalable customer feedback:

  • A simple channel encouraging users to share thoughts, e.g., a ‘Tell us’ button.  
  • Surveys at particular points in the product’s lifecycle. Or specific tasks – like completing a free online waiver form, for example – might be followed by a quick sentiment poll about that task.   
  • Regular and automated NPS and CSAT polls.   

And automation can support the collection, collation, and analysis of all of the above, helping to minimize resource pressures. 

Such approaches should not replace the more in-depth, qualitative techniques (such as conversations with individual customers). Those views are still needed and, indeed, could become the basis for high-value marketing case studies. But automated, scalable feedback mechanisms should become a core part of your approach.

2. Central and open to the business

While customer feedback needs to have one clear owner, all teams across the business should benefit from the insights gained. For example:

  • Sales and marketing teams can finesse their messaging to address concerns or misconceptions. For example, with greater customer understanding, they can use their consulting templates to craft compelling proposals.
  • Technology teams will better understand the impact of their work on customers (everything from UX to downtime for upgrades).
  • Customer support will be clear about the top user concerns.
  • Teams working on other products can apply lessons to their projects.

Share significant insights regularly so these benefits can accrue. That could be during steering group meetings (attended by members from different operational business wings). Customer feedback should be a standing agenda item for these.

Moreover, the source material and analysis should be accessible to all teams. Encourage other team members to engage with the feedback themselves. Such openness and collaboration may yield further insights, lead to better decisions, and allow learning to be applied elsewhere in the business. Rich information like this should not be locked away!

Customer Feedback Graph Showing Answers To The Question, &Quot;What Is The Top Priority For Your Business In The Next Five Years&Quot;
Image source

3. Transparent and collaborative with customers

Collecting customer feedback is, ultimately, about improving the customer experience. Part of that is keeping customers informed of what you are doing – and why. For example:

  • Explain why you are collecting feedback. What might happen as a result?
  • Set out what you have learned from listening to customers. Describe your plans and likely customer impact. What are the benefits?
  • Confirm any implemented changes. Invite further feedback to keep the improvement cycle going!
  • Be up-front about mistakes and challenges.
  • Provide regular updates. Describe how issues raised are informing your roadmap.

Putting customers first is hard work. It means listening carefully and responding to their feedback. But customers who engage deserve a response. And it is essential if you are serious about building genuine, collaborative partnerships.

Wrapping Up On Customer Feedback: Put The Client First

A coherent approach to customer feedback can be transformational for your product and business development. Customer feedback does not replace other sources of market learning, but it massively enhances them.

By embracing customer feedback, you can bring your clients truly into the center of everything you do, building your product roadmap around their needs and experiences. The rewards can be substantial: more engaged customers, better products, and knowledgeable teams. Quite simply, it means better business.

Book your FREE Breadcrumbs demo with Breadcrumbs today and learn how to create scoring models that address your customers’ feedback.

Yauhen Zaremba Pandadoc Edited

About the author

Yauhen Zaremba, Senior Director of Demand Generation, PandaDoc

Yauhen is the Senior Director of Demand Generation at Pandadoc, a contract generator software, and all-in-one document management solution. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

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