A Structure for Collecting Useful Customer Feedback

Every product team strives to create a strong connection with the customers they serve. Keeping a finger on the pulse of what customers find valuable increases your chances of building products that they will buy and use loyally.

As a software product owner, I’ve been directly involved with various initiatives to gather customer feedback. One of our goals is to turn feedback into something actionable for the product development team.

The Problem with Customer Feedback

One of the biggest challenges that I experience when converting customer insights into actions is the quality of feedback that’s collected. It can be argued that all customer feedback is good feedback. However, I don’t think it’s all quality feedback.

Most of my complaints about feedback can be described by one or more of the following:

  • Not complete (missing important details such as the ID of the customer requesting it)
  • Not accurate (the issue or defect cannot be recreated or doesn’t exist)
  • Not representative of the customer base (comes from a few vocal customers)
  • Doesn’t describe the problem that needs to be solved (only proposes a solution)
  • No clear tie to company goals (common with feedback from internal teams such as Customer Support and Sales)
  • Not vetted (the decision has not been made to move forward with this feature)

One solution is to apply some sort of schema to the intake process. The goal is to have a collection of standard customer feedback that the product owner can then synthesize to make informed decisions about what to build.

A Schema for Collecting Useful Customer Feedback

Below, you’ll see a proposed structure for gathering feedback that works particularly well for internal teams that are close to the customer, such as Sales and Customer Support. On their intake form, include these fields:

  • Enhancement or Issue – Describe the problem that needs to be solved. If this is an issue, list steps to recreate the issue.
  • Creator Name and Date – If using a ticketing system such as Salesforce or Jira, the name of the creator and time stamp will automatically be captured.
  • Customer Name – If creating the request on behalf of a customer.
  • Location in the System – The screen, module or location on the page.
  • Business Goal – How does the request tie back to business goals? i.e., reduces operating costs.
  • Priority – Assign importance to completing this request, i.e., 1 = high, 2 = medium, 3 = low.
  • Requested Timeframe for Completion – i.e., after Halloween but before Christmas.

Storing the Information

All feedback systems need a place to store information—I’ve used Excel, Jira, Salesforce, and GitLab successfully. What’s key is to make it easy for people inside of your organization and external customers to add to the database. Easy access is critical if you want these teams to adopt your process.

Collecting feedback in an organized, standardized way enables me to synthesize what customers are communicating. With this information, I’m more confident serving as the single, representative voice for telling the development team what to build and in what order.