Startups, close the feedback loop!

When rapid prototyping, building an MVP or launching a beta product, user feedback is absolutely crucial to ensure that your product or service is aligned with the wants and needs of the customer.  Not only generating the feedback, but also actioning it and closing the feedback loop, is key to success.

Fundamentally, closed-loop feedback is when your business responds to and/or actions feedback submitted by a user.  When this feedback is addressed, either through a direct response or implementing the suggestion itself in some way, this closes the loop and ensures a positive user experience.

Feedback incentives

Many won’t, but some users will proactively volunteer feedback.  The motivation for the feedback is often intrinsic. They offer suggestions to be genuinely helpful or to impact the change they wish to see in the platform.  The assumption of a response from the company is the incentivisation, in this case. Ignoring this volunteered information is a sure-fire way to alienate an otherwise engaged user.

Some users will volunteer feedback because their experience has been sufficiently negative. The incentivisation is the vocalisation of frustration and the potential of a remedy (or perhaps even an apology).  Conversely, a sufficiently positive experience can also be motivation enough to share feedback.

For the majority of users, though, feedback will not be so easily volunteered.  Here’s the secret to generating more feedback… ask for it.  I don’t tend to recommend content from Neil Patel but this article lists several mechanisms for generating feedback which is a good starting point.

Many businesses will go a step-further and offer extrinsic incentivisation for feedback i.e. offer a reward for a response.  This may be in the form of a gift voucher, money off the product, or simply just an in-product award through gamification (more on that here).   Just be sure to monitor the quality of the data as offering reward for feedback can negatively impact the standard of responses.

Closing the loop

To consider the feedback loop closed, one of the following statements must be true:

  1. Feedback has been received, analysed, actioned/added to roadmap and the customer has been informed
  2. Feedback has been received, analysed, not actioned or added roadmap and the customer has been informed

As a business’ mechanism for generating feedback matures, the sophistication of the response can increase.  For example, as a minimum, the company should acknowledge receipt of the feedback and place it in a queue for review. The loop is closed, albeit poorly.

A more sophisticated mechanism may inform the customer of the outcome of their feedback; will it be actioned? What is the timeline? What will be the impact? Or perhaps an explanation as to why the feedback will not be actioned.

Although the quality of the feedback loop is improved (increasing the likelihood of receiving more feedback) this process becomes very difficult to scale without committing considerable resource.  Choose what an adequate and scalable feedback loop may look like for your company and be consistent.

Managing the loop

Truly customer-centric companies are extremely efficient when it comes to closing the feedback loop.  As a startup, there are always conflicting priorities demanding focus and the acquisition of new users may take precedent over listening to existing ones.

But following these simple steps can help to ensure the feedback loop isn’t forgotten, when it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day:

  1. Select one source of feedback initially and stick to it (email survey, for example). Focus your efforts on refining that mechanism and maximising response rates. This way you don’t need to worry about optimising and managing several different touch points.
  2. Centralise your aggregated data and give ultimate accountability to one person or team (that’s not to say they need to be responsible for doing everything, just accountable for making sure it’s done).  Centralising your feedback – or storing it all in the same format, in a single location – will ensure scalability as your feedback repository grows, allowing you to accurately compare one month with the month or year prior.
  3. If possible, integrate feedback systems into your CRM.  Closing the loop means not only listening to feedback, but also implementing a change and/or responding directly to the source of the data; your user.  Integrating feedback systems into your CRM will help to manage this process or potentially to semi-automate it.

It sounds like a lot of work, but nailing an efficient feedback loop early on will be worth it in the long run.  After all, keeping existing users happy is less expensive than acquiring new ones.

If you’d like to discuss how to improve your product or service through an effective feedback loop, please get in touch.