Launching to Success: The Feedback Loop
The moment you’ve planned, prepped, and possibly even wept for is finally here: Your product is live, and, most importantly, it’s working! Users are engaging with it, and everything is running as expected.
Go ahead and let the elation and fuzzy euphoria wash over you — you’ve earned it! But don’t relax for too long. This is the first time users are experiencing your product, and they’re bound to have some opinions about it.
From this day forward, gathering, analyzing, and responding to user feedback should be your primary focus.
The Customer Feedback Loop
You can do all the paper prototypes and focus groups your budget allows, but nothing compares to impartial user feedback on a live product.
Your pre-launch checklist establishes how you gather feedback right out of the gate for good reason: It allows you to manage your customer feedback loop.
A customer feedback loop is the process of gathering user feedback, prioritizing requests, implementing changes, and measuring the results of those changes. Throughout this undertaking, be prepared to hear conflicting opinions and unsolicited advice.
As the product’s owner, you’re responsible for determining which adjustments should be made based on that feedback. Referencing your original goals and KPIs as you weigh this input will add clarity to what can be a challenging experience.
The Gathering Strategies
In a development utopia, you would have unlimited time and budget to devote to gathering feedback and implementing changes. But in reality, this is something that requires a clear, strategic approach.
Asking users to “Tell us what you think!” will only get you so far. Here are three ways to proactively collect honest and useful feedback about your product:
1. Conversation: Study what users are actively saying about your product by either tracking one-sided conversations or engaging in traditional dialogues.
One-sided conversation entails observing what users are saying to others about your product on social media or industry-specific forums. There are several different tactics you can use to track when a keyword or company name is posted somewhere online. At Skookum, we’ve configured our internal chat app, Slack, to automatically alert us each time we’re mentioned.
Traditional dialogue means initiating a conversation with your users instead of waiting to hear from them. If you choose this method, be sure to reach out in a creative, sincere, and short-but-sweet way. The best example I’ve experienced is when a company sent me a personalized welcome video from its customer service team when I signed up for the product. I appreciated the level of effort the team undertook to reach me, and it encouraged me to spend a few moments providing feedback.
Monitoring conversations requires a lot of effort, especially when you take the traditional dialogue route. You’ll have to identify key users to focus on because you probably won’t be able to maintain conversations with every single person.
2. Observation: Actions often speak louder than words, so pay attention to how users passively interact with your product.
There are analytics tools for every type of digital product. Google Analytics, for example, is an excellent tool for gathering “behavior flow” data and observing how a user navigates through a desktop site. But when analyzing a mobile application, you’ll want to select an analytics platform that offers mobile-specific metrics, like heat mapping, to get the clearest picture of how users interact with your product.
Direct observation can generate an overwhelming amount of data, especially if you’re recording behavior that doesn’t relate to your predefined goals and KPIs. If you’re collecting data that you don’t currently have a use for, analytics tools help store and segment that data so you can eventually leverage it down the road.
3. Testing: Testing illuminates what your users unconsciously demonstrate through the choices they make. A/B tests, in particular, allow you to really narrow your focus and gain feedback from a small set of users on a small variation of a product feature without rolling it out in full.
Testing usually begins with a third-party tool. For a traditional website, I recommend Visual Website Optimizer, a service that offers sets of out-of-the-box experiments and an intuitive interface to visualize the results. For mobile, Optimizely enables you to run tests and different experiences without submitting the app for review each time.
Keep in mind that creating test scenarios often requires developer support, but it’s the most efficient way to gather initial information and implement changes.
Even if your launch went perfectly, it’s essential to collect the feedback necessary to support an ongoing customer feedback loop.
It’s up to you whether your loop focuses on active, passive, or unconscious feedback, but carefully responding to data that supports your goals and KPIs is the best way to catch bugs and ensure your product continues to thrive in the future.