How Product Managers Grow with User Feedback

July 20, 2020

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Roy Bransky

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Gathering and analyzing user feedback is one of the critical elements every product manager out there should master. This is the best way to know what users think about your product and how to provide them with the highest value.

 

 

Last month, Product League held an online AMA event hosting two of the mentors in the program, asking them about How to Collect and Analyze User-Feedback Like a Pro. 

On the stage was Dia Serazutdinova, product lead at N26. Over the past ten years, Dia has worked with various international teams and companies while utilizing user insights and data to drive the creation of engaging, high-quality products and experiences.

Also on the Product League’s stage was Lior Revivo, VP product at Blox.io. Lior has seven years of experience in all aspects of mobile, web, and B2B product management, with expertise in the startup domain that helped translate early-stage startup vision into products that quickly bring business value.

 

Here are four skills that can help you to transform user feedback into gold:

Focus On The Problem, The Solution Will Follow

Our job as product managers is to put our efforts into understanding our users’ problems and what their real pain points are. “What users want” belongs to the “solution” domain, there’s no point in spending time thinking about a solution before defining the core problem you’re trying to solve.

 

For example, users might say, “We want this feature, and we want it to do this and that”. And sometimes it can be effortless and appealing to simply give it to them. But is it the right way to go? The answer is no. 

If we take the time to explore what needs have driven this request in the first place, we can better verify the right solution that will indeed retain customers

 

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do” – Steve Jobs

 

Keep in mind that you should always strive to collect feedback before you start building anything. This might spare you a great deal of time and money. Nevertheless, customers’ and users’ input is valuable before, during, and after product development. Try to identify your target customers as soon as you can, talk to them, or even meet them. These early interactions will allow you to validate your riskiest assumptions using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, make sure there is a demand for your product, and that people are actually going to use it. 

 

Remember that you don’t need a product to test a product.

Whether your product is live or not, every product professional should know how to deal with customers’ requests and explore their problems. That leads us right up to the next point.

 

Leave Ego Aside and Listen

There’s no such thing as “bad feedback”. It might be a little corny, but so (so) true.

You must always listen to everything your customers have to say, even if it seems useless. It may feel that “they don’t know what they are talking about”, or “aren’t aware of the product’s vision and strategy”. But by asking yourself open-mindedly, “Why did they say that? Why do they think that way? What might change their minds?” you’ll quickly find out that there’s value in their feedback after all. 

 

Your relationship with your customers must be at the top of your priorities. Because without them, you can pack up your things and kiss your product goodbye. 

Go out of your way to get close to your customers, strengthen your connection with them, share what you are doing and what you are trying to achieve. That way, you can build trust, align your goals, and create a symbiotic bond that will benefit both parties equally. 

 

You can collect customer feedback through various communication channels such as 1-on-1 interviews, video sessions, phone calls, and more. 

While performing any of those sessions, aim to follow the 80-20 rule of thumb. Listen to your customers 80% of the time and leave only 20% for yourself to talk. Within that 20%, don’t forget to show them your appreciation and explain how impactful their feedback is.

 

So how do we make those 20 percent counts? Keep on reading.

 

Ask The Right Questions

Before being able to ask the right questions, one crucial mental preparation must be made: ditch the bias. As PMs, we tend to fall in love with our products quite easily (myself included). Don’t let it affect the questions you ask, don’t lead the customers to say what you want to hear from them and always look for the truth.

 

To ensure productive sessions and to increase engagement, give your customers pre-hand tasks of your interest and then ask questions about them to receive more focused feedback. Those tasks can include end-to-end user-flows or specific actions that can be done within your product, as long as there’s a purpose for getting feedback on those actions. 

Their answers should validate whether they know how to use your product as you intended, whether they are doing it with efficiency, and, most importantly, whether your target market got what they need. More than often, you’ll be able to recognize immediately if your initial hypothesis and assumptions were correct or not.

“What if you had the power to stop everything right now and develop one thing only? What would that be?”

But what if their answers are too vague? Try drilling down with more in-depth questions that may clarify your unanswered questions. In case that it doesn’t help you as well, always keep an ace up your sleeve and ask them the following magic question: “What if you had the power to stop everything right now and develop one thing only, what would that be?”. You’ll be surprised how one question can make your customers think thoroughly about it and share what they truly desire and you, to learn your audiences.

 

Manage Your Feedback Process Properly

Some of the fortunate product managers amongst us, encounter “too much” feedback to handle when it comes to their products. First of all, let me assure you that you’re in a good place. Secondly, you need to realize that collecting the feedback properly is one thing, although managing it is an entirely different case.

 

Regardless of the amount of feedback you receive, it would be best if you tried grouping them in a way that will enable you to narrow down the sample size and prioritize them according to your company’s strategies and goals.

For example, you can create feedback categories for different personas, for trust-worthy users, for specific keywords, for particular features, or even according to frequently used terms. 

Eventually, adding more focus to the process will help you go through the feedback efficiently. 

 

Note that customer feedback can never replace real usage data; it should come as a complementary addition that will assist you with triggering the right questions. 

As trends shift fast, keep track of essential metrics daily to ensure your product is still relevant. Once you set up the right process, you’ll be able to manage your feedback continuously.

 

Wrapping Up

The life of a product manager revolves around different opinions and about making the right calls. You shouldn’t be afraid of it, but on the contrary, you should embrace it. 

 

Gathering user feedback in an efficient manner can significantly improve your products and empower your decisions. Analyzing the data and refining it into insights can bridge the gaps with the rest of your company’s stakeholders and resolve conflicts.

 

In fact, an approach towards problem-solving will allow you to turn consumers of software or an app, into a product community. Good usage of experiments and search-oriented processes can help you to build the user journey that will make the sales team to be your biggest fans at the company. Traditional design improvements are OK. We are talking about market-changing improvements that only your customers can help you find and leverage. After all, as a product manager, it’s your responsibility to build a plan around your KPIs. What better way to do that than together with your customers and team. 

 

Remember that not all CEOs, investors, and domain experts come from a product background. They often disapprove of this process when feeling deterred from receiving lousy feedback or might think that it’s a waste of time. As the product manager, it is on you to involve them in the process and bring them closer to the users with a collaborative approach. This will show them the foundation of your decision-making process and its potential impact on its product.

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