How to use feedback surveys to gather actionable insight

In this blog, Martin looks at some best practice examples that encourage customers to give feedback that are easy to complete and which provide actionable and implementable insight for product teams.

A survey set in a laptop screen.

Feedback surveys are often misunderstood and abused.

In this blog I explore some best practice examples that encourage customers to give feedback, that are easy to complete, and which provide actionable and implementable insight for product teams.

Ultimately, customer feedback surveys are just surveys. They shouldn’t be equated to user research, which is based on observed behaviour. As a rule of thumb, surveys shouldn’t be used as a substitute for user research when you can’t get to talk with your customers.

We all have experience with feedback surveys. They often appear in the form of a pop-up that appears when we land on a website, asking us to complete a survey once we’ve finished. At other times, we might only be asked to fill out a survey at the end of a successful journey or after an experience.

Regardless of the medium and context, these types of surveys take a similar approach to gathering feedback: ask questions, hope customers care enough to answer, and then look to make sense of the data. However, this is an antiquated approach to gathering feedback for numerous reasons:

Having turned to my colleagues and exploited our collective know-how, I believe that there is a better way to gather customer feedback. While every situation is different and requires a unique approach what I detail below are four principles that can be drawn from whenever you want to survey your customers:

Ensure the survey is designed around a specific research question
Only use surveys if you can do something with the insight
Feedback surveys must be short
Surveys must be easy to complete

There are often times when we might need insight that requires us to ask more than a few quick and easy questions. In such cases, it’s likely that a survey is not the best approach, and depth-interviews or observational studies are better suited.

Another point to acknowledge is that predictive indicators, which can be worked into the live front-end experience can intercede, guide, and potentially realign customers struggling to reach their goal better than any survey ever could. As such, they offer a user focused approach to informing business change.

In conclusion, feedback surveys can be useful, but only when they’re used thoughtfully and carefully. While they will never replace user research, surveys can be used to gather feedback on specific aspects of the user experience to inform improvements. Use them wisely, and sparingly, and ensure that you can do something actionable with the results.

Click here to read my supporting findings deck on SlideShare.

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