The Art of Getting (and Using) Customer Feedback

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As a mobile app designer and developer, your job is to put yourself in your user’s shoes. You probably think a lot about personas and mental models for your end users, but the only true way to understand what users want (and how to deliver it) is to hear it directly from them.

Getting customer feedback is essential for any kind of business. But depending on how you use it, customer input can work to make your app better — or it can cause you and your team to be like hamsters on a wheel, running to just keep up with fixes and features instead of thinking ahead.

Consider the following tips for getting great feedback and incorporating it into your work.

Give users better ways to talk back

When people care enough about a product (in a positive or negative way) they’ll take the time to enter a review in the app store. You can prompt them to rate the app, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take the time to enter their opinion — which can be the most valuable way to get feedback that you can use.

If you are looking for an easy way to prompt users to rate your app, check out KTAppRater

When you launch an app, be sure to launch a website, blog and social media channels to serve your users. Blog regularly about product updates and provide short tutorials about features. Consider including a discussion board or community for people to ask questions. Start Facebook and Twitter accounts and prompt people to talk about their experiences. Most importantly, put someone in charge of monitoring and talking back to your users on these channels.

Have a roadmap.

“I’d really like the app to fix my breakfast, do my homework and change my baby’s diaper.” Sometimes it feels like your most engaged users won’t stop asking for new features. The problem is that this feature-creep will keep you or your development team bogged down, constantly trying to keep up with requests.

Before you launch v1 of your app, lay out a roadmap of where you see the app going in the future. Know the general direction you’re going in. Then use feedback from your users to fine-tune that direction over time. Capture all feature requests and feedback from your users in a single database or spreadsheet, and establish a rating system to measure impact and effort — and concentrate on the improvements that are low-hanging fruit (most impact, least effort), while devoting resources over the long term to the ones that best drive your vision.

Some online app developers let their communities vote on where they’d like to see resources devoted to adding features. Others, like 37 Signals, are choosy about which projects they devote their time to. “Some people argue … it’s arrogant for developers to limit features or ignore feature requests. They say software should always be as flexible as possible. We think that’s bullshit,” the company writes in its book Getting Real.

The book continues: “When someone uses software, they’re not just looking for features, they’re looking for an approach. They’re looking for a vision. Decide what your vision is and run with it.”

Strive to understand usage.

It’s essential that you get crash reports and focus on bug-fixing. But understanding how users really use your app in their lives can be the best kind of feedback at all. Analytics can tell you a lot about when and where they use your app and how they interact with it. But see if you can find a way to get people’s feedback on:

  • Why do they use it — what’s the reason they went looking for an app like it in the first place?
  • What parts of their lives are they trying to improve or solve for with your app?
  • How do they talk about the app to other people?
  • What’s their favorite and least favorite parts of the app?

You can accomplish this with market research (focus groups, phone surveys), or you can invite users through social media to participate in informal Skype or Google Hangout chats to talk about it. The more you can hear these things in your customer’s voice, and detect the emotions and real-life experiences of your app in the wild, the more inspired you’ll be to keep evolving.

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Yuan Weigel

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