Generating quantifiable feedback from net promoter scores (NPS) or customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) can help you give your customer experience, brand perception, and product experience a general health check.
If you want to do more with customer feedback — like proactively improve the customer experience and identify new growth opportunities — your strategy should include a means of collecting, analyzing, and actioning qualitative data too.
In this article, we’ll look at:
Why collect qualitative customer feedback?
Firstly, qualitative research helps you better understand why your customers rate your business in the way they do. With this information, you can address their concerns or double down on the things they love to reduce churn and improve retention and loyalty.
Secondly, qualitative data can help you dive into specific parts of the customer lifecycle or product experience to identify real, tangible ways you can improve or grow your business.
For example, with qualitative feedback you can do things like:
Identify or confirm your ICP (ideal customer profile)
Prioritize new features based on what customers want
Improve existing products or features
Identify opportunities for product or service expansion
Identify new markets
Improve help documentation or customer service
Improve user or customer onboarding
Optimize messaging for marketing campaigns
Industry experts share strategies for collecting constructive customer feedback
Generating constructive qualitative feedback isn’t as straightforward as asking customers to give you a star rating. It requires more forethought, different collection methods, and often a bit of creativity.
We spoke to a number of marketers and customer support agents to find out how they collect customer feedback that goes beyond the star ratings. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Choose review sites that go beyond the rating
It’s likely you’re already asking customers to leave you reviews on a relevant third-party review site, for example as part of an automated feedback-generation journey after an NPS survey. The sites you choose to double down on are important — not just because there are some review sites that are more reputable and popular than others, but also because some give you the opportunity to go deeper than a star rating.
Generate reviews after an NPS survey
Joe Kevens, Director of Demand Generation at PartnerStack and Founder of B2B SaaS Reviews shares, “Not all review sites are created equal. One of the big differences can be the depth of a review. For example, with software review sites, reviews on Gartner Digital Markets sites are generally shorter than those on TrustRadius and PeerSpot. So, to get more constructive customer feedback through user reviews, pick a review site that asks for more details from reviewers.”
2. Go on a listening tour
Customer feedback is generally an always-on activity. This makes sense for NPS journeys and third-party review requests, but when you need to generate detailed qualitative feedback, carving out some dedicated time to speak to your customers or industry experts can make all the difference.
This is where the listening tour — a staple for politicians — comes into play. Madison Kochenderfer, Customer Success Lead at Dock, suggests, “Do an executive/leadership listening tour. They can do personal outreach asking for a 15-30 minute touch base to better understand the customer journey and where our gaps are.”
Paige Arnog-Fenn, Founder and CEO at Mavens & Moguls, does something similar. “Make a list of the movers and shakers, people you admire, and prospects, ask a few smart open-ended questions then sit back and take notice."
She adds, “Start listening with no strings attached, you'll be amazed what you find.”
3. Conduct “exit” interviews
Exit interviews are common practice when an employee leaves a company, but Jules Robertson, co-founder of Tally Workspace, has adopted them in client interactions. “Our sales team conducts informal ‘exit’ interviews once a client checks out or completes an order. We ask questions that seek to understand what the client would have done to fill their need for this product had they not found our offering.”
“This really helps us to understand how our product is solving problems within the office space, and what the alternative would be if we didn’t exist.”
4. Create a client council
In many B2B businesses like agencies or SaaS products, your business's success is directly tied to the success of your customers or clients. If this is the case for you, you may be able to identify a group of advocates who are willing to provide feedback in an on-going manner.
Founder and lead strategist at GuidePost Marketing, Kyle Porter, calls this a ‘client council.’
“It’s an informal group of 3-5 clients that we meet with on a quarterly basis to see what their needs are, what’s bugging them, what they like about how we’re serving them, and what they think we can do better.
We’ve found that when we send out surveys, no one responds. But when we make the time and create a venue where honest feedback isn’t just broadly requested, but actively listened to, people are more than happy to open up.”
5. Use live chat
Whether you have a people, a bot, or both manning your live chat support, consider how you can integrate feedback requests into everyday processes.
In a chatbot, this might be about adding some additional prompts with open-ended questions relevant to the customer or user's journey. For conversations with customer support reps, you can build a process around collating and distributing the feedback received in day-to-day interactions with customers.
For example, Ortto’s customer support team have created a dedicated field in our live chat tool Talk to send feedback to our product team or technical writer on Slack. Emily McLaren, Head of Customer Support at Ortto, explains, “We have a field we can complete, and we just put all the notes there. That essentially kicks off a journey that sends a message to the relevant team on Slack, and they take it from there. Plus, because the CDP is integrated, crucial information like the customer’s location is automatically completed and we don’t have to go hunting for it.”
Christy Pyrz, CMO of Paradigm Peptides, shared, “Having customer service reps or chatbots inquire about what web pages they found helpful, where they heard of your business, if they were satisfied with your service, and what improvements they would like to see, can not only provide you valuable data, but the most relevant information while it is fresh in their minds.”
6. Conduct social listening
There’s a lot you can learn from the conversations that happen about and around your brand. Paige from Mavens & Moguls shares, “Social media is highly emotive so you can get more context on complaints, purchase behavior, and macro/micro trends. Using social listening, you can isolate the data you care about and help identify actionable opportunities early.”
The key is to track more than just your searchable brand mentions. Follow competitor’s hashtags, identify key influencers in your customer’s industry or demographic, and keep an eye on thought leaders in the space to ensure you catch every moment your brand is — or could be — a part of.
7. Utilize user data analysis
User data can reveal a lot, especially when it is coupled with qualitative insights generated from open-ended surveys or user interviews.
Jules from Tally Workspace shares, “We're constantly testing and iterating our website based on real user performance data in order to optimize the user experience of the site. This enables us to see how our users navigate the site, where the friction points are, and how effortlessly they find key information. Gathering this unbiased data allows us to shape and optimize the experience of our current and future customers.”
The key here, Jules adds, “is to remember you need a mixture of qualitative and quantitative feedback from customers if you really wish to make a product that your customers love.”
Using in-app widgets to ask open-ended questions at key moments in the customer’s journey or employing one of the methods above, like a client council, will give you qualitative data to strengthen your quantitative user data.
8. Run beta testing or product development workshops
When you are developing a new product or feature, identifying a set number of existing customers to beta test or participate in a product development workshop can help you generate more constructive feedback.
Sturgeon Christie, CEO at Second Skin Audio shares, “We invite customers to participate in product development workshops where their direct feedback influences the design and features of our new products. This hands-on approach has led to several breakthrough innovations in our audio solutions.”
For SaaS businesses, like BigMailer.io, a beta test can help you collect more effective feedback at the right time. Lilia Tovbin, CEO & Founder explains, “Invite customers to try out new features to get better insights into your product's effectiveness before the official launch. When you have a group of users test your product first, you'll have the chance to refine low-performing features that might adversely impact its performance.”
Lilia says beta testing helps them identify bugs, glitches, and usability issues that might not have been apparent during internal testing, and the feedback generated gives them, “the opportunity to deliver a product that truly meets our customers' expectations, which is highly essential in building a stronger connection with them.”
9. Create a feature request forum
SaaS businesses are constantly iterating on their product, adding new features and updating old ones to ensure their product delivers on customers' needs.
Olivier Breton, Founder and CEO at Niceboard uses Canny for their feature requests because it offers a, “straightforward way to collect direct feedback from customers. With upvotes it’s easy to see the most popular ones to prioritize. The changelog, in a different tab, shows new feature releases, many of which were initiated by customers’ requests.”
Ortto also uses Canny to manage our customer feature requests, roadmap, and product updates. In addition to the upvotes for prioritization, we collect additional feedback via the comments field in individual feature requests. This helps us in cases where the feature request is unclear, we want to get a better understanding of potential use cases, or we want to alert customers to an update or release.
10. Use brand health tracking
Beyond social listening, companies can generate feedback by tracking conversations around their brand that are happening across the web by using real-time brand tracking.
James Turner, Founder and CEO at Delineate shares, “This approach provides deeper insight into what motivates customer decision-making and can help companies gather constructive feedback at scale. It also shortens the time to get these meaningful insights from weeks down to days or even hours. Instead of waiting months, brand managers gain a live dashboard showing how customer perceptions shift hour to hour.”
There’s so much to gain from generating qualitative feedback from your customers. Not only does it keep existing customers happy (everyone wants to feel seen and heard) and help you prioritize product or service improvements, it can help you identify new opportunities for growth.