The Importance of Community Feedback

5 minute read

May 19, 2022

The Importance of Community Feedback

It’s unlikely that anyone doubts that customer feedback is essential. However, I know sometimes it can be hard to get a company to accept that it makes sense to create a space for their community to come and share feedback with them. I mean, it’s tough, right?

Imagine your customers telling you directly how they feel about your company, your product or your services? Or what about telling your product could improve? Some executives sweat over the thought. In fact, 42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback (State of Customer Service Hubspot 2019).

However, I am here to share with you why seeking community feedback is important. It’s also not based on my opinions; it’s based on data. In Q4, we surveyed over 150 business buyers of software in North America, and this is the basis of some stats to help make a case for your feedback program.  

Why is asking for customer feedback so important?  

Let’s just start with a key finding: 98% of potential customers will use Google or another search engine to research you and your company before they buy. Where would you like them to end up? What would you like them to be reading? Community Forums are a major source of SEO traffic, with some customers having over 50% of their traffic coming from searches. You don’t want them to end up in space you can’t see let alone have some influence over. 

Now you may still be saying so what, but then we have more research that shows that having this space is crucial. Because of the following:  

  • 88% of buyers agreed with the statement that: “I appreciate companies that provide a shared space for customers to provide feedback and share experiences.”  

  • Over 90% are looking at public discussions and reviews of your company as a key part of their research when looking at your product.  

Customers want to know you are not afraid to include them in the conversation.They are looking at how you respond. So, it’s also important to think about who within your organization responds and how they do so. Be sure you have your best people and guidelines on how to respond and who to escalate to if needed. 

Certainly, as we see, feedback is a key to attracting potential customers, but what about current customers? Well, it has its part to play, and in this case, it’s about loyalty. We found the following for current customers:  

  • 71% of respondents told us they are less likely to switch brands with companies that ask for product feedback  

  • 81% of respondents told us they would recommend companies that actively ask and encourage customers to give product feedback  

The key being people want to feel heard, a part of your decision making and that their input on your product or services is important. You might be wondering, what to do with the ideas that aren’t great, or how to handle your customers’ expectations with all this feedback? It’s all worth collecting!

What should you be doing with feedback?  

Obviously, asking for feedback is the easier thing to do in this process. Once you have it though, what are you supposed to do with it? Well, we have those answers for you too.  

  • 68% of respondents expect a company will follow up on ideas submitted.  

  • 55% of respondents expect to hear back within a month, with 16% in a day & 15% within the quarter.  

  • 12% were not sure – but 88% expect to hear at some point.  

In short, your community expects a response to their feedback, and in general, at a regular cadence.

88% of customers say that it’s important that a company accepts your ideas and implements them into their product. Almost everyone wants their ideas taken into consideration, but surprisingly – 81% of respondents would still recommend you as long as you acknowledge their feedback, even if you don’t implement their ideas.

Time and time again, we see the key to customer feedback programs is not just asking for product ideas or feedback. It’s about closing the loop and responding.  

How to build a customer feedback program?  

There are three key steps to need for success:  

Space to have the conversation  

Make sure you have a space that’s partially public in your community so people can see ideas or feedback. If you’re worried about volume, keep it hyper-focused by telling your community members the specific product or feature you are collecting feedback on.

Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you are setting clear guidelines on what you expect people to include in feedback and what their expectations can be around your response.

Buy-in from the product team  

We all know product teams are busy. However, you need their buy-in to make this a success. Let’s start with the fact that product teams do want feedback. What they don’t want is another avenue of customer feedback that just bogs them down. So, what you want to do, is make the community the single source of feedback. All requests from support, customer success, and customers need to be funnelled via the community. This will endear you to your product friends, already overwhelmed by ideas and feedback coming from everywhere.  

The second step is to work with them on the process by which the feedback is handled. The truth is the product team likely has its own tools to do its work in. The best thing you can do is to streamline how community feedback gets into their tools. We at Vanilla, for example, use Productboard, and when a customer suggests ideas, it goes right into our product team’s Productboard. They don’t need to fuss with other tools; it’s already part of their workflow.

We have seen dramatic increases in effectiveness by working with the product team through their tools as opposed to continually remind them to come to our community. I highly recommend you spend the time to understand their workflow, make it easy for them and then ensure your community is not seen as an extra burden but as a simplification in their life by centralizing feedback.  

Ability to close the loop  

This is the most crucial aspect of any customer feedback program. Every piece of feedback should get a response. I always have a personal service level agreement (SLA) of 24 hours for any community I work with for our team to get back to someone. We also have a written process internally on how/when and who manages feedback. It’s crucial. You may even consider creating an RCAI framework for this to make sure.  

The main thing I would suggest is, at a minimum, let the community know there will be a quarterly feedback cadence, post it in the community, recognize the contributors and give public feedback on their ideas. If anything stands out, spotlight it! Make it something people look forward to. If possible, recognize the contributors further with badges, special treats, or even something as simple as a thank you card from the CEO. The most important thing is recognition of the effort.  

As you can see – creating a community feedback program from your customers is worth the effort and can pay you the dividends of new business as well as keep your current customers happy. I hope I have given you some tools to start a space today, especially if you haven’t already!  

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Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla by Higher Logic. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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