How to Get Rich Product Feedback when You Can No Longer Talk to Every Customer

As a startup founder, you were probably on a first name basis with many of your early users.  Some became cheerleaders and champions, others churned. And, in those early weeks and months, everyone’s detailed, anecdotal feedback was critical. Those first 5, 10, or 50 customers helped you hone your product into something that hundreds or even thousands of customers now rely on.

As more and more users come on board, you can no longer develop personal relationships with each and every one. Plus, your attention is pulled to hiring, infrastructure and funding.  Now, more than ever though, you need to know what customers think of your product and stay connected.  You need a solution that scales.

What do you do when you can’t talk to every customer any more?

Homebase, a startup that offers free employee scheduling and timekeeping software, has thousands of customers, uses Net Promoter Score to continue its personal response to customer feedback and to shape the product roadmap as the company grows.

“When we were smaller, it was easy for us to keep track of how we were doing because we were talking to people every day,” John Waldmann, Founder of Homebase, told us. “The original intent with Net Promoter Score was to give us a more quantitative view of how are we doing on the product, but it’s actually become a new channel of communication and feedback from users that we wouldn’t have received otherwise.”

“Turn NPS on sooner than you think you need to.” – John Waldmann @gethomebase

Waldmann may be somewhat unique among founders. Many startups do not think to “metricize” customer feedback, with a system like Net Promoter Score (NPS), until long into the company’s life.  This is a “tragic mistake” according to startup advisor and Wall Street Journal columnist Kevin Colleran. “It is never too early for a startup founder to obsess over customer satisfaction,” he says.  As Waldmann learned, one benefit of an NPS system is that you also continue to receive the rich anecdotal information from customers you relied on in early stages.

NPS is Both Rigorous and Lean

Startup founders man small, lean companies, which is great because you can act quickly. But it also means you don’t have the benefit of a developed customer success program.

When it comes to finding out what customers think of you and your services, you need something that’s credible, fast, and lean– something that will resonate with your stakeholders. You don’t want a solution that sucks up time to set up or maintain, or costs a substantial amount of money.  You may have read about NPS as a lean, effective tool for listening to customers and getting feedback.

“We’ve always been very user-centric and really focused on improving the product for our users. We were growing to the point where it was harder to keep in personal touch with people,” Waldmann told us. “In a series of conversations, one of our investors suggested using Wootric to measure NPS.”

You don’t have to have hundreds of customers to start thinking about NPS measurement.  At Wootric, we started using our own tool as soon as we reached what we would consider a ‘critical mass’ of customers — around 50.  We were still only two people and it was amazing to just ‘turn us on’ and experience the instant magic of a rigorous customer feedback program.  

NPS tools can be inexpensive. For example, InMoment offers a free version to meet the needs of young startups.

Large tech companies like Airbnb and Amazon use NPS, but smaller SaaS companies, such as Homebase and Unbounce, use the system as well.

NPS is an Essential Operating Metric…

Net Promoter Score is the metric your board wants, and for good reason. Tracking NPS demonstrates customer centricity and commitment to a cycle of improvement.

The Net Promoter Score cycle (or, Net Promoter System) is the process of collecting, analyzing and acting on data. It’s a cycle that should be repeated and improved upon. As Net Promoter Score creator Fred Reichheld said,

A customer feedback program should be viewed not as ‘market research’ but as an operating management tool.”

…and a Product Management Tool

Waldmann has applied the cycle to drive product development. His SaaS company, Homebase, helps small business owners streamline employee scheduling, which is a major time suck for owners and a source of uncertainty for employees.  In essence, his product serves two user groups– those who create schedules, and those who receive schedules. Homebase has segmented NPS survey results by these two user groups, which has been easy to do with Wootric.

“In our case, NPS has allowed us to segment out the feedback and look at how happy are restaurant managers with the product after the recent changes versus how happy the wait staff are,” said Waldmann. “Are we skewing too heavily toward one side or the other? Do we need to spend some more product cycles to improve the employee experience?”

Get the ebook, The Modern Guide to Winning Customers with Net Promoter Score. Learn eight ways to leverage Net Promoter Score for product optimization, loyalty and growth.

The Value of In-Product Feedback

For a company like Homebase, it was a no-brainer to gather customer feedback inside their product. Email is another option, but surveying your customers when they are logged into your website or SaaS platform has important benefits. Here’s why you should consider it:

  • Great response rates — An in-app NPS survey can be surprisingly elegant, and not disruptive to the product experience. Your users will reward you if it is done right — it’s not unusual for the InMoment survey to see 40-60% response rates.
  • An agile approach for a constantly evolving product —  In-app surveys give you contextual, ongoing feedback that you can map to product development milestones. You can even turn NPS into a tool for A/B testing features.
  • Automated, and up and running in minutes – Your time is precious. You’d be better off spending it with customers, not managing survey deployment or manually aggregating data.
  • Integration with existing tools –  A good NPS survey tool will integrate with those that you or your peers are already using such as Segment, Intercom, Slack, Zapier. That way you are not silo-ing valuable information.

Where Will NPS Take Your Customer Conversations?

Many of our startup customers implement NPS to get customer feedback fast and efficiently. What they find is that NPS helps them in all the ways those one-on-one conversations with early users did. NPS becomes a tool that:

  • Shapes the product.
  • Provides a pipeline of promoters to marketing for further efforts. Brand advocacy by existing users can reduce acquisition costs.
  • Helps build a customer-centric culture. Waldmann notes, “We send the NPS feedback out to everyone on the Homebase team every week. It’s a great rallying cry for everyone on the team to remember why we’re here.”

So, NPS is more than a single metric or a system for a customer service team. It’s a feedback cycle that comes in a manageable flow. It gives you a conduit for rich, meaningful feedback and continued connection with your customers.

“Turn NPS on sooner than you think you need to,” said Waldmann.  “It really did open up an entirely different communication channel with our users.”

Fee in-app NPS from Wootric. Learn More.

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