Feedback Portals: The secret growth hack hiding in plain sight
Let’s talk feedback portals… Do you remember the last time you came across a new life hack? Something that seems so simple on the surface, but is super powerful underneath?
Maybe it was a better way to eat a cupcake so you don’t get icing all over your face, or how tying a simple string around your luggage helps you find it faster when travelling.
Life hacks help make your life easier, remove annoyances and help things flow smoothly. Growth hacks do the same for your business, helping you grow faster, stronger and more powerful! But if you google “Growth Hacks’ ‘ you’ll be bombarded with a list of top 30s, Venn diagrams, and persuasive arguments for why you need to hire a Growth Hacker.
Growth hacking is most often presented as a complicated science that requires a team of PhDs to even comprehend – but the truth is far from it.
Sure if you want to squeeze every single possible ounce or gram out of your 2000% efficient system, you might need all that – but there’s an easy growth hack hiding in plain sight that very few people talk about. It’s arguably one of the easiest to implement, taking next to no time and capable of paying back dividends that would make Warren Buffet blush – we’re talking about feedback portals (I guess you already read it in the title, right?).
Let’s see why feedback portals are valuable to Product Managers, Developers and software teams, your users, and how they help your business grow to new levels.
Taking a step back: What are feedback portals?
Feedback portals come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a simple messaging board to a full-on community portal – but they all have some key things in common.
Feedback portals are a place for users to post all their ideas, suggestions and issues about your product or service in a public place. Other users will respond with their own feedback, support or comments.
As a minimum users can make new posts, but in an ideal setup users can vote, add support and write text-based replies. Some feedback portals allow users to post anonymously, whilst others require people to sign in to their user accounts to cross-link posts and customers.
If you don’t set up a feedback portal for your users, they will likely self-organize a Facebook group which could end up costing you more than you realize.
The most successful feedback portals keep all posts publicly visible and make it as easy as possible for users to make new posts.
What’s the problem with collecting feedback the traditional way
Feedback is a great indicator of how your offer or service is doing; it inspires and guides new ideas, provides validation for new releases and helps course correct when things don’t go as planned. The more feedback you can gather and use, the better your service or product will become.
The value and utility of your feedback greatly depend on how it was captured. Do it in the traditional way of “let support handle it” and your customers will feel isolated and disappointed when they receive a canned response of “Thanks for your feedback, we will pass this onto the team!”. It’s not the fault of the support team, they have customer queries and issues to reply to and solve. Why should they be receiving feedback when they’re not the ones actively building things?
So you would naturally think; ‘Let’s set up a feedback@ mailbox and give it to our product, design and development teams’, before you do that let’s see what will happen. The problem with this approach is that mailboxes are not designed for structured notes or record keeping. Each mail is its own entry into the system. If 10 users had the same feedback, there would be 10 separate messages scattered throughout the system with nothing linking or connecting them.
Some mailbox tools try to overcome that by allowing you to add tags or categorize your messages, but then you’ve got a categorization problem; was that feedback a “Design Request” or was it an “Accessibility Issue”, maybe it’s a “Feature Request” or maybe it’s actually a “Use Case Example”. Each person on your team will categorize the feedback differently, which ends up with the categorization being about as useful as a hand warmer in the Sahara desert. The feedback ends up being a disconnected chaotic mess of messages that have great content but no actual value.
When you want to actually use your feedback you’re presented with a mountain of messages. Maybe you can search by a keyword such as “Integration”, but you’ll still be left with a giant list forcing you to look through each and every single message, one by one, to try and gain some kind of insight or idea. Using a mailbox system means every time you want to gain some insight, you have to spend hours trying to filter and read through all the feedback, but the best you’ll be able to accomplish is a rough guestimate that’s akin to throwing a dart blindfolded.
What a feedback portal will do for your users
As a business, it’s impossible to be in tune with every single user´s workflow and how things change for them over time. What’s relevant and useful for them today, may be obsolete and a hurdle tomorrow.
To keep your business growing and sustainable, you need to know what your users need and want.
Luckily your users want to be heard and are ready and willing to share, it’s a natural thing to use a product or service and think up ideas and improvements for it.
If you don’t make it immediately obvious to your users where to send/post their feedback, they won’t do it – and you’ll miss out on that super valuable information that could help you stay ahead of your competitors.
Having a publicly accessible feedback portal gives your users a clear place to go and post all their thoughts.
Instead of users getting replies in private, they can now see that you’re actually listening and responding to them, and other people can join in the conversation.
There is no easier way to show your users you care about them. After a few posts, everyone will be coming to share their own ideas because they want to be heard too!
As more and more users contribute ideas, thoughts and feedback, you’ll start to build a community.
Users will feel like they are actively contributing to something that’s built just for them and will feel a sense of accomplishment when their submitted feedback and ideas are implemented.
This will spur on and encourage other users to get involved, leading to a perpetual cycle and a compounding effect on your business’s growth. After a short while, you’ll start to spot the super active users who will eventually become your most loyal and vocal ambassadors.
Feedback portals are a great way to publicly show you’re active and have users using your product/service.
With increasing stories of how stagnant tools and companies end up leaking information or have major security breaches; Users and organizations have started to consider “Activity” when evaluating a tool. If it looks quiet or there hasn’t been an update in a while, it’s one more nudge to the reject pile.
What a feedback portal will do for you, and how it Increases Innovation
Innovation comes with its own challenges. You always need to balance the time, cost and available resources to ensure that you’re maximizing efficiency and effectiveness.
Spend too much time, and you will be late to the party. Spend too much money and you might not have enough to finish or release with a bang. Stretch your resources too thin and other parts of your business may suffer irreparable damage.
Building the wrong thing is a costly mistake that many businesses and startups have learnt the hard way. After spending time, money and resources building things that users didn’t want, many ended up closing down, unable to pivot the business, and failing to catch up to competitors.
Instead of going in and building blind – trying to imagine what your users want – Feedback portals give you a perfect factual overview of what your users really want and need. Since users vote and comment on feedback posted by others, they effectively give you an ordered wish list of what they want.
Using their feedback as the source of what to build next, you’ll be able to design better products and features. Different users will share their own thoughts and perspectives on each feedback, giving you a greater list of requirements and desires. Instead of building something aimed at one small subset of users/customers, you could tweak it slightly and attract a lot more people.
Feedback portals also give you the opportunity to dive deeper into feedback. By replying to users with clarification questions; you can fill in any gaps, get more details and find out the root wish.
But it goes beyond that; Many businesses use Feature Portals to post their own internal ideas and hypotheses to get feedback from their users. This in turn brings up other questions and perspectives leading to an even better list of requirements and desires – before investing any time to build.
The more user-backed confidence you have in what you’re building, the more loyal your current users will become, and the more new users will be attracted to you. Over time your innovations will become more and more unique and impactful. Instead of you looking at your competitors and trying to see what they’re up to, you’ll be the one leading the way, with your competitors wondering where you’re getting all these great ideas from.
Instead of building something you THINK users want – potentially wasting time, money and resources you can’t afford in the process – you’ll be building things you KNOW users want.
Feedback portals are not something new, but their power and potential are widely misunderstood by teams. Users love feedback portals because it gives them a place to easily share their thoughts and ideas. They feel a sense of community, loyalty and contribution. They start to interact with each other and build better ideas together. Prospective users will look at you favorably because the feedback portal gives you an image of being a really active and innovative business – a business that listens to its users.
As well as taking away the pressure from your support team, Product Managers will love having easy access to valuable insight without having to sift through hundreds or thousands of disconnected messages. When a plan is made, it can be shared with users to further refine and enhance it, allowing development teams to better understand use cases and ensure perfect usability.
With a feedback portal, you’ll have a greater and more detailed list of what will bring your business the greatest return on its investment, letting you release in less time, cost much less, and use resources more efficiently.
You will build better, by building with your users – and the easiest way to do that is with a feedback portal!
Want to start collecting better, more usable feedback? Userback supports 20,000 software teams to develop better products via the Userback Feedback Platform. Try it for yourself and get started for free at https://app.userback.io/signup/.