The Process

How do high-functioning startups deal with this problem? Insights from our conversations with 50+ founders and leaders at customer-obssessed companies.

Engage with customers about their feedback

Feedback is a two-way street. Customers want to know they’re being heard, and so it’s not enough to just keep track of what they’re saying. In fact, customer-obsessed teams lean heavily on customers to understand exactly what they should be building. And when it’s completed, they make it a point to remind that user of the time they expressed a problem (in their own words), and update them on the team’s progress in solving it.

We want to get to the point where support at Notion is like what you’d get at the best restaurants. “I remember last time you asked for this mustard sauce and so we just put it on the table.” That level of detail.

Akshay Kothari, COO at Notion

Talk to customers when designing solutions

Keeping customers in the loop as you build features is the easiest way to de-risk the possibility of wasting time on things that won’t actually solve their problems.

Keeping track of every quote from every customer radically simplifies this process. After you’ve collected enough evidence that a given problem is worth solving, look over all the customers who have expressed some version of it, and reach out for a follow up conversation dedicated solely to understanding their experiences with that problem. This provides an opportunity to double check assumptions and remove any remaining biases.

Before we build or mock something up, we need to know how long it will take, and that means understanding the easiest way to solve the problem a customer is having. When we were building email integration, we sent out a Typeform. We asked them a number of questions about their email workflow, and that helped us understand OK, what are quick wins here.

Ashutosh Priyadarshy, Co-Founder and CEO of Sunsama

Follow up after resolving issues

Even if it’s been months (or years) since your user gave you feedback about an issue, even if they have churned, follow up and let them know you have resolved it. Better yet, use their own words, how they expressed the problem, and watch the magic happen: these customers will love your attention to detail. Many companies have seen neutral users become promoters, and detractors become neutrals. There are even example of churned customers coming back to the service.

It’s a lot of work to track all these requests but it pays huge dividends because people have an immense amount of loyalty if they are being listened to and heard. It’s not common for a faceless company to do what you tell them to do. We get really really positive feedback when we do this: “Oh my god, I can’t believe you actually built this feature, thank you very much”. This helps us build very high customer satisfaction and retention. We’ve seen churned customers come back.

Chandan Lodha, Co-Founder at CoinTracker, in a Userstand interview

This cannot be overstated: when a customer does put in the effort to give feedback, the onus is on your team to make sure they feel heard. That doesn’t mean you must do what they say, or even say it’s “on our roadmap.” But it does mean your team has to be genuine about concerns. If you don’t agree or understand their problems, ask why. If it’s not something you think is common to other users, do the homework to understand what makes this customer different and validate your hypothesis with them.

Doing this will encourage them to be more forthcoming in the future because they feel as though their concerns are being heard. Otherwise, it’s natural for them to assume feedback is entering a vacuum. This is often the case with non-personalized feature boards where customers can upvote or comment.