The Process

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

Qualify feedback based on business goals

Feedback will be abundant, but it’s important to recognize that you have limited time and you must prioritize feedback from customers most important to your business goals. This means qualifying the problems you’re tracking based on the customers that have surfaced them.

You can think of this system as “listen carefully to only some of their users.” Listen carefully, meaning capture all of their exact words. Some of their users, meaning deciding who is most important and honing in on that feedback.

Rajiv Ayyangar, Co-Founder and CEO of Tandem

Who should I listen to?

You know your business and your goals better than anyone, and you must decide which customers can help you reach those benchmarks. Based on our conversations with founders, here are some common examples:

  • Highly engaged customers
  • Highest revenue accounts
  • Net promoters
  • Paying customers
  • Churned customers
  • Customers that churn immediately after onboarding.

Once you and your team are aligned on what customer segments matter most, the next step is to prioritize feedback from those customers.

We try to make all our customers happy; however, from a business perspective, we do prioritize the needs of our larger accounts and anything that improves the odds of closing new leads.

Alex Bouaziz, Co-Founder and CEO of Deel in a Userstand Interview

Filter customer insights when making decisions

While it is important to log all customer conversations, it is typically not possible to address all open concerns.

In order to make your feedback actionable, you must have a system in place to filter it according to your priorities. Having a way to combine customer attributes (like: paid user vs. free user, active vs. inactive user, new user vs. veteran user, promoter vs. detractor, etc.) is essential to making this happen. This is how the qualitative data can be turned into quantitative evidence.

We poll customers regularly to figure out whether they would be “not disappointed,” “somewhat disappointed,” or “very disappointed” if Sunsama were to disappear. Our whole team is focused on getting 40% of respondents into the “very disappointed” category. So naturally, we prioritize the needs of those that are close—people that say they would be “somewhat disappointed” if we went away.

Ashutosh Priyadarshy, Co-Founder and CEO of Sunsama

Share and review qualified problems regularly

One of biggest problems teams face when it comes to using customer feedback effectively comes from the natural information asymmetry that results when only a handful of individuals talk to customers. Those teammates have a treasure trove of data about what customers want and it must be shared widely. Leaving it in a silo means your most valuable customer insights are not always shared with other teams, including engineering and design—the ones tasked with building solutions to customer problems.

We try to let everyone build context around where the opportunities are in the product, what’s some of the most important feedback, etc. We share high signal summaries of customer feedback to an internal mailing list that everyone on the company is a member of. The higher signal stuff comes from sales conversations when we lose deals, when we churn, or proactive conversations with customers who might be interested in new product areas (that we plan on building).

Nick Bushak, Co-Founder and CTO at Gem, in a Userstand Interview