Why Product Managers Should Stop Collecting User Feedback

The true alpha lies not in the quantity of feedback collected, but in the ability to translate that feedback into unique insights and make creative choices that truly resonate with customers. 
Nicole Bansal
Nicole Bansal, June 20, 2023

In a world obsessed with accumulating more data points, we often find ourselves trapped in an endless pursuit of user feedback, believing that the more data we gather, the better equipped we’ll be to make informed decisions and build superior products. In fact, the prevailing notion in many product departments these days seems to be that collecting endless customer feedback—more responses, more analytics, more prioritization matrices—is the ultimate path to success. However, it's time to pause and question this relentless pursuit. 

In the competitive landscape of customer-focused companies, it's not uncommon to see PMs diligently collecting user feedback for years, only to find their products struggling to gain an edge in the market. Surprisingly, the go-to solution for many of these companies is to gather even more user feedback. However, we often fail to recognize that the true alpha lies not in the quantity of feedback collected, but in the ability to translate that feedback into unique insights and make creative choices that truly resonate with customers. 

But our intention is not to discredit the value of user input and we are not suggesting a complete abandonment of user feedback. Rather, we aim to shine a light on the fixation of collecting more feedback, while neglecting the immense potential hidden within the data we already possess. Is the answer truly found in accumulating more responses, or is it a matter of effectively mining and harnessing the existing wealth of insights at our fingertips? 

In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of converting user feedback into highly differentiated products and how companies can break free from the addiction of seeking more inputs, instead focusing on better utilizing the vast information we already possess by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI).

Translating User Feedback for Maximum Impact

User feedback undoubtedly holds value, serving as a valuable source of information for product development. It provides insights into user pain points, preferences, and expectations, allowing companies to refine their offerings. However, collecting feedback alone is not enough to ensure success. The true challenge lies in effectively translating that feedback into unique insights that drive product innovation.

Many companies fall into the trap of amassing an overwhelming amount of user feedback without understanding how to distill it into actionable and meaningful insights. It's crucial to recognize the wealth of valuable data that most companies already possess. Customer support tickets, email exchanges, meeting transcripts, sales call recordings, NPS & CSAT survey responses, and other existing sources of qualitative unstructured feedback are often overlooked treasures because they’re seen as a nightmare of manual, tedious analysis. By harnessing the power of AI-powered data analysis, product managers can unlock meaningful insights and make data-driven decisions without solely relying on an insatiable hunger for more feedback.

Imagine a scenario where a software company is inundated with customer support tickets related to bugs, feature requests, and more. Instead of frantically seeking more feedback, product managers can tap into the existing support ticket data and employ AI algorithms to analyze patterns and identify areas of opportunity and growth. Similarly, sales call transcripts contain a wealth of information about common objections, frequently requested features, and competitive intelligence. Armed with this knowledge, PMs can align their product roadmap with the needs and desires of their target audience, positioning the product for greater success in the market.

Simply gathering more feedback does not automatically result in better products. And we no longer need to waste hours interpreting and analyzing user feedback. The key to extracting insights from existing feedback lies in the ability to leverage AI technology. These advanced algorithms can process vast amounts of data quickly and efficiently, uncovering valuable patterns and trends that human analysis alone would struggle to identify. By harnessing the power of AI-driven data mining, product managers can unlock the full potential of the feedback they already have at their fingertips. 

Now, we can rely on AI to identify patterns, trends, and underlying needs, giving PMs more time to focus on critical thinking, creativity, and strategic decision-making across multiple dimensions:

1. ​​Problem Prioritization: One of the key challenges product managers face is deciding which problems to address. User feedback helps identify pain points, but not all feedback carries the same weight. Product managers must analyze and prioritize the problems based on their potential impact and alignment with the company's strategic goals.

Consider a project management tool where users frequently request a new feature for creating custom reports on social media platforms like Reddit. It would take a human several hours, if not days, to collect and manually crunch this data. With AI, it can be automatically scraped and analyzed within hours. This allows product teams to focus on roadmap prioritization rather than analysis, assessing which customer requests align with the core value proposition of the product and address a critical pain point. They may discover that a significant number of users struggle with task assignment and collaboration, which are more fundamental problems. By prioritizing these issues, product managers can address the root causes and deliver a differentiated solution that resonates with their target audience.

2. Customer Segmentation: User feedback represents the collective voice of a diverse user base. To create impactful products, product managers must identify and prioritize specific customer segments. Each segment may have unique needs, desires, and expectations, requiring tailored solutions.

In the context of an e-commerce platform, users might provide feedback related to shipping options, return policies, and product recommendations through a variety of channels including product reviews, email, chat support, and social media. However, within this feedback, PMs might notice patterns suggesting distinct user segments, such as budget-conscious shoppers and luxury-seeking consumers. By segmenting the feedback and understanding the specific pain points of each segment, product managers can develop differentiated features and experiences that cater to the unique needs of these customer groups. Luckily with the advent of generative AI and metadata analysis, this can be accomplished without a single pivot table.

3. Feature Development: Translating customer feedback into feature development requires striking a balance between meeting user requests and introducing innovative features that surpass customer expectations. Not every user request should be implemented, as some may conflict with the product's core vision or add unnecessary complexity.

Suppose a social media platform receives user feedback requesting the addition of various image filters. Outdated sentiment analysis tools rely heavily on volume of feedback in their analysis. To avoid oversimplifying the problem by prioritizing filters based simply on the volume of requests, product managers need to evaluate the broader user experience and the platform's differentiation strategy. With Viable’s advanced Generative Analysis platform, PMs can tailor the analysis to match their business objectives, directing the AI to focus on prioritizing features that serve their highest-paying customers and aligning with the platform's core value of simplicity and authenticity, instead of overwhelming users with an array of filters.

4. User Experience Design: A seamless and intuitive user experience is critical for product success. Translating user feedback into a well-designed user experience involves understanding the pain points, frustrations, and desired interactions of users. This understanding enables product managers to craft intuitive interfaces and streamline workflows.

Consider a project management tool where users frequently express frustration with the complexity of the task creation process. By analyzing user feedback and conducting usability tests, product managers may identify opportunities to simplify the interface, introduce drag-and-drop functionality, or provide contextual guidance. These improvements enhance the user experience, reduce friction, and increase overall user satisfaction.

5. Effective Marketing: Translating user feedback into effective marketing strategies involves understanding the language, values, and motivations of the target audience. By leveraging user feedback, product managers can shape their marketing messages and campaigns to resonate with customers on a deeper level.

Most businesses receive feedback informing them what customers like about their product, but so often fail to utilize this information to their best advantage. Product managers can leverage these insights in their marketing efforts by highlighting these key features. By aligning the marketing message with user feedback, the product becomes more compelling to potential customers who share similar aspirations.

Breaking Free from the Addiction

While user feedback is undeniably valuable, there is indeed a tipping point where more input becomes counterproductive. Companies must break free from the addiction of seeking more feedback and instead focus on better utilizing the existing information at their disposal. This requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to generating more creative and differentiated outputs.

To embark on this transformative journey, product managers should:

1. Reframe the Role of Feedback: Rather than viewing feedback as the ultimate solution, it should be seen as raw material for generating insights and driving innovation. Product managers must embrace the challenge of translating feedback into actionable strategies.

2. Emphasize Critical Thinking: Developing critical thinking skills allows product managers to analyze feedback with a discerning eye, identifying patterns, and uncovering underlying user needs. This helps them move beyond surface-level requests and envision innovative solutions.

3. Foster Collaboration: Collaboration with cross-functional teams, such as designers, developers, and marketers, is essential in translating feedback into differentiated products. By working together, teams can leverage their collective expertise to shape the product strategy.

4. Iterate and Experiment: Product development is an iterative process. By embracing a culture of experimentation and continuous improvement, companies can evolve their products based on insights derived from user feedback.

Looking to the Future

As companies strive for success, they must recognize the value of translating user feedback into unique product insights. By prioritizing the conversion of feedback into creative choices, they can build highly differentiated products that resonate with their target audience. Moving forward, leaders need to focus on leveraging the vast amount of information they already possess, rather than succumbing to the allure of more inputs. This requires a shift in mindset, investment in critical thinking skills along with the right technology, and fostering collaboration within cross-functional teams. By embracing these principles, companies can unlock the true potential of user feedback, drive innovation, and position themselves as leaders in their respective markets. The future belongs to those who can truly understand their users and transform their insights into exceptional products.

Want to break free from your feedback addiction? Get your first analysis free.

Nicole Bansal
Nicole Bansal, June 20, 2023
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