Getting feedback (from real live customers!) is a crucial part of the product development process. And ideally, you want it as early as you can get it. Phil Tadros of Doejo, a firm that specializes in building products using agile practices, even goes so far as to say it’s the main error a lot of managers make: “Too many product managers fail to solicit feedback from both their team and customers early enough in the development process.”

Aside from getting feedback early on in the process, you’ll also want to collect feedback at all of the major milestones in the product (and when new versions are released). Getting that customer insight on how they’re liking the new additions to the product and what they’d like to see in the future can help guide your product roadmap and create a stronger product in the end.

Collecting customer feedback

Uservoice did a survey on the influence of customer feedback on the product development process, with the results showing that most companies find traditional customer interviews to be the most valuable source of feedback.

Image via Uservoice report, “Survey: The Influence of Customer Feedback on the Product Development Process”

The problem is that they’re also the most time-consuming/costly way to get feedback. When budgets are tight (or as the amount of feedback to be collected grows) people tend to turn to in-app feedback as a way to get more feedback without having to more conduct 1:1 interviews.

For more on getting feedback from mobile users, check out this post at KISSmetrics. (Uservoice also has an extensive guide on in-app feedback here.)

The right questions to ask to get useful data

When you’re collecting feedback, you shouldn’t just be saying, “Is there anything we could do better?” You need to follow up with more details and find out why it is that the customer wishes the product would do XYZ.

Camille Acey, VP of Customer Success at Clubhouse, has some tips on the right kinds of questions to ask and why they matter, starting off with Cindy Alvarez’s suggestion from Lean Customer Development:

“If you had (requested feature) today, how would that make your life better?”

Camille goes on to add:

I also like “Can you tell me more about how (highlighted issue) is a blocker for you?” as well as “How are you working around the lack of (requested feature)?” Product feedback and feature requests give us awareness of a potential issue. Asking a question like one of the above gives us understanding. Only after we have awareness and understanding should we feel equipped to chart a course of action. Springing into a flurry of whiteboarding and keytapping can be perilous without stepping back and truly finding out what the user is trying to accomplish and why.

For more of Camille’s thoughts on user feedback, head here.

Don’t forget to track the data

All of the product feedback you’re collecting — whether it’s coming from one-on-one interviews, in-app feedback, or customer support — should be tracked in a way that makes it difficult for you or your team to impose your own assumptions onto the feedback.

If you aren’t tracking the number of customers wanting a specific feature, then it’s easy to accidentally prioritize the feature requests that you care about or want to implement, even if that’s not what people are asking for.

As Justin Seymour, head of customer support at Help Scout, puts it:

Without data to validate your hunches, you might remember things wrong — that issue you could have sworn you heard 100 times this month was actually mentioned a lot less, the support equivalent of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon affecting your perception.

What’s your feedback process like?

This post was originally published at the Clubhouse blog.