Y Combinator is one of the world’s most renowned accelerators. Their main mantra is “Make something people want.” Obviously, you need a product that fulfills your audience’s needs. But once you have that, it’s time to grow. In this article, I’ll explain why your customers should be an essential part of that process.
You’ll learn when and how to make a survey, my problem with Net Promoter Score and how to give your customers a voice.
Let’s tackle the most obvious first. Surveys are a great way to gather feedback when you know exactly what answers do you need. Do you need an opinion on a planned feature? Are you interested in your customer’s views on a particular topic? A survey is a right choice.
How to build a good survey
Before you decide to create a survey, you should prepare a few extra things. First, you need to motivate people even to consider filling it out. Depending on your budget and the complexity of the form, the options may vary.
An example of a useful tactic is engaging your customers in their moments of the highest happiness. It can be right after a purchase, or after completing a goal (achievement), or after you answer their question on chat support.
Once you have the motivation figured out, it’s time to choose the questions. A good survey is short and asks only the necessary. Be careful about writing in your audience’s language and avoid industry buzzwords your customers may not understand.
My Problem With Net Promoter Score
NPS is a special kind of survey that can help you determine how your customers value your product. Based on a 0-10 rating scale, the score you get after this survey shows you how likely your customers are to stay with you and how much are they eager to promote you.
In theory, this tool is used to know if the customers are promoters (9-10), detractors (0-6) or passives (7-8). It should help you to measure the loyalty of your customers. But. There is a but.
The reasons why people may give you a bad NPS score can differ. It doesn’t have to be a problem with the product itself. It may signal other issues, like a lack of product-market fit.
That is one of the reasons I don’t wholly agree with a traditional NPS approach. What’s more, the ten options are too much, given that a difference between 6 and 7 is that radical. Also, asking if somebody would do something sometimes in the future is not that reliable.
Instead, I prefer to ask a simple question:
“In the past three months, did you recommend our product to a friend or a colleague?”
Two options, definitive result. Of course, you should play with this yourself and find out what works best for you.
Close the loop
Whether you’re doing an NPS survey or a questionnaire, I always recommend sharing the results with your customers. Even better, attach your proposed next action (that you based on the results) to build trust and keep them in the loop.
But be careful, not everybody wants to be bothered. Make sure to ask for permission first.
What to use
For building surveys, nothing beats Typeform for me. It’s beautiful and easy to use with keyboard navigation. Only one question is visible on the screen at a time, which makes it easy to focus.
This way of getting feedback comes short when you’re not sure what to ask. Sometimes, even if you have plenty of questions, what if you’re not asking the right ones? How do you know?
That’s why it’s handy to have a dedicated place where your customers can express their opinion and ideas on their terms.
Most companies have at least one way of getting in touch with them. Live chat tools like Intercom or Drift are almost on every website. When they don’t use live chat, there’s usually an email address you can use.
It’s a good thing to have these options available, but they’re not that great when the feedback starts piling up. That’s when you whip up a Google Sheet or a Trello board. While those may be enough for a while, they have their limitations.
You still need to note the feedback manually after each request. Sometimes you may forget, you may be short on time, etc. You quickly lose track of who requested what. I’m sure you want to focus more on requests from customers that spend more with you.
From a customer perspective, “Contact us” email forms always feel like a black hole. Even if anybody responds, it’s something like “Thank you. I will pass that to the team”. Meh. It’s impossible to keep everybody up to date with your progress on the things they requested.
Furthermore, if you’re not careful, it can become a mess over time. In an interview with Maxime Berthelot (Buffer, PixelMe) he shared his concerns with prioritization:
“When multiple customers request a feature in a short period of time, it may seem like an important thing. But in reality, there can be a much bigger issue, only that the requests are more spread out over time. The importance of requests is not obvious.”
There’s a better way. By providing a dedicated place for leaving feedback you can avoid all of those problems.
Ego is the enemy
While clear vision is undoubtedly essential, it’s equally important to listen to what your customers need. In an Indie Hackers interview, Christopher Gimmer (founder of Snappa) shared his experience:
“The great thing about releasing our beta early was the feedback we got from users. Some of the features we didn’t think were that important turned out to be very important (and vice versa).” 
So, how important are customers to a business? I’m serious. If you’re not listening to customer feedback, how do you know you’re building what your customers want? And if you’re not building what your customers want, how are you going to make money?
Use a public roadmap tool
The most popular tool for managing a public roadmap is arguably Trello. If your project is small Trello can handle it, but once you start growing, it quickly becomes a mess. When you catch yourself being afraid to look at that board, you know it’s time to switch to a more focused solution.
There are many feedback board / public roadmap tools out there. Besides the obvious ones, they usually offer features like handy integrations, automatic follow-up emails or custom branding.
I find the automatic follow-ups the most impactful. Once you change the status of an idea, people that requested it get a notification. This rewards your customers for their time and keeps your product fresh in their minds. Win-win.
An alternative to Trello that might level up your feedback management is FeedBear. It’s free to use, quick to set up and you’ll never struggle with prioritization again.
So to conclude, if you want to grow, you can’t do it without help from your customers.
Allow them to express their opinion. Actively listen to their needs. Prioritize to keep your sanity. Follow up as a reward. Use available tools to be more productive and organized.