Simple feedback form vs. feedback management system

Getting user feedback is very important if you want to improve your service, software or product. No matter how much thinking you put in product development, in the end, the users decide if a feature is useful or not.

This article illustrates my attempts at collecting user feedback for my task management tool, ThunderTask, and what I learned on the way.

Using a feedback management system

I started off with a feedback management system right from the beginning, in my case UserVoice, which is very good by the way. I did this because most of my competitors were using something similar and I tought it would be a cool idea.

Basically, feedback systems let users create feature suggestions and other people can comment and upvote them. The admin can answer to requests and give updates on the progress of the suggestions. All in all, a great idea which has proven itself many times (like Dell Idea Storm or My Starbucks Idea).

In my opinion, this are the pros and cons of feedback management systems:

Pros:

  • Great overview on the most upvoted feature suggestions
  • Collaboration and comments by users might elaborate an idea even more
  • Answering a lot of requests in bulk saves time
  • If you finish a feature, your users see that you care about their suggestions

Cons:

  • You get only feature request, no bug reports
  • If users suggest and upvote features that you simply can’t or don’t want to build, you might have a problem
  • No personal feedback, no way to build deeper relationships with the customers

After a while, I had got some requests and my feedback site was filling up nicely. I responded to all request with a status update and made sure to notify people if a suggested feature went live. But somehow I felt this wasn’t it.

Switching to a simple feedback form

If you have a service that is quite new, it is essential to get as much feedback as possible. You need bug reports, feedback on how people use your service, what’s confusing about it and what could be improved to keep them.

You don’t need feature requests, because you probably know what features you will add in the next months, especially if you use the product yourself everyday, like I do.

So, I did two things. First, I sent mails to my most active users, asked for feedback personally and got some responses which helped me fix some urgent issues. Second, I dumped the feedback system and added a simple feedback form.

After switching to the simple feedback form, the number of feedback dropped. This wasn’t what I was hoping for, but then amazing things happened. Users started to write personal feedback mails, how they use the service and what’s wrong with it. Most emails included detailed bullet lists of bugs and unclear functionality. This was great, because now I had constructive feedback to work with.

So, here are my pros and cons on a simple feedback form:

Pros:

  • You get personal feedback with much more detailed suggestions and explanations
  • You have the chance to build a relationship with the customer
  • The feedback is not public, so people are not afraid to speak their mind

Cons:

  • You get less feedback (my experience)
  • You get repetitive feedback (a FAQ might help)
  • If you are big, it can create overhead and you might need to hire people to answer all emails

Bottom line

I admit, this observation is from a small sample. But nonetheless, I think, that it’s better for a small service to use a simple feedback form and answer to every request personally, instead of using a feedback management system where you get a lot of feature requests, but no detailed feedback.

What’s your experience? Do you use a simple feedback form or a feedback management system? Please let me know in the comments :)

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