As readers know, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to communicate ideas this year (starting with the audio post a few weeks ago). So when I was asked to do a webinar with the ProdPad team, I jumped at the chance. And I decided to focus my talk on Customer Experience (CX) Loops, which is a topic that I thought would be easier to tackle with prepared slides + hand-wavy examples + live Q&A. You can see links to the recording and presentation below, but I wanted to touch on a few concepts I didn’t get to elaborate on in the webinar…
Customer feedback is critical to product teams (to create hypotheses, to validate solutions, to synthesize learnings, to identify problems), but there are too many channels of varying quality to plug into. And as companies scale, systemically getting meaningful interactions with actual users of the product is difficult. Having worked at a SaaS company the last 3 years, where I had hundreds of customer conversations, I can honestly say I spoke more to buyers / influencers / implementors / administrators than users. Furthermore, 20% of customers (the largest, the noisiest, the buzziest) tend to get 80% of the attention.
So how do you overcome these complications? In the slides / talk, I cover 3 dimensions of feedback, and offer a strong point of view on how to set up:
collecting - directly from customer vs using proxies and partners
operationalizing - leveraging CX touchpoints vs other channels
distilling - learning loops vs one-off, over-biased, pre-planned chats
And the reason I focused on CX loops as an ideal conduit of product feedback was my own experience seeing the practice in action at multiple career stops.
at Amazon, via shadowing programs at call / fulfillment centers
at Twitter, through VIT (Very Important Tweeter) support channels
at Box, by doing rapid-fire, new-prospect meetings at BoxWorks
at Amplitude, with rounds of listening to user research recordings
When you actually observe a CX touchpoint live, and have to facilitate the workflow and navigate speedbumps, that learning loop is invaluable in developing user empathy. But the best example I came across was an anecdote I saw in my LinkedIn feed, which I summarized into a pithy quote:
“watch the bartender” - Jack Dorsey
Of course, there are a number of ways this practice can be screwed up:
attempting to “learn” only when you need to confirm a theory
limiting access to only a select few vs any product team member
not documenting, synthesizing, and socializing learnings broadly
overloading only front-line knowledge workers with customer pain
So like any idea, CX loops only work if they’re a cultural norm, for every employee, via regular interlocks, and woven into the leadership ladder - otherwise, they won’t stick.
If you’re currently working on improving how you collect / operationalize / distill customer feedback, I also recommend watching the Q&A session at the end talk.
I’d love to hear from readers who’ve seen or implemented CX feedback loops - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
you can watch a recording of the ProdPad webinar or go through the slide deck
as I always do before any public speaking engagement, I reviewed my note to self
if you like the template for the presentation, you can find more like it at Slidesgo
this post on product-led companies being customer-obsessed and decentralizing decision-making helped shape my point of view heading into this talk
Twilio’s new employee onboarding ritual of coding an app is a great CX loop
this Product Love podcast episode with Shopify’s product leader Brandon Chu has a great segment on “shipping the whole customer experience”, which is a mindset that dovetails nicely with collecting product feedback via CX loops
childish drawing / interpretation
This article got me thinking about a couple things
(1) building products is a two way conversation with your customer - a line I stole from Sense & Respond, a good book summarized in this article here: https://jeffgothelf.com/blog/volkswagens-electric-car-ambitions-a-sense-respond-case-study/.
(2) progressive disclosure to help customers learn your product with just enough information given to them to experience the value - https://www.nngroup.com/articles/progressive-disclosure/. As I've read more about this concept you see it in practice with things like hamburger menus and hidden complex features, but I'm trying to think about how it can be used to get customers to their first win with little distraction, then how do you tack on more complexity over time, almost like levels in a video game. Ideally with a good customer feedback framework you could learn what helps customers learn your product progressively giving them many aha moments along the way.