Jun 26, 2014 - By Levi Page
As managers of products, sites, and services, our natural tendency is to make assumptions about what our customers need. Whether we realize it or not, we often hesitate to survey our users out of fear that we might not like the answers they give. We even go as far as to make assumptions about the "negative" feedback our customers might send. We start posing hypothetical questions in our heads: What about morale? What if the feedback is insignificant and steers us in the wrong direction? In reality, we should be trying to obtain unfiltered feedback from our customers as soon as possible. Each new feature, marketing initiative, etc., should be tried and tested using every tool at our disposal.
Let's put it this way, "Your baby is ugly". Everyone else can see it, but you can't. We are too close -- too familiar -- too intertwined with our creations that we develop a false sense of security in the epicness of our new features, new interfaces, and new offerings, and we start to assume that new is better -- that more is...more -- and that our baby can do no harm. Not only do we get false ideas about what our customers want, but we are often completely wrong about who are customers are.
We rationalize and shy away from the need to survey our users -- we even resort to asking our friends and family for feedback. Worse yet, we ask our co-workers what they think about products and services they themselves are much too familiar with.
Once we find the courage to confront our users, they will need a platform from which they can speak freely without a filter. Focus groups are great for obtaining customer feedback and certainly have their place, but they lack freedom from peer pressure. More importantly, forming focus groups is not always practical for smaller companies. Ultimately, it's not about whether to use surveys or focus groups; the idea is to use a combination of tools to figure out who your target market is and exacty what they are looking for.
Analytics not only provides insight into what customer want, but also into what they don't know that they want. It is well known that there is a disconnect between what we think we want and what will actually make us happy. While site analytics are a powerful tool, there will always be unspoken needs of customers or subjective questions that simply cannot be derived from analytics alone.
Web-based surveys fill in the gap and allow us to collect valuable marketing feedback that otherwise would not be available to us. They give our customers a voice and allow them to use that voice in a pressure free setting. Based on this feedback, we can make any necessary changes or realize that we are already on the right course.
Surveying users isn't always just about obtaining marketing feedback. By asking questions on popular topics related to your site's genre or market and permitting your visitors to view the results, you are giving visitors an incentive to frequent your site. As humans we like to know what other's think and where our opinion stands among the crowd; polls provide an excellent conduit for this purpose.
Of course, polls don't always have to be mutually exclusive from marketing feedback. By carefully choosing questions that provoke social engagement, we can entertain our users while simultaneously obtaining information useful for improving our products and services.