Get the most value from user surveys: tips from industry experts

by
Julia Shorter
Inbound Marketing Specialist

To a Product Manager, the word “survey” is an umbrella term. Customer feedback, market research, brand awareness surveys, the list goes on. No matter the type of survey, the most important thing is to go in with a plan. Understanding start to finish what your goals are and how the received data will be used. 

At UserVoice, we preach that facilitating regular feedback helps businesses excel by avoiding building products based on assumptions and misconceptions. Collecting feedback from your target market should be a top priority. When you gather meaningful data you can spend development cycles on the most valuable projects at that point in time. And most importantly, you keep your users happy. 

Understand your audience

First and foremost, you have to get to know your audience. Understanding your demographics is the difference between okay and great survey results. Getting to know their day-to-day, challenges, and desires will help guide your product. We all know the cliché of putting yourself in someone else's shoes, well, as far as surveying goes, that’s exactly what you need to do.

Foundational user surveys

For those who are just acquiring their first users, we suggest running interviews over sending out a survey. Establishing that rapport is crucial for better understanding your target market and you’ll discover much more than just “how do you like our product”. 

By conducting early interviews you’ll answer questions like: How do my users want to be engaged? Email, online survey tools, micro-surveys? How do they make decisions? What are they hoping to solve by adopting your product or service? Each iteration of a user interview unlocks a new degree of knowing. 

Set clear goals

Work backward. Before you dive into writing questions, ask yourself “what do I hope to get out of this survey?”  Do you want to understand your target market better? Gauge interest in a specific product functionality? Or do you want to identify your competitors to help differentiate your product? 

Whatever the answer may be, be precise about the outcome you wish to achieve. Daniela Sawyer, Founder at FindPeopleFast suggests you should set a clear picture of what you want to investigate and what you want to understand on a deeper level. By doing so you can better guide the survey.

Remember, the overarching goal of a survey is to collect feedback to better inform your product strategy, your users, and direct your business goals. Accurate market research is absolutely paramount to the success of your product.

Manage expectations

Your users are more likely to lend a helping hand when they know why their help is needed. To increase your survey response rates, make sure you familiarize the surveyee with the reason for your survey. By setting the expectation of the outcome and need, folks better understand what’s in it for them. And they have a sense that there will be some sort of benefit through future product enhancements and development. This way, they’re more likely to spend their valuable time participating in your survey.

Another expectation you must set is how long your survey will take. In a survey of over 1,100 users of B2B software, we found that the majority of users prefer about eight to ten minutes. Something short enough to fit into gaps during the day, whether it’s a coffee break or on their morning commute, we found users prefer to take surveys during this downtime. If your survey includes a multitude of questions, you might consider leveraging progress indicators to let them know just how much time they have left. 

Don’t cherry-pick questions

Do not ask questions that will get you certain answers. The whole point of a survey is to get unbiased, outside feedback to confirm or deny your assumptions. Sending out a survey with leading questions will further you from really knowing your audience and bringing your product in the right direction.

For example, rather than asking “What benefits has [Feature X] provided you?” try something without the implications that it has benefited them. “How has [Feature X] affected your experience with the product?”

If you’re not careful, you build an inclination to answer your question a certain way. Remember, it’s always more important to get unbiased feedback from users than it is to get misrepresented product feedback.

Survey through familiar communication channels

Whatever you use to communicate with your users, that platform can easily be leveraged to prompt surveys. 

Surveying via email

The team at Wall Street Zen likes to periodically survey via email to understand the sentiment of their users and uncover both likes and dislikes of their product. 

“For any rating that goes below a 7/10 (or equivalent), we will include an email follow-up or chat request to discuss what we could be doing better,” says Nate Tsang, CEO. By following up on the lower scores you open up the conversation and establish a productive line of communication. 

Surveying via social media

Keeping up with the latest trends is a good way to increase engagement with your target market. Gregory Yong, Chief Experience Officer at Convincely suggests trying polls on social media. 

“One of the biggest trends circulating social media at the moment is poll content, whereby content creators ask users to vote between a few different options,” explains Yong. “The reason this surveying method is so effective is that it's notoriously easy to participate.”

“You might encounter resistance when asking users to write comments, but with polls, it takes no more than two clicks to collect the data you're looking for,” says Yong. His team has found that the results are still effective and drive valuable feedback.

Surveying via micro surveys

Micro surveys are utilized to gather continuous user feedback. Typically they can be completed with just a few clicks. Similar to user surveys, micro surveys can be used for a plethora of use cases. For instance, micro surveys are capable of tracking customer satisfaction, competitive research, market research, and product feature research.

Micro surveys allow for timely user feedback throughout your product lifecycle and they bring clarity and confidence to important product decisions. ​They can help answer questions like what to build next? Did this new functionality meet the needs of our users? A tool like UserVoice Validation lets you know how important the product ideas you’re considering are to your users and helps uncover ways to improve in future iterations.

Surveying via product management software

Product management feedback software allows you to capture, track, and organize feedback from your users. In-app feedback also makes it easy for your users to share feedback whenever and wherever they please, in a tool they’re already comfortable using.

Other platforms for surveys include newsletters, online survey tools, product release notes, and more. Whatever your avenue of choice, be sure it’s what your users prefer and are satisfied with.

The survey is complete...now what?

Follow up with them

Let your users know how their feedback is taken into account. What are the next steps? Will they hear back from you? Will you let them know if their feedback brought about new functionality?

While it’s not required you pick up the phone or individually email every respondent, providing them with some sort of indication their feedback is valued will set you apart from the masses. 

You’ll delight your users by confirming that you hear, value, and understand their opinions. As a bonus, you’ll also have the opportunity to dig deeper into their responses and build respondents’ commitment to your brand.

Leverage the data for content

As product people, we love efficiency… and what’s more efficient than using your survey findings for more than just product development? CEO, Joshua Feinberg and the team at SP Home Run Inc. do just that. 

Let’s run an example, “For an important market segment or buyer persona, we create a simple 10-20 question survey and get anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred people to complete the survey,” Feinberg describes. “We publish the findings and some basic analysis in a nicely formatted PDF and on a pillar content page,” Feinberg explains.  

Another suggestion he has is to run a podcast interview, “Find several people to invite on as guests and ask each guest the same handful of questions,” suggests Feinberg. “You’ll end up with some great evergreen content to distribute on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, blog, etc., plus tons of repurposing opportunities. Just like with the research report, you've gained important insight about what's top of mind for your prospects and customers”

Get the most out of user surveys

Surveys provide the opportunity to get a deep understanding of user needs, pain points, and expectations. Capitalize on the insights you gather from conducting product feedback surveys by prioritizing requested product improvements and enhancements. As long as you target the right users, determine the best format, and ask clear questions, surveys will give you the meaningful data your business needs. 

The best part? Once you’ve repeated this a handful of times you can establish it as a repeatable process, unlocking the door to more and more feedback!