You should conduct post-session activities with one major goal in mind: transforming your customers’ feedback into actionable design or development deliverables. In fact, this should the main goal of a customer feedback program in the first place. The creation of actionable design or development deliverables that are driven by customer needs provides both tangible and intangible benefits to the customers who participated in your customer feedback sessions, to your development team, and to you. In this article, we’ll describe our best practices for conducting post-session activities.
Processing and Organizing Your Data
Now that you’ve gotten all this feedback, what should you do with it? Consider following these tips when you’re processing and organizing your data.
Disseminate Your Notes from the Sessions and Get Clarification Where Necessary
You might have used various ways of recording the issues that customers discussed during their sessions. We’ve found that a combination of recording the sessions and taking detailed notes is the best solution for us. (You must obtain permission from participants to record the sessions. If certain customers do not agree to being recorded, ask them to leave the session.) Recording the sessions offers a few benefits. Recordings are useful for gathering historical data. You can pass the recordings along to someone who was unable to sit in on a call, but is interested in the discussion. You can go back to the recordings for clarifications on your notes, if necessary. We tend to take very detailed notes during the sessions—bordering on transcription—to maintain a sense of the discussion’s context. We find this type of notetaking more valuable than simply capturing bullet points—if only to ensure that we’ve captured exactly what participants have said, without introducing any unintended bias.
Review your notes to determine what issues your customers are having, noting their severity and frequency. Is an issue preventing task completion and goal achievement? Have multiple participants weighed in with their agreement on an issue? Decide whether issues are indicative of defects in your product or the need for enhancements. Consider framing the issues as user stories to communicate the user experience aspects of the issues.
Keep the Larger Themes in Mind
As you continue processing and tracking individual issues from customer discussions, they'll inevitably become unwieldy and difficult to manage. One way of mitigating this problem is to keep an eye out for emerging themes. It is much easier to track issues under the umbrellas of particular areas of the user interface rather than working with them as individual issues. For example, if you have three issues relating to a shopping-cart widget, consider grouping them in a checkout bucket. This lets you unify related issues and present a more cohesive picture of customers’ problems to development stakeholders. By linking related issues, you'll be able to present a more accurate picture of the improvements that need to take place within the context of a workflow rather than describing individual items that can seem innocuous on their own. Whenever possible, add supporting information such as task frequency to your themes.
Input Customer Issues into a Change Management System
Since our organization has an established change management system and processes in place, we simply enter all customer-identified issues into the system as we uncover them. We can communicate with customers through the change management system, enabling us to use it to obtain clarifications or solicit further details. All of this information goes directly into the system where developers pick up changes for implementation. This change management tool facilitates direct communication between User Experience, customers, and Development, enabling us to discuss issues and determine their resolutions—all within our open, commercial software development model.
Communicate the Issues to Your Customers
Processing and organizing the data from customer feedback sessions is time consuming. Don't forget to highlight your effort by communicating the issues back to the customers who generated the data. If you are using a collaborative change management system, invite your customers to add further feedback to the issues. If not, consider sharing the individual issues during regular checkpoint meetings and soliciting further comments or discussion. The purpose of communicating issues back to customers is twofold:
- Customers will know that you’ve heard them.
- You can gather more information on issues, including validation of issue severity and priority.
While this work can be tedious, the time you spend organizing and processing customer feedback is time well spent. Of course, there are other ways of compiling customer feedback. Regardless, the main purpose of processing customer feedback is to transform it into easily consumable information that is persuasive to your stakeholders.