When to Selectively Listen to Feedback and Ignore What Users Say
Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: If you're not embarrassed by your first product release, you released it too late. Listen to this week's episode here.
While releasing your product early and gauging user feedback is definitely important, in this week's episode of Masters of Scale, host Reid Hoffman also says entrepreneurs need to both listen to what users say, and selectively ignore them.
It’s a process I went through with releasing my own startup a few years back, when I needed to gauge responses from users on the functionality, ease of use and how well they felt in terms of how the product helped them with their various pain points as small business owners.
It’s vital to listen and hear all feedback and then decide what is valuable and what doesn’t apply. Here are some of the key types of feedback that I have learned to accept and others to ignore:
Generic feedback is worthless.
When releasing my online invoicing and payments solution, I needed very specific details about what worked and what didn’t. I wasn’t looking for “it’s great” or “it doesn’t do what I need.” What I really need is specific examples of places or features that they liked or didn’t and why -- and the “why” should tell me a lot. If it doesn’t, then I can’t make the applicable changes necessary to change their opinion.
Make sure feedback comes from your target audience.
There were instances where the comments I received made me realize the person wasn’t actually in my target audience. For example, I had one situation where the feedback came from a company that sent out thousands of invoices and bills each month. The fact is my product is made for the small-business owner that maybe sends no more than 100 or so invoices a month. Therefore, what I had made wasn’t designed to accommodate such a high volume at that point in the business. Consider the source in terms of exactly what they want before you determine if their feedback actually fits what you are looking to accomplish.
Look for patterns, not lone complaints.
The best feedback to take to heart is when you see a pattern in the responses that all point to the same issues or lack of features. If it’s just one person pointing out the problem, then there could be other issues there that led them to that. This also tells me that the majority of the audience is not concerned with that aspect of the service I’m offering. While I’m not saying that one person is not important, it’s just one opinion. When multiple people offer the same feedback, and that’s where I need to focus my attention.
Some people just like to complain.
Unfortunately, there are just some people that don’t seem happy with anything they use or experience and think feedback means it’s an opportunity for them to be snarky. This type of negative response does nothing to make my service offering better for the audience, so that’s when I take the high road and just ignore it. I am only looking for professional and constructive feedback.
Be wary of feedback from unvetted sources.
Likewise, there may be some feedback that seems questionable in nature because the person is unknown. While feedback doesn’t just have to come from friends, colleagues, family and your social circle, you want to make sure there is some level of trust there in terms of the source. A user testing service makes sure those trying your product or service have been pre-qualified for their ability to provide valuable feedback. Consider getting feedback from people identified as influencers, as they have a good sense of your audience and can offer the type of feedback that will then make them want to share what you offer with those that they influence among your ideal customer base.
Feedback is a very necessary component of making your product or service better. The more feedback and comments I received, the better I was able to weed through the responses and get the information that would help me make the necessary improvements to my service when I released it to the wider audience I was targeting.