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Test Management

What Makes Feedback Actionable?

May 10, 2017

We talk a lot about the importance of “actionable feedback” here at Centercode, and that’s because not all feedback collected during beta testing is actually useful. Oftentimes, companies will throw up a feedback form and then get buried under the avalanche of unorganized feedback that comes rushing back. They’ll try to sift through it, but eventually, they throw up their hands and declare the whole exercise useless.

In reality, beta feedback is only useful if it’s actionable. So, what’s actionable feedback and how do I collect it? I’m so glad you asked — keep reading to find out.

It Contains Some New Insight

Hearing the same complaints about your product that you already know about isn’t going to help anyone, so the first thing that makes feedback actionable is that it provides something new. It could be a completely new finding, like discovering an entirely new bug, or it could be a new element of a previous finding, such as realizing that a known bug is actually affecting more users than previously thought.

This could also take the form of providing new importance to an issue. For example, something you thought was a minor issue could suddenly become a major one as testers tell you how frustrating the bug is to their everyday usage of the product. These examples provide something new to the conversation, which makes the feedback more useful to your team.

It Relates to Your Goals

The second element of actionable feedback is that it relates to your goals and is within the scope of your influence. Your overarching goal during any customer validation test is to make your product better. If the feedback doesn’t relate to that general goal, or any of the specific objectives you’ve set for your test, it isn’t actionable.

For example, an uncovered issue may relate to a different product that integrates with your product. Maybe their interface is cumbersome when connecting to your product. If your team doesn’t have influence over that adjacent product or if improving that integration isn’t an objective of your test, then that feedback isn’t actionable.

Understanding this element of actionable feedback will help you stay focused on the feedback that will truly help you achieve your goals, instead of getting sidetracked by other priorities or problems.

It Has the Necessary Context

Feedback is useless without context. Anyone involved in product development or support has experienced the “vague complaint”. A customer saying “this feature isn’t working!” isn’t helpful. Your team has no idea where to even start with understanding the issue.

As a result, gathering context as part of your beta process is crucial. If your product is an app, you need to know the type of phone your testers are using, the OS their phone is running, as well as a dozen other details. You also need to understand the experience’s context. What was the user doing beforehand? What did they expect to happen? What actually happened?

This gives your team the full picture of what’s happening, so they can best act on the feedback and make improvements to your product, support documentation, or marketing messaging.

It Is Prioritized

Not all feedback carries equal weight. Some of it, due to the part of the product it affects or the popularity of the suggestion, is naturally more impactful. So you need a system for prioritizing your feedback. We use automated scoring in our platform, which takes into account your priorities, innate aspects of the feedback, and relative popularity, to determine which pieces of feedback you should focus on first.

Some people consider this step to be a luxury. However, in reality, it’s not. You cannot tackle every piece of feedback and without a system for understanding the relative importance of different pieces of issues, you won’t know where to focus your limited time and effort. As a result, you’ll waste valuable time trying to decide what to take action on, which could result in you taking no action at all or taking action on the wrong things, decreasing the ROI of your test.

These elements come together to give you a clear path toward making your product better. It’s important to remember that allowing your testers to submit feedback is only part of the process. You need to make sure you’re collecting the right details and have a way to pull the actionable feedback from the noise so you can truly make your product better.

For a guide on how to collect the most meaningful and actionable feedback for your next product test, take a look at The Feedback Playbook.

Score a free copy of the Playbook

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