Today I stumbled upon something quite shocking. I got hooked while re-reading a couple of our blog posts on the topic of customer support and how you should engage with your customers and users.
In this blog post I’d like to show you what we got wrong and why you should not listen to your users. I will also tell you what you should do instead.
Don’t listen to Peter.
Yes – you might think I went crazy over the winter holidays. But here’s my advice:
Don’t listen to your users.
Yes. Do not listen to your users.
Here’s the full story.
Let’s assume the following situation. A user of your software (let’s call him Peter) has a problem with your product. Instead of dropping off, Peter is nice enough to inform you about his issue.
The customer support person of your team takes care of Peter’s issue and forwards it to the developer in charge of fixing it. Actually the developer quickly releases a new bug fix and let’s the customer support person know that the problem has been fixed.
The customer care person then informs Peter that the problem is already solved. Happy about the fast reply, Peter logs into his account but finds himself still not happy about this workaround (bug fix).
So what happened here?
Transforming a visual experience into words.
Chances are that it’s a problem of miscommunication.
Your user finds some problem within your product but he or she has a hard time describing it. Your customer support person has a hard time understanding and interpreting it. So forth and so on…
Why do such situations arise?
Basically, miscommunication happens because of media breaks. Something happens visually in your browser, but you communicate via email (written), chat messenger or telephone (audio).
Let your users show you.
So why should you care about a visual user experience?
The short answer: Because you cannot and should not expect your users to go through all the trouble of finding the contact form, filling out lengthy fields, etc.
With a visual tool, you are able to get richer feedback using a significantly lesser amount of time.
When I wrote that you shouldn’t listen to your users, I meant that you shouldn’t listen, but have them show you instead.
Here’s are some reasons why you should consider visual feedback over audio or written feedback.
Receiving bug reports, change requests or feedback via telephone/audio leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Developers, product managers and customer support people do their best to interpret feature requests and bug reports that come in from every direction.
As humans we make mistakes. We misinterpret a telephone call because sometimes we hear what we want to hear and not what the other person meant.
In order to cut down on failures and mistakes, I recommend having your users show you the actual problem/change request or feedback.
People reporting a bug or leaving some feedback actually care about your product & company. It also means that they took the extra time to let you know what they think about certain features or problems.
By engaging with them in a meaningful conversation (instead of a written auto-email reply), you can transform a user’s bad experience into something productive. You can let your users become part of something bigger.
When users send emails or tell you over the phone about a problem, they try their best to explain the problem and their ideas about a solution.
Based on a customer’s description of the problem and how it occurred (“Nothing happened when I clicked on that button”), customer support managers and developers usually have a hard time reproducing the problem and would probably ask for follow up questions such as “What’s your exact browser version?, “Can you give me the URL of the page?”, etc.
Having that kind of conversation over the phone or via email feels much like playing ping pong with your customers.
What are some better alternatives to phone calls and emails?
When it comes to reporting bugs or leaving some feedback, there are various options available which are superior to traditional methods like email or phone.
In person: I guess that’s the best option available. If an error was experienced by someone with whom you can have a face to face conversation, then do it. Really. DO IT.
Go meet with that person, sit down with him/her and talk about the bug or change request. This is best possible scenario you can have. Not only will turning a bug or change request into a real conversation make your customers appreciate you more, it will also help you develop closer relationships with them.
Virtual face to face meeting: If a physical meet-up isn’t possible (because of time and location differences), a virtual face-to-face meeting is the next best thing.
With Google Hangouts, Skype Video Calls, GoTo Meeting and other conferencing software available, there is just an abundance of tools for you to choose from. They all have the ability to share your screens while seeing, hearing and feeling the person’s actual reaction to certain problems or features.
A visual feedback tool: If, for any reason, you are not able to collect 1-1 feedback in person or via video calls, I truly recommend making use of a visual feedback tool.
A visual feedback tool allows your users (or website visitors e.g.) to annotate their browser screen and capture the actual problem. A great visual feedback tool will also pull in additional information (such as browser version, OS) and add it automatically to the feedback sent.
Wrapping it up.
So if you know us or if you have read some of our previous blog posts, you probably know that we really care about our users. A lot.
So, you got me with that click baity headline of “Don’t listen to your users”. But somehow it’s true and it really makes sense for me. Listening to your users is one thing. But actually engaging them in meaningful conversation is something different.
So, please do not only listen to your users. Instead, communicate with them on as many levels & channels as possible. Whichever method you choose, make sure that the barrier to engaging with your users is low enough that people are willing to collaborate.
This article was brought to you by Usersnap – a visual bug tracking and feedback tool for every web project.
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