Published April 2, 2024

Product Feedback Lifecycle: Continuous Discovery Prevents Feedback Decay

14 min read

Picture this: You launch a new app feature; initially, your users’ feedback is a roaring cheer. You’re still riding that wave six months later, but has anything changed? Is that feedback still ringing true? Aatir Abdul Rauf sheds light on this conundrum. The powerful image shows that feedback’s confidence score takes a nosedive over time. It’s called “Feedback Decay.” 

Why does this happen? It’s because your product isn’t frozen in time—it evolves.

New updates roll out, market landscapes shift, and customer expectations grow as quickly as beans in a fairytale. The feedback that once held value could now be irrelevant or misleading. That initial user elation over a sleek interface might turn into frustration if, over time, new features add unwanted clutter.

Feedback decay impacts product lifecycle.

The graph that accompanies Aatir’s post isn’t just for show. It illustrates a crucial point: the confidence in feedback wanes significantly after a year. That’s your cue to ask, “Does the feedback I received over a year ago still stand valid?” It’s like detective work; you have to piece together the story of your product from the evidence at hand, and old clues might lead you astray.

In this shifting landscape, what’s a product team to do? You could wait for annual reviews to overhaul your product based on heaps of outdated feedback. Or you could adopt a more dynamic approach—continuous discovery. This means regularly checking in, collecting fresh feedback, and adapting swiftly. It keeps your evidence relevant and your decisions sharp.

Continuous discovery prevents product feedback decay.

One of the hardest parts of connecting with customers…is connecting them. This is where Helio comes in to help you continuously capture feedback from a targeted audience without consulting customers on every ask.

Product managers and product marketing managers can ensure that feedback remains current and that the evidence backing business cases is consistently refreshed.

Regularly collecting small amounts of both qualitative and quantitative data can reduce the need for major changes. Keeping up with current feedback helps minimize the overwhelming need to respond to every piece of feedback!

We’ll unravel tactics to keep your feedback loop as fresh as morning dew, ensuring that you act on current and actionable information when you act. Stay tuned as we explore how to avoid feedback pitfalls and keep your product in its prime.

As the team evolves the product with newer increments, perceptions can swing either way. Over time, the relevancy and validity of feedback can sharply dip (or rise) as the product takes a new direction or launches a major update.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

Aatir Abdul Rauf 

VP of Marketing, vFairs 

Staying Ahead of the Curve: Refreshing Your Product Feedback 

Have you ever wondered if the feedback you collected on your product a year ago still holds up? Let’s get real here—things change faster than a chameleon on a disco floor. Your users’ needs, market conditions, and even your product aren’t static. As the image we shared shows, feedback has a shelf life, and its relevance dips as time ticks on. This section will help you understand how to keep your feedback fresh and actionable.

Embrace the Timeliness of Feedback

Think about feedback as perishable goods in your fridge. That crisp lettuce and those bright red tomatoes are great now, but give it some time, and you won’t want them near your sandwich. User feedback is similar. It’s incredibly valuable right after you receive it, but as days turn into months, the confidence score of that feedback can wilt.

So, how do you ensure your product feedback is more like canned goods and less like a salad? By setting up a continuous discovery process, just like Aatir Abdul Rauf and Mehdi Boudoukhane from Cycle App suggest, you keep the feedback loop closed with fresh insights.

Understand the Triggers of Change

Numerous factors can alter the relevancy of the feedback you receive:

  • Launching new features might solve some problems but introduce others, adding unwanted complexity.
  • New user groups could get lost in a maze of options that were clear to your early adopters.
  • A more competitive market gives users a buffet of choices, and they might get pickier with what’s on their plate.
  • Scaling your product often means more customers to support, potentially stretching your customer service thin.
  • Technological advancements, like the introduction of AI, are continually reshaping user expectations.

Regular Refreshes Overhaul Reactions

Instead of the exhausting task of overhauling your product with every piece of feedback, regular check-ins with your user base can be the trick. This isn’t about bombarding them with questions daily but setting a sustainable pace for collecting qualitative and quantitative feedback.

Helio, for example, helps you capture continuous feedback from targeted audiences without pestering your users at every turn. The goal? Make sure the current evidence, not expired data, backs your decisions.

The Feedback Lifecycle: Prioritization and Action

The stark decline shown in our feedback decay graph isn’t just a cautionary tale; it’s a call to action. Your product’s pulse beats with the rhythm of user feedback, but the heart of the information can fade away as time goes by. So, how do you prioritize and keep it beating strong?

Identifying the Most Vital Feedback

First, not all feedback is equal. Some of it will be the lifeblood of your product’s evolution; other bits might not be as critical. Picture your feedback as a bustling city: there are main streets and side alleys. Your job? Keep the traffic flowing smoothly on the main routes—your high-priority feedback channels. They have the power to direct your product development in meaningful ways.

Criteria for Prioritization

Let’s set some benchmarks to determine what feedback to focus on:

  • Urgency: Does a piece of feedback highlight a burning issue that needs immediate attention?
  • Frequency: Are you hearing the same comment or suggestion from multiple users?
  • Impact: Will acting on this feedback significantly improve user experience or value?
  • Feasibility: How practical is it to implement this feedback? Do you have the resources to make it happen?

Fostering a Feedback-First Culture

Encouraging your team to adopt a feedback-first mindset is key. It’s like being in a band; you’ve got to listen to each other to keep the music flowing. Create a culture where every team member, from developers to marketers, values user insights as a core part of the product development process.

Feedback isn’t just a one-way street. Remember, feedback is a dialogue, not a monologue. Don’t just collect feedback—respond to it. Let your users know they’ve been heard. This keeps the conversation going and shows you value their input.

Turning feedback into a roadmap. Now, let’s talk about taking that feedback and turning it into your product roadmap. It’s like planning a journey; you must know which routes will effectively get you to your destination. Some feedback will align perfectly with your product vision, becoming milestones on your roadmap. Other feedback might be more like scenic routes, which are interesting but not critical for reaching your goal.

Crafting a Strategy for Continuous Feedback

Knowing that feedback decays over time is one thing, but crafting a strategy to collect continuous, quality feedback is where the magic happens. It’s about getting a constant pulse on what your customers think and feel about your product. But how do you set this up without making your customers feel part of a never-ending focus group?

1. Start with a Plan

The first step is to set up a feedback schedule that aligns with your product development cycle. Are you rolling out updates weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Your feedback frequency should match the pace at which you can realistically make changes. There’s no point in collecting feedback you can’t act on promptly.

2. Choose the Right Tools

Your next move is to pick the tools that’ll help you gather that gold dust of user opinions. Online surveys, in-app feedback widgets, and user testing platforms like Helio can be powerful allies. These tools can give you a steady data stream without overwhelming your users. 

Remember, the right tool is the one that fits seamlessly into your user’s journey and encourages them to share their thoughts as effortlessly as possible. With Helio, you can connect with users during key moments using intercept surveys and learn about their experiences in real time. For example, ad management company Advent used an intercept to gather reactions from visitors to arrive on their new landing page:

Use an intercept to gather reactions.

For visitors who spent more than 1 minute on the page, the Advent team set up their intercept to launch a modal for user feedback:

Launch a modal for user feedback.

The intercept survey provides an image of the landing page they were just on to keep participants in the same mindset, and aims to learn how successful this page is at eliciting the right emotions from visitors:

Learn how successful this page is at eliciting the right emotions from visitors.

As users respond to the survey, their reactions are captured real-time in Helio’s data report so that the team can see a growing collection of insights into the user’s mind:

See a growing collection of insights.

The surge of positive impressions is great to see from visitors to Advent’s landing page, though negative impressions are ideally held below 10%, so the slight spike in indifference might be solved by bringing more interactive elements to the page like informational videos.

3. Identify Key Feedback Channels

Not all feedback is created equal, and not all of it should be collected in the same way. Different channels can give you different perspectives:

  • In-App Feedback: Great for immediate, contextual insights about new features or updates.
  • Surveys and Polls: Useful for more in-depth understanding of user satisfaction and broader product insights.
  • Customer Support: Often an underutilized channel, your support team can provide a wealth of feedback from the frontline of user issues.
  • Social Listening: Keep an ear out on social media and forums—users are often more candid in these spaces.

4. Prioritizing Feedback

Once you have a steady flow of feedback coming in, it can feel like drinking from a firehose. You’ll need to sort through it and decide what to focus on. Here’s a simple framework to help prioritize:

  • Impact vs. Effort: How much will the feedback improve your product, and how hard will it be to implement? Aim for high-impact, low-effort changes to start.
  • Frequency: It’s probably worth your attention if multiple users say the same thing.
  • Strategic Alignment: Does the feedback align with your product roadmap and company vision? If not, it might not be the right time to act.
  • Customer Value: Consider what will add the most value for your customers, sometimes even above your operational convenience.

Integrating Feedback Into Product Development

We’ve established the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of gathering feedback. Now, let’s talk about turning it into action that propels your product forward. Integration is where the real transformation happens.

Make Feedback Actionable

Gathered feedback is raw data until you turn it into actionable insights. To do this:

  • Classify and tag feedback to identify trends and common themes.
  • Discuss with your team to understand different perspectives on the feedback.
  • Decide on action items and assign them to appropriate team members.

This process ensures that feedback doesn’t end up on a to-do list; it becomes a part of your product roadmap.

When managing specs, PMs, and PMMs need to inspect the recency of feedback and evidence the business case is resting on. User stories that gather dust on a JIRA shelf for far too long usually suffer from stale feedback that might require re-validation.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

Aatir Abdul Rauf 

VP of Marketing, vFairs

With Helio, we ensure the feedback we collect is actionable by starting with hunches and letting those guide us towards tests that validate (or invalidate) ideas for the product experience. 

For instance, as ad management platform Advent built out the landing page for their new product, they let their hunches dictate each new version of the design:

Let your hunches dictate each new version of the design.

As Advent tested each version along the way with a Helio audience of Advertising & Marketing Professionals, they used the data to inform which content would be emphasized and which would be deprioritized leading into the final hi-fidelity versions.

Use data to inform which content would be emphasized

Signal: Removing the video in V3 redirected 8% of first clicks toward the sign-up action, though decreased positive impressions by up to 7%.

In combining the qualitative feedback from the tests on the first two versions, Advent found that the video was previously one of the most engaging aspects of the page. It’s removal resulted in a decrease in positive impressions for V3.

Despite the slight decrease in conversion, the Advent team felt the positive impressions of the page were more important to maintain since the engagement levels already seemed to be high. Therefore, the team decided to re-establish the video on the landing page moving forward.

Use Feedback to Forecast and Plan

Feedback isn’t just about addressing current issues; it’s also a crystal ball into future needs and desires. Use it to:

  • Anticipate user needs before they become demands.
  • Spot emerging trends in user behavior.
  • Refine your product roadmap to align with where your users are headed.

Staying one step ahead ensures your product remains relevant and desired in an ever-evolving market.

Create a Feedback-Friendly Culture

Cultivate an environment where feedback is valued, not feared. Ensure every team member, from developers to customer service agents, understands the importance of user feedback and is equipped to act on it. This could mean:

  • Using design iterations as brainstorming exercises rather than final decisions
  • Establishing user data and feedback as early as the conceptual phase for new projects
  • Distributing user findings throughout the team in regular meetings

Some key pieces of establishing a feedback-friendly culture through a user-centric process are letting go of absolutes and embracing iteration and change. 

For example, when Advent set about designing their new Audience page they started the testing process at the conceptual phase, learning about their target customer’s current experiences and needs.

Learning about your target customer’s current experiences and needs.

Advent’s quantitative findings we’re also supported by qualitative written ideas from their customers, like this feedback they received from a CMO customer of theirs:

“Targeting the right people can be difficult, so we need to know what levers can be pulled to increase the success of our ads with our audience.”
– Marketing Professional (US)

With an understanding of the difficulties of their audience, the Advent team can prioritize their opportunities and begin early stages of design work.

Even in the early stages of wireframes, the team utilized Helio to gather early feedback from their audience of Advertising & Marketing Professionals in the US. This involved first-click testing, where the team provided a directive to participants and evaluated how well their audience could achieve that directive through the design:

Gather early feedback from their audience.

This ‘Create New Audience’ action above saw over 80% successful clicks from participants, giving the team confidence that as they move into higher fidelity designs, this high usability success will continue to rise.

Keep Iterating

The process of integrating feedback is cyclical, not linear. Always be ready to:

  • Re-evaluate previous feedback after implementing changes.
  • Test and measure the impact of the changes made.
  • Collect new feedback to understand how the changes are received.

In the Advent example, the primary actions on each page tested—such as saving a campaign draft, illustrated below—are expected to have higher levels of success than smaller tertiary actions.

The sum of Advent’s prototype usability testing culminated in the creation of an Interaction Matrix, showing multiple rounds of usability tests across different actions on each page:

Show multiple rounds of usability tests.

Each colored box in the Interaction Matrix represents the usability of that action in each version of the page. 

This Interaction Matrix allowed Advent to track the success of key actions as they iterated on different pages, and identify areas of improvement for user interaction and comprehension. This iterative approach ensures that your product never stagnates and is always moving closer to what your users need and want.

Engage and Educate Your Customers

As you make changes based on feedback, don’t keep it a secret. Your customers gave you this gold—show them you’ve listened.

  • Announce Updates: Use your blog, newsletter, and social channels to announce updates, especially those influenced by feedback.
  • Educate on Use: Don’t just tell your customers about new features—educate them on how to use them. Quick tutorials or walkthroughs can go a long way.

With user feedback being such a big part of your feature releases, it’s important to convey that value back to your customers and celebrate the amazing product you’ve built together.

Advent’s product update page introduced the new Audience feature on their platform, offered direct connection with their customers through a live demo, and incorporated direct feedback that they collected from their customers along the way:

Advent’s product update page introduced the new Audience feature.

This full circle approach to building products and then sharing them with your customer base is key as you keep the continuous loop of user feedback going.

Closing the Loop: A Continuous Conversation

Finally, closing the feedback loop is crucial. It’s not just about making changes—it’s about fostering a relationship where customers feel heard and see results.

Never forget to close the loop with your customers. They took the time to give you their insights, so let them know you’re listening. Update them on what changes you’re making—or if you’re not making changes, explain why. Transparency builds trust, and trust keeps users engaged with your product.

  • Follow Up: Reach out to users who provided feedback once you’ve addressed their concerns. A simple message of acknowledgment can turn a critic into an advocate.
  • Show Gratitude: Always thank users for their feedback. They’re helping you build a better product, and that’s invaluable.
  • Keep the Conversation Going: Use feedback as a starting point for ongoing conversations about your product. Ask follow-up questions and engage users in the development process.

Measuring the Impact: The Role of KPIs in Feedback-Driven Development

You’ve gathered feedback, prioritized it and launched changes in your product. But how do you know if what you’ve done is making a dent? Enter the world of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are not just buzzwords; they’re the beacon that guides your ship to the land of Product Success. Let’s note how KPIs are pivotal in a feedback-driven development cycle.

Setting the Right KPIs

KPIs should be the North Star metrics that align with your product goals and customer satisfaction. They will differ based on what aspect of feedback you’re addressing, but here are a few to consider:

  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): Post-update surveys can capture direct feedback on user satisfaction.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): This metric tells how likely users are to recommend your product, directly reflecting the impact of recent changes.
  • Feature Usage Metrics: If feedback led to a new feature or update, how much is it actually being used?
  • Retention Rates: Are users sticking around longer after an update? This can indicate if changes are impacting user engagement positively.
  • Support Ticket Trends: A decline in related support tickets can suggest that your updates are resolving user issues effectively.

Tracking and Analyzing

With your KPIs established, it’s crucial to track them consistently. Use analytics tools to monitor these metrics over time. This is where the beauty of continuous feedback loops comes into play—you’ll be able to see spikes and drops in real-time and correlate them with the changes made.

Beyond the Numbers

While KPIs are often quantitative, don’t forget the qualitative aspect. Reading through user comments and reviews can give context to the numbers. For instance, if your NPS has dropped, but user comments are positive about a new feature, there may be other factors at play affecting the score.

Feedback on the Feedback Process

Just as you seek feedback on your product, get feedback on the feedback process itself. Are users finding it easy to give feedback? Do they feel listened to? Improving this process can increase the quality and quantity of insights you gather.

Not all KPIs will move the needle in the right direction immediately. Sometimes, they’ll reveal that a change didn’t hit the mark. That’s okay. The agile mindset is about learning and adjusting. If a metric is trending downward, dig into the ‘why’ and be ready to iterate again.

Bringing It All Together: The Continuous Evolution Through Feedback

As we tie up our conversation on the lifecycle of feedback in product development, let’s remember this: acting on product feedback isn’t just a checkbox on a to-do list. It’s a commitment to evolution, the perpetual motion of improving, refining, and sometimes even reinventing.

Not every piece of feedback will lead to a slam dunk. And that’s okay. Celebrate the wins when changes lead to positive outcomes and embrace the lessons when things don’t pan out. Each is an invaluable step toward a better product.

Encouraging a Feedback Culture

Creating a culture that values feedback internally is as vital as collecting it from your users. Encourage your team to contribute, listen, and respond to the feedback loop. When your team is tuned in to user feedback, they craft a user-centered product.

The Never-Ending Story

Remember that striking image we shared earlier? It shows that feedback confidence diminishes over time—but that’s not the end of the story. It’s a reminder that your product’s narrative is never finished. Every chapter written based on user feedback is a new opportunity to delight and surprise.

Keep your feedback mechanisms agile and your response swift as you look ahead. Technology and tastes will change, but the need for relevance remains constant. Let feedback be the catalyst for innovation and the driver of change as your product adapts and grows!

What is Feedback Decay, and why is it important for product teams to understand?
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Feedback Decay refers to the decrease in relevance and accuracy of user feedback over time as the product evolves, market landscapes shift, and customer expectations grow. It’s crucial for product teams to recognize this phenomenon because acting on outdated feedback can lead to misguided decisions, misallocated resources, and products that don’t meet current user needs or market demands. Continuous discovery is recommended to counteract Feedback Decay by regularly collecting and acting upon fresh feedback.

How can product teams effectively manage and utilize product feedback?
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Product teams can manage and utilize product feedback effectively by establishing a continuous discovery process. This involves regularly checking in with users to gather fresh insights, using tools like Helio for continuous feedback collection, and integrating both qualitative and quantitative data into the decision-making process. This approach ensures that the feedback remains current and relevant, helping teams make informed decisions that align with user needs and market trends.

What triggers can cause the relevancy of product feedback to change over time?
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Several triggers can cause the relevancy of product feedback to change, including the introduction of new features that add complexity or don’t meet user expectations, changes in the competitive landscape that offer users more choices, scaling challenges that impact customer support quality, and technological advancements like AI that shift customer expectations. These factors can make previous feedback less relevant, emphasizing the need for continuous feedback collection.

Why is prioritizing feedback crucial, and how can teams do it effectively?
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Prioritizing feedback is crucial because not all feedback is equally important or actionable. Teams can effectively prioritize feedback by assessing its urgency, frequency, impact on user experience or value, and feasibility of implementation. High-priority feedback should align with the product’s strategic goals and have the potential to significantly enhance user satisfaction or solve critical issues. This approach helps teams focus on changes that offer the greatest benefit to users and the product.

How can product teams integrate feedback into the product development process?
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Product teams can integrate feedback into the development process by making feedback actionable through categorization, discussion, and assignment of action items to team members. Feedback should inform the product roadmap, guiding feature development, enhancements, and fixes. An iterative approach, where feedback is continually collected, analyzed, and acted upon, ensures the product evolves in alignment with user needs and expectations.

What role do KPIs play in feedback-driven product development?
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KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) play a pivotal role in feedback-driven product development by providing measurable targets that reflect the impact of changes made based on user feedback. KPIs such as Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), feature usage metrics, retention rates, and support ticket trends help teams gauge whether feedback implementation has positively influenced the product and user experience. Tracking and analyzing these KPIs allow teams to adjust their strategies and continue improving the product.

How can product teams foster a culture that values feedback?
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Product teams can foster a feedback-valuing culture by encouraging team members across all departments to listen to, understand, and act on user feedback. This involves integrating feedback into regular workflows, celebrating changes made based on feedback, and ensuring all team members understand the importance of user insights in the product development process. Such a culture promotes continuous improvement and helps teams build products that truly meet user needs.

Build something your users truly want