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Archives for May 2012

Every day I get asked for feedback on a product or service. Usually these requests come in the form of poorly asked questions. Usually the person asking doesn't realize it's a poor question.

So if I have time I try and answer the question and then try to dig deeper and find out what they really want to know. But if I don't have time, I usually wind up just giving a generic answer that I imagine doesn't help.

What does a bad question look like? Usually they are generic or force the respondent to not answer truthfully.

Here are some examples:

What do you think of the service?

This question is generic and will elicit a generic response. This will cause the asker to get feedback that is all over the place and will be tough to take action on.

Instead ask this:

What do you think of signup option A verse signup option B?

By asking questions that are pointed you'll get feedback that is specific and actionable. Then you'll have a better idea of what to improve.

Do you like this?

This question subtly encourages users to lie. You might luck out and get a really honest person, but nine times out of ten a user will say they like it because they are worried about offending you.

Instead ask this:

Would Person A like this? or Who would be more likely to use this: A or B?

This takes the pressure off the respondent and allows them to answer honestly. They can still remain friendly and say they like your product, but now they are free to express skepticism about other people using it.

Asking Questions that Provide Actionable Answers

The revised questions above provide actionable answers. Asking scatter shot questions will result in a scatter shot of answers that will be hard to turn into any specific things to improve. Instead you'll have a giant list of contradictory suggestions from users.

Asking specific questions will give you specific answers that let you take action. After asking a dozen people for feedback about "sign up flow A or B" you'll have a much better idea which flow to choose and have a good idea how to implement it in the future.

Want Even Better Feedback? Watch Users

Even better than asking users questions is watching users try your product.

Asking a person whether sign up flow A or B is better will likely get a good answer. Watching a user try sign up flow A or B will get a better answer.

Now you aren't relying on your or your users intuition for what is better. You are relying on what a user actually did.

tl;dr

  • Questions should be specific rather than generic
  • Make sure questions encourage users to tell the truth
  • Have a specific action you'd like to take as a result of your users feedback
  • Watch users to get even better answers to your questions

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

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