Cheat Sheet for User Feedback Surveys

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Face it, getting feedback is hard.

Surely you have requested customer feedback this year, sending out email surveys, calling on customers, using website surveys, or dispaying a “feedback tab”.  But are you satisfied with your results? Probably not.

We interviewed over 200 companies – form startups to Fortune 500 – and the vast majority of teams are underwhelmed with the quality and quantity of feedback they receive.

This multi-part blog post reviews various feedback collection methods, outlining pros, cons, and best practices.

Before You Begin Collecting Feedback, Have a Goal in Mind

Ask yourself, “Why do I need this feedback?”  Here are common answers we saw in our interviews:

  • As Product Manager, I need anecdotal evidence form my users to justify my decisions to management and other departments
  • As Marketer, I want input to generate a strong hypothesis for A/B testing
  • As CEO, I need to understand our customer satisfaction score (or Net Promoter Score)
  • As VP of Engineering, I want to support an argument that we should deprecate various features
  • As Community Manager, I want to give customers a way to vent and solicit feature requests

The list goes on and on (email me if you’re interested in getting the full list).

The answer to this important question will help you pick the best feedback collection method for your situation.

Part 1:  Direct Feedback Requests Within Email

Directly emailing a customer in a way that appears personalized is a great way to solicit feedback. Look at the example below from Wistia. It seems that Ezra wishes to have a 1-on-1 dialogue with me, and thus I’m more likely to respond.


There are several ways to accomplish this type of feedback request.  The simplest is to pick a set of customers and email them one-by-one with a pre-written template.  (Though I suspect Wistia did not do this, or they would have included my name in the opener.)  This low-tech method works great with a tightly defined segment or cohort (10-20 customers).  But what if you have hundreds of customers?

You can achieve a scalable result using a mail merge function, such as with the Streak CRM extension for Gmail.  I strongly prefer mail merge over email marketing software, like Mailchimp. The mail merge looks more personal without the footer information which contains address info and unsubscribe links.


Such artifacts scream to the recipient, “you’re not special” and “this was mass produced.”

Now, how often will you send these emails? Sure, you’ll do it when you desperately need the information, but your data collection will be inconsistent. This is a poor choice if the collected responses must be analyzed across cohorts.

Best practices dictate that you send out such emails in a programmatic way based on your customers’ behaviors within your website (such as the 10th time they engage with a core feature).  You can accomplish this using software like

Who should use this method, and when?

Soliciting direct feedback via email is most useful for product managers, marketers, and customer success managers who want to (1) get unstructured feedback on a specific issue and (2) build a relationship with a customer through replies.

An often cited challenge with this method is that you’re left with a morass of responses in your email inbox. This makes it difficult to share the data with your team, and even more difficult to analyze the responses.

Based on our interviews, a product manager at used this technique with varied success.  On one hand, he received 400 responses from 10,000 email recipients, representing a decent 4% response rate. On the other hand, he had the unenvious task of sorting through emails, extracting data, pasting them to Excel, and then labeling each response to share with his team.  This process took approximately 16 hours of work according to the PM.


Don’t expect to generate digestible information when soliciting direct feedback within emails. This technique is best used as a trend guage and relationship builder. Accordingly, this is the best method for capturing feedback from users who stopped using your SaaS product.

Try asking them, “What is the primary reason you have not returned to {PRODUCT}?” and “What, if anything, would get you to come back?” These churn reduction studies are a key part of any successful SaaS business.

Want to learn more? Join us for a webinar on capturing user feedback.

Below is a roadmap for the remaining parts in this series.

Part 2: Surveys Within Email

Part 2 explores sending surveys and capturing responses within an email itself.  We’ll have examples from companies like Google, RedisToGo, and VHX.  This post is coming soon.

Part 3: Surveys Within a Website

Part 3 covers website feedback surveys, including examples from ListenLoop.  Here, you’ll see various styles and formats for presenting the surveys to get high response rates. This post is coming soon.

Part 4: Request to Take Survey Via Email

Part 4 reviews the most overused method to capture user feedback – sending an email to participate in a survey. We’ll have examples from Amazon, Dropbox, Bank of America, and more.

Part 5: Direct Feedback Request Within a Website

Part 5 discusses a novel way to collect a web page survey, using the product as a communication channel.

Part 6: Request to Take Survey Via Website

Part 6 explores intercept survey methods to measure customer experience.  We’ll have examples from Foresee, iPerceptions, and others.

Part 7: Surveys Within Native Mobile Apps

Part 7 covers how to engage mobile users with native mobile surveys using homegrown and API solutions.


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