Recently our team gave a round of customer feedback demos to some customers, showing off a completely redesigned eVestment Input portal.

On the surface everything went perfect. After all, the users had consistently praised the new look. All our hard work had paid off.

If you looked closer though, we didn’t actually learn that much. Responses were generic & unactionable. And while positive, there wasn’t any hard evidence to back it the good things we hear. Instead, this became a good opportunity share some best practices on how to capture great customer feedback.


Ask direct and open-ended questions

If catch yourself hearing questions like, “Do you like this new redesign?” or, “Do you have any questions?” your radar detector should be going off. These generic, yes/no questions are very difficult to constructively respond to because it’s vague and relies on the person having a specific question already in mind.

What we want to do instead is to help the person think about feedback that might still be formulating, or still subconsciously in the back of their mind. If you can ask a question that’s more open-ended and directed toward a particular topic, it’ll help jog ideas for the person on the other end.

When you watch the MLB playoffs this weekend pay close attention to the questions the sideline reporters ask the players. You’ll notice their questions can’t be answered with a simple yes/no response.

For example, notice how the announcer gets Jeter to do the majority of the talking – she makes it so easy for him to provide his thoughts:

The result is that the Jeter does all the talking. This may seem obviously, but how are you going to get customer feedback, if your customers aren’t actually giving you feedback.

Here are two tips to help:

  1. The easiest technique is to start your question with “Who/What/Where/When/Why/How…”
  2. Also, direct your question toward a particular feature/component/etc that you want feedback on; steer the customer where you want them to go.

Putting it all together, here’s an easy example, “What is your favorite and least favorite of the new features I just showed you on this page?” Or instead of asking, “Do you like the new page?” you can ask, “How will the new page make it easier or harder for you to do XYZ?”

Finally, don’t put the pressure on yourself to come up with these questions on the fly. Do the prep beforehand to have a list queued up and ready to pull from throughout your customer feedback session.

Have a Conversation

Simply put, have a two-way conversation and avoid talking at the other person.

Another way to think about this to try to maintain a 3:1 ratio of talk time, where the customer talks 75% of the time. If you find yourself dominating the conversation, you’re not getting feedback! Not too worry though, if you find this happening use this as an opportunity to stop, take a breath, and ask a new question. The less you talk at the person and the more you talk with them, the more they’re engaged and thus the more feedback and responses you’ll get.

In addition to getting feedback about the product your demoing, use this as a chance to find out everything you can about the person. What’s their title? What’s their team like? What’s their day-to-day job entail? What’s their biggest pain point? What else do they do throughout their day? What other unrelated tools do they use?

Your goal is to build a relationship with the person and you can’t do this if you’re not having a conversation.

Keep it Short & Sweet

Typically, 30 minutes is a good time constraint for customer feedback calls. Anything longer and the customer starts to get distracted. Their mind will tend to wander back to the other work they need to do. Now of course the exception is when they keep asking YOU questions. When this happens don’t stop! This is exactly what we want.

30 min

One way to keep your call timeboxed is to quickly diagnose which items are clear, and which need to be dived into more. Look for cues like a customer saying, “Oh yeah that’s really intuitive.”

Or even better, as you reveal a page to a customer ask them, “How do you think you would do XYZ here?” This will engage them with a directed open-ended question, give you great user testing feedback and give you a sense for whether there’s more feedback to get here or if you can move onto something else.

Don’t Be Afraid of Silences

Finally, use silence to your benefit. While it can feel awkward, taking that extra pause will again get the customer speaking more.

Often they’re still formulating their thought in their mind and just need additional time to do so. Other times they’ll be the ones feeling the awkwardness of the silence, so will work extra hard to fill the void with additional thoughts.

This is a practice that can be though to get comfortable with, but will pay dividends for you as a result.


Alright let’s recap. Next time you’re collecting customer feedback remember these four best practices:

  1. Ask direct and open-ended questions
  2. Have a two-way conversation
  3. Keep it short & sweet – 30 minutes max
  4. Use silences to your advantage