This article is based on a presentation given by Chris Nachman at the Product Marketing Summit in Seattle. Catch up on this presentation, and others, using our OnDemand service. For more exclusive content, visit your membership dashboard.

We're all familiar with poor user experiences – whether for an entire product or specific features. 

For example, the shift to USB-C ports. From a business perspective, USB-C makes sense: it's faster, more durable, and becoming the standard. However, as a user, I have both USB-C and older USB cords, and not all of my devices have transitioned to USB-C yet. This leaves me frustrated and fumbling with incompatible cords.

Another pain point: the iPhone 13 is practically identical in size to the iPhone 12, yet they moved the volume buttons. So now my old case doesn't properly fit my new phone – a seemingly avoidable issue.

And while not a typical consumer product, there's the matter of the Death Star's fatal exhaust port. You'd think with millions of Imperial staff onboard, someone would have caught that design flaw through better user testing.

By striving to understand the user experience, we product marketers can help engineering teams avoid these types of pain points that negatively impact customers. Walking in the user's shoes allows us to identify and fix issues, ultimately helping our products succeed.

The causes of poor user experiences

So, what do we know about the causes of poor user experiences? According to research from McKinsey on the business value of design, 40% of organizations don’t consult users during product development. Isn’t that wild? That’s two out of every five! We need to be getting both qualitative and quantitative user feedback to inform our roadmaps.

Additionally, 50% of companies admit to having no objective way to guide their design teams’ output. 

And these issues come at a major cost: $380 million was lost in one year across businesses due to bad design and UX.

What we know about poor user experience

The same McKinsey study found that design and user research are among senior executives’ biggest weaknesses. Key problem areas include employing design metrics, balancing qualitative and quantitative insights, and focusing first on user needs rather than product specs. 

By putting ourselves in the user’s shoes, we can help address these issues.

Why should you care about user feedback?

So why should product marketers care about user feedback?

First, it allows us to step back from the internal view and see things from the user’s perspective. This counteracts groupthink, where we simply echo ideas we’ve heard from our boss or colleagues. To get an external perspective, we can subscribe to industry RSS feeds, monitor social media chatter about our business and competitors, or use competitive intelligence platforms.

Second, understanding user pain points is another key reason to walk a mile in their shoes. Especially when working with engineers, you can uncover issues in the user journey that may not be visible internally. For instance, if you’re working at a startup with a limited budget, you can screen record using an iPhone while testing your product, then show the product team real user friction points.

Why care about user feedback?

I did something similar at a past company. Posing as a customer, I signed up for our CRM communications using a fake email to go through the onboarding process. I realized customers weren’t receiving some promised weekly emails for over six weeks – an issue I wouldn’t have identified without that hands-on user experience.

Third, gathering user feedback allows us to make informed product decisions and address those previously hidden pain points. 

Where can you get user feedback?

Getting user insights has never been easier. There are great tools for competitive intelligence and social listening. But you can also use scrappy, DIY tactics like focus groups, surveys, and interviews. While paid tools likely provide less biased data, scrappy approaches can work in a pinch.

For example, when I worked at Microsoft, I needed some quick customer data. I simply went to our on-campus store, approached Xbox shoppers, and asked targeted questions – then brought those learnings back to my team. 

We can also leverage unsolicited feedback, whether through social media monitoring, customer support interactions, product communities and forums, or customer reviews

With business and consumer products alike increasingly facilitating customer conversations, there’s a wealth of insights available to you.

How market leaders gather feedback

Let's look at some real-world examples of how companies effectively solicit user feedback.