Microsurveys are awesome for product managers

Getting good user feedback can be one of the toughest parts about working in Product. You can have access to huge SQL databases and user analytics, but it's hard to turn the raw numbers into a narrative that tells you how to make your users' lives better. If you don't have the qualitative data alongside, you may focus on the right area of your app or userbase but build the wrong thing. Microsurveys are an easy way to get quick, qualitative user feedback with high signal:noise.

The basic concept is:

  1. Pick a very specific question you want answered.
  2. Identify some users who you think would be in a good place to answer it, and email them the question.

In my case, we questioned the usefulness of a widget on our dashboard, and with a few other UI changes coming down the pipe, we were thinking of removing it.

I wanted to make sure we weren't missing something, though, so we started by hiding the widget behind a button, and then tracking clicks on it with KISSMetrics. Once I verified that the number of clickers was significant, I pulled a list of the most active users, and emailed them something like this:

Subject: "Should we remove the << widget >>?

Body: Hi! I'm on product at PagerDuty, and we were wondering if anybody used this widget. We noticed you clicked the button to load the widget a couple times last week. What do you like about it? What problems does it solve for you?

Cheers,
David

Of the emails I sent out, I got a massive 50% reply rate– that is, one out of every two people wrote me back a quality response (that's insane by email marketing standards). I ended up with several dozen real uses I could share with the team, that told us not only that we shouldn't remove the widget, but also gave us some ideas for future development. As an added bonus, most of our replies had a positive note along the lines of "Really cool to see how much you guys care about our experience!" It's not only a data win, it's a customer satisfaction win as well.

Best practices and tips for micro-surveys:

  1. Have some sort of user telemetry tool, so you can tell who does what. I like KISSMetrics, and I've heard good things about Mixpanel and Heap. Intercom is more of a full-service qual + quant tool also worth checking out (and their blog is a must-read for product people)
  2. Keep your email short, specific, and personal. Sign it with your name. Make the subject a specific and actionable question. The goal is starting a conversation, not getting a bunch of data points.
  3. When a user replies to you, reply back. They've gone out of their way to share information with you– make sure to thank them, as well as ask follow-up questions.
  4. Think about some lightweight way to scale and track it, like CC'ing an internal listserve or using Yesware to track opens. This probably isn't important your first time around, but it will help in the future to share results with your team and make sure you're not spamming the same set of folks.