Talk to Your Users, or Else!

This week, we're going to take a look at a group of tools that gets overlooked way too often: tools that help you talk to your users.

Talking to your users is one of the most valuable things you can do with your time. Like Paul Graham says, "there's just one mistake that kills startups: not making something users want." And how do you figure out what your users want? You talk to them.

The best example of not talking to your users I've ever seen was mentioned in an Intercom blog post. They linked to a discussion where someone asked how to figure out why users weren't coming back to his site, and Jared Spool replied:

I know this might sound radical, but have you considered just talking to them? Jared Spool

It sounds crazy, but talking to users happens less than it should. It's either ignored from the outset, or first on the chopping block when the business focuses on becoming "more efficient". Live chat, messaging, user feedback. They all get dismissed because responding to real customers "isn't scalable".

That' ridiculous! It's a recipe for unhappy customers and a bad product.

This week, all of the tools we'll showcase will help you talk to your customers. Whether it's chatting with them right on your site, integrating a message inbox into your app, or setting up a feedback repository. These tools make getting feedback from real users easy.

Not using them is setting yourself up to fail.

Really. We know from experience.

We didn't always talk so openly with our customers. A year ago, we were working on a very different analytics product, and most of our decisions were made in a vacuum.

We were in a closed beta, with no easy way for users to get more information. We had a live chat widget on our site, but we never turned it on. We even spent 3 months refactoring code for a feature that none of our users cared about!

The result? Our product failed.

Fast-forward a year—we've changed that. We now put our email address and a live chat widget on every page on our site. Now any customer can start a conversation with one of the founders with a single click.

We probably have 30 conversations with real users every day. And all of those conversations generate lots of feature requests. Nowadays, before we build a new feature, we have a list of people waiting for it. As soon as the feature ships, the list gets emailed.

Our roadmap is no longer completely detached from reality. When we're sitting down to design a feature, we can point to a real, individual user and say, "Does this solve Rusty's use case?" And if we're not sure, we have an existing email thread, so we can ask him directly.

People love how receptive we are, and they're happy to recommend us to their friends. The business is doing a million times better because of it.

One of the tricks we use for dealing with chat volume is that, on a normal day, our entire team is on chat. That way the volume for any given person isn't too high. But it's also beneficial for the user because regardless of the question, the right person is online to answer it.

Then, if any one of us feels like they really need a day of extreme focus, they can just turn off their chat, knowing that the rest of the team will be there in their place. No harm done.

But, as usual, you shouldn't just take it from us. We've collected a few examples of other companies that have used tools that help start conversations with their customers and that have seen really positive results:


Case Study: T-Mobile

T-Mobile knew their order process for buying a phone was pretty complicated; it took seven steps from start to checkout. But all the steps were required, so they needed a solution besides just shortening the form.

They decided to add LiveChat to all of the pages in their checkout process. LiveChat embeds a small, real-time chat widget onto a site, so that users can chat directly with customer service representatives in one click.

They figured that offering personal assistance would increase checkout conversions. And it worked too! Sales started to go up, but not as much as they had hoped.

Something else happened though... Their customers started reporting issues with the checkout form to the operators. Turns out that users were entering their phone numbers in different formats, and some of them didn't get past the form's validation. The chat operators passed the message onto the IT department, the problem was fixed, and conversions increased further!

T-Mobile was so happy with the outcome that they added LiveChat to their search pages as well. After learning that users were constantly searching for the same phone models, they started promoting those specific models around the site.


Case Study: LaunchRock

LaunchRock helps you make landing pages for your product that collect users' emails and encourage social sharing. Since launching, they've helped launch over 60,000 pages.

Early on, they set up a UserVoice feedback form where their users could submit feature requests and vote for popular ones. UserVoice is a great way to let your users' real problems drive which features you choose to build. That's exactly what happened to LaunchRock.

One feature in particular shot up the LaunchRock charts, with 461 votes: the ability to edit the custom CSS and HTML for a launch page.

It seemed like a feature that only a small portion of advanced users would want, so the team had originally assumed it wasn't necessary, but their customers were asking for it like crazy! So they decided to re-build their editor and include an Advanced section where the users could add their own custom code.

After adding the editor, over 10% of all LaunchRock pages include their own custom code.

What seemed like an advanced-users-only feature turned out to be a feature that benefitted a huge audience. And they never would have known about it unless they were actively soliciting feedback from their users.


Case Study: EZTexting

If you're still not sold, we've got one more case study to show you that tools that increase conversations with your users are always win-win. You get more feedback AND you get more signups.

EzTexting is a service that lets you build and send SMS campaigns—think texting to vote. One day they decided to try putting Olark live chat widget on their signup page to increase signups.

The idea was simple: not only can a live chat widget help customers that are stuck, it can help reassure customers even if they never even start a chat!

EzTexting made sure to A/B test the change, so that they could be sure of the results, and guess what? Customers who saw the Olark widget were 31% more likely to signup.

And that result isn't exclusive to EzTexting. Olark ran another test with one of their big ecommerce partners and found that customers who chatted during their purchase spent 48% more on average.

Real human interaction is incredibly powerful.

There's no substitute for real conversations.

Getting feedback from real users is invaluable. That's what you should take away from this lesson. You're crazy not to be actively encouraging your users to reach out to you.

I guarantee you'll discover things you never would have realized on your own. Things that will dramatically improve your product.

It doesn't matter if you're a huge company or just starting out—there are a variety of tools we recommend that will help you out regardless of size:

Olark and LiveChat are real-time, live chat widgets for your site. They are the best way to get feedback from your users right when they are engaged in a task, or having problems. And as an added bonus, adding them to your signup process will almost certainly increase your conversions.

UserVoice and Get Satisfaction are platforms that make it incredibly easy to get feedback from your users. They let you ask your users which features they want to see built next, they help you solve support issues and they help you build a community around your product.

Intercom lets you add an inbox right into your app, so that you can have conversations with your users at exactly the right time: while they're using your product!

If you're small, put a live chat widget on every page of your site and install Intercom. You won't regret it. If you're bigger, you can limit the live chatting to specific pages on your site (like T-Mobile did), and you can install a feedback platform.

That's your homework for this week: Install one new service that will help you (force you to, even!) start conversations with the real people using your product.

A tip for talking to your customers: be nice and just chat like you normally would. In fact, as a developer, or core team member, you have an amazing advantage over the average chat operator: you don't sound like a customer service rep and you can actually fix bugs within minutes of them being reported!

If you have any questions or want any guidance at all send us an email and one of our co-founders will point you in the right direction. (See what I just did there?)

PS. Not hiding our support email address was one of the best things we've ever done for Segment. If you're a small company, "suprisingly good" support is one of your secret weapons. Seriously.