Understanding signals around product quality — and the role of automation (VB Live)

Presented by unitQ

To beat the competition, you need to deliver great products and experiences. Learn how automated product quality analysis identifies actionable issues in user feedback, the best way to integrate tools into your workflow, and more.

Access free on demand.

User feedback offers the most straightforward, direct source of information about your products and services. It surfaces actionable insights that can transform how you run your business, and directly impact ROI.

General wisdom is that user acquisition costs are very high. In that first three- to six-month period when a user is engaging with your platform, they’re at the highest risk of churn. “So there’s a general belief in the startup community that you want to make sure your users have a great first impression, a great experience, so that you’re able to retain those users and keep them happy over time,” explains Kyle Nesbit, chief resident and technical lead at Gradient Ventures.

Greg Burch, VP of engineering at StyleSeat adds, “At the moment where we started delighting our users, we were very quickly able to double our retention and halve our churn. Those are the hardest metrics to move, and they’re also the longest lead times to track. When people started saying, ‘I love it. It’s easy,’ it’s because we listened to those users.”

“This is not something we needed to really sell people on, the fact that product quality matters,” says Anthony Heckman, head of growth at unitQ. “Folks understand it. It’s more about showing them very specific examples of how driving improvements in product quality will translate to the growth and success of your business, because you’re giving your users a significantly better experience and product.”

So why don’t more companies pay closer attention to their user feedback then? For some it’s very easy to get, Burch says, but that’s the problem.

“You can get a lot of it, but you end up with too much of it and you don’t necessarily know what to do with it,” Burch says. “You have to find the signal to follow in all of that noise.”

Sometimes companies err on the side of focusing exclusively on negative feedback, which often means missing opportunities such as requests for new features or functionality that hadn’t been on your radar before.

For smaller companies and startups, in many cases it’s hard to dedicate resources to not just collecting user feedback, but aggregating it into something meaningful.

“There’s still quite a barrier for a lot of companies,” Nesbit says. “They end up with a pretty small sample size of user feedback. That puts them in a position where they have to use a lot of their own intuition, their own experience to selectively sample which user feedback matters and make that actionable. I see that process introducing a lot of problems inside of small companies.”

One of the other big challenges that companies face is lacking a single source of truth, where teams are able to look at product quality across all sources, internal and external, including customer support, all the social channels, in every language, and all the time, Heckman says.

For the Gradient team, which is part of Google, there are a lot of layers, Nesbit agrees, from the engineering team, to product management, UX, and account managers.

“We have a lot of folks that are funnelling user feedback to us,” Nesbit says. “It’s often difficult for us to figure out how to effectively weight that feedback while we’re building roadmaps and product plans.”

“The lack of that single source of truth, or the ability to understand product quality at that level can often impede the ability to get clear actionable signals around the user impact of a specific quality issue,” Heckman adds. “It’s a significant problem across company stages.”

Once you’re able to get that data into one centralized place and bring forward the useful, usable feedback, the next challenge is turning that key feedback from users into action items.

“One of the big problems is understanding signals around product quality with enough granularity so that they become actionable,” Heckman says. “It’s one thing to say, we have an issue with offline listening. It’s a very different thing to be able to say, we have this specific issue with offline listening when another app is open on this platform, on this software version.”

Another problem is sorting through the millions of different ways people talk about the same issue. How do you go through all of that user feedback and identify that these 700 users are talking about the same thing?

Finding a common language is a problem, Burch agrees. Part of that is finding empathy for your user as one of the signals within the noise.

“You have a lot of tools you can use to give you the health of the user, the health of the business — those are all different languages,” he explains. “You want to define what those are in simple terms, so that someone who started yesterday can understand them and fight for them. You have to empower your employees, your founders, everyone, to be able to draw a story out of those signals.”

With advances in automation and NLP, user feedback platforms can process significantly more feedback from more places than ever before, to sort and aggregate into actionable insights, capturing every signal, without the noise.

“People may have different views on the quality of feedback from source to source, but really, until you’re looking at all feedback from all sources, all the time, you’re not able to really understand what the impact of a specific quality issue is,” Heckman says. “When companies look at everything in the aggregate, they’ve said, ‘we’ve found X, Y, and Z, and now we’re going to rebuild this aspect of the platform, or change this flow,’ and that’s had a direct result on KPIs like retention and engagement.”

To learn more about how improvements in your company’s product quality score will translate directly to the bottom line of your business, how to identify issues and align stratified objectives across teams to promote growth, and more, don’t miss this VB Live event.

Don’t miss out!

Access on demand free here.

Attendees will take away:

  • A broad overview of how product quality impacts user retention, brand equity, and revenue
  • An in-depth look at how to drive significant improvements in product quality in a cost-effective manner
  • How to select and implement the right automated quality analysis platform
  • And more


  • Greg Burch, VP Engineering, StyleSeat
  • Kyle Nesbit, Chief Resident & Technical Lead, Gradient Ventures
  • Anthony Heckman, Head of Growth, unitQ
  • Ben Ilfeld, Head of Product, VentureBeat (moderator)


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