I should have been asking my users this from the start

A drawing of a cartoon man pointing upwards

Heads up! This post was written in 2015, so it may contain information that is no longer accurate. I keep posts like this around for historical purposes and to prevent link rot, so please keep this in mind as you're reading.

— Cory

Feedback is critical to an app's success. How will you know what to fix or improve on if your users don't tell you? It seems obvious, but here is something I should have been asking my users from the start.

Getting the right feedback is critical #

When someone signs up for my service, they get a nice welcome message that thanks them for signing up and shows them how to login. Inside that message, there's also a line that reads something like this:

If you have any questions or suggestions, hit reply and let us know!

This lets people know that we're open to suggestions (which should be a given for a SaaS app), but it really doesn't produce a lot of useful feedback. I think people are desensitized by lines like that, but the message feels a lot less friendly without it.

I also send follow up emails after a couple days. I'm not trying to sell them something at this point—I'm trying to see if they're having trouble with the app or if they have any questions or feedback for me. This tends to yield a better response, especially when I ask about the user's business and what they expect from my service.

However, the single most important piece of feedback is something that I didn't start collecting until a few days ago.

A simple oversight #

In my app, users can cancel their subscription or delete their account on their own—no need to email in a request. I do this because:

But what I was missing out on is the feedback that comes from when a user decides to cancel or delete his account. This is very, very important for a SaaS company. How in the world was I not collecting this data?

The truth is I was trying, but I was going about it all wrong. For awhile now, whenever somebody canceled or deleted their account, the app would send me an email so I could follow up with them to find out why. I thought this would be more personal, as every message I typed was by hand. I almost never got responses to those emails.

Looking back, that's probably because those users had already disconnected from the service. By the time they received my email, they had already moved on and didn't want to waste anymore of their time on it. It was simply too little, too late.

A better way to ask users #

It became obvious that I needed to find a better way to ask users for their feedback before they canceled their accounts. So I recently took some time and added a simple text field to the cancel/delete screens. Not a dropdown menu, not radio buttons—just a simple textbox where they can leave one word or 1,000 words. By reaching out to users who are in the process of canceling, I've found that they're much more likely to voice their reasons.

Since I've made that simple change, I went from almost zero feedback to all but one user telling me why they decided to cancel. (For what it's worth, the person who didn't leave a reason had only signed up a few minutes prior to canceling the account—probably just a window shopper.)

Even though it's only been a few days, I've learned a lot about why users decide to cancel their accounts. It gives me a better understanding of how they work, how they think, and what they expect, and it gives them a chance to have their voices heard.

What I found was a better way to ask my users for feedback. It's so ridiculously simple. I just wish I'd thought to do it years ago.