A simple (and effective) framework for customer feedback

So you’ve gone to great lengths to get customers to give you feedback but once you get it, what do you do?

A common problem when it comes to customer feedback is that like anything, its open to interpretation. So how do you know that what you’re hearing is actually what you’re customer is saying?

It seems obvious to say it but the key to really hearing what customers are saying starts with making sure you’re focusing on the root cause of what they’re really saying, not the subject.

The ‘secret’ to making sense of customer feedback

Drift is a software a messaging app that makes it easy for businesses to talk to their website visitors and customers in real-time, anytime and anywhere. The team at Drift has built their whole product around helping people understand customer feedback better so they know a thing or two about it.

The ‘secret’, according to Drift’s CEO David Cancel, is to make sure you focus on the root cause behind the feedback, not the subject of the feedback.

Sounds simple enough right?

Cancel gives an example:

A customer might ask, “How do I integrate this with Trello?”And if people hear that question enough times in feedback across their team, they’ll start to say, “We have a Trello problem. OK, let’s add Trello features. We need more Trello features. I keep hearing about Trello.”

So they’ll run and rush to go fix the thing that they think is the subject: Trello.

And could fill in for ‘Trello’ with any number of other tools and services such as ‘Evernote’, ‘Dropbox’, ‘Twitter’ etc.

However, what the real focus in this simple example we should be looking at isn’t Trello, but the what came before it:

“How do I…”

The ‘Spotlight’ Framework

When we try to categorize customer feedback we often come up with groupings like ‘new features’, ‘enhancements to existing functionality’, ‘integrations’ etc. These aren’t bad according to Cancel, but they just don’t help you get any closer to determining two key things:

1) What is the root cause of the feedback is

2) What should be prioritized

Drift’s ‘Spotlight Framework’ helps to address these two important questions with just three issue groups – user experience issues, product marketing issues and positioning issues.

How you decide which group a piece of feedback falls under is not by the subject of the feedback (‘Trello’) but by the context in which it was phrased (‘How do I…?’).

The three categories of the ‘Spotlight Framework’

1. User Experience Issues

  • How do I …?
  • What happens when …?
  • I tried to …

2. Product Marketing Issues

  • Can you/I …?
  • How do you compare to …?
  • How are you different than …?
  • Why should I use you for/to …?

3. Positioning Issues

  • I’m probably not your target customer …
  • I’m sure I’m wrong but I thought …

Going back to the Trello example, “How do I integrate this with Trello?”

This fits into the first category: user experience. The customer already knows that the Trello integration exists, they just can’t figure out how to do it (from the UX).

If the feedback was Does it integrate with Trello?”, it would fall in into the second feedback category: product marketing. Since if the product already does integrate with Trello and the customer is still asking if it’s possible, clearly it needs to be better communicated that this is already a feature.

Positioning Issues

Feedback that falls into the ‘positioning’ category is particularly important to pay attention to because if your product’s positioning is not clear, its likely that feedback will be as well. If a product’s positioning is very clear, it should follow that feedback will reflect the product’s positioning. If you have your target market right you’ll know your feedback is coming from the people you want to hear from. This is not to say of course that a product’s positioning won’t change or evolve,  and customer feedback will likely play a large role in helping clarify it.

Why it’s awesome

As someone who is always trying to bridge and align communication between the business (and dare I say ‘non-technical’) side of a team with the product team the Spotlight Framework is invaluable.


Because it can be applied (and understood) by all levels and functions of an organization. As the ‘agile’ approach is adopted by more and more companies, it’s extremely important as a product or project manager that you have a way to effectively communicate with people at all levels so that everyone is on the same page working towards the same goals.

If everyone is on the same page you’ll get to better decisions and faster, because in the end, speed does matter.

BONUS: One more reason the Spotlight Framework is awesome is because there’s a picture version! Check out and share Drift’s infographic and give it a shot.

AND…Drift also does a great Podcast called Seeking Wisdom and they talk about the Spotlight Framework in this episode.






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