Customer feedback sessions are an important, if old-school, channel for learning about both your users and your product. While many companies try to automate as much as possible, including how they collect and evaluate customer feedback – there’s just nothing better than a face-to-face conversation. (Even if those faces are on screens!)

Product managers should make customer feedback sessions a routine part of their work because the insight is invaluable for keeping product strategy and product development on course. Customer feedback is a key method of product discovery and ensures you’re actually solving customer problems, not churning out features.

But how to run a feedback session as a product manager? We’ve got you covered.

In this post, we’ll explain:

  • How to find participants and incentive them
  • How long feedback sessions should be
  • 5 tips on how to run customer feedback sessions as a product manager
  • What to do if it isn’t going well
  • How to handle results from customer feedback sessions
  • How feedback sessions influence your product strategy

Let’s get started!

How to find participants and incentivize them

You can find participants for customer feedback sessions in several ways, and they all involve a bit of research.

Once you’ve defined your target user, select several of them to contact with an invitation. Keep in mind that some people will turn you down, so you should always “tap” more people than you actually need.

But how to find these people? Well, identifying current users is pretty easy. If your product team doesn’t already have a sense of user segmentation, then talk to customer success or support, who can suggest specific customers that match your criteria. This is part of getting customer feedback from internal teams.

If you’re looking outside of your current user base, you have a few options: 

  • Contact churned customers
  • Find users of competing tools
  • Research your target group on social media, such as LinkedIn

Once you’ve done all of that, sometimes the hardest part is just to ask. Most teams don’t get around to actually asking people to participate. But in my experience, some users love being involved in feedback sessions. It’s easier than you think to get them on board.

If it’s difficult to fill your feedback session slots, or you encounter some resistance from your target user group, then you might need to incentivize them.


Appropriate incentives will depend on your target user group. For university students, incentives like pizza and soft drinks could suit them just fine! But that likely won’t cut it for B2B enterprise users. More sophisticated groups might require more sophisticated incentives.

That said, gift cards might be the easiest, most across-the-board option these days, since most feedback sessions take place online (more on that later). Personally, I’ve seen gift cards to Amazon and similar sites, and sometimes plain old cash.

What you decide to pay depends on two factors: what their time is worth to them, and what their feedback is worth to you. This could range from $20 to $100 for the hour.

If you have a high-risk product, and this feedback will help you de-risk your product so that you can reach a wider market in a better way – then it’s likely worth paying for their time.

If you’re offering an incentive, you should outline your expectations very clearly. Be straight up. Say, “We are offering you X. Here’s what we expect from you in terms of your time and participation.”

How long should feedback sessions be?

Feedback sessions should be no more than an hour and a half. After that, people’s attention starts waning.

We recommend the following breakdown for a feedback session:

  • 15 minutes to set the scene and explain the process 
  • 1 hour for the actual questions or testing
  • 15 minutes for final thoughts and to hear about their experience as a participant

Of course, you might need to book more time if the testing is more in-depth and if you’re conducting a roundtable forum or a group activity. For advice on how to actually run these sessions, keep reading!

How to run customer feedback sessions as a product manager

So you’ve got people scheduled and in the room. Now what?

Here are 5 tips for running customer feedback sessions as a product manager:

  1. Conduct them one by one
  2. Run 3-5 sessions per customer segment
  3. Avoid leading questions
  4. Keep a regular cadence
  5. Invite other team members, when appropriate

Conduct sessions one by one 

When each session is just one person, I think you get higher quality feedback. The participant is speaking for themselves, not swayed by others or groupthink. One-on-one is particularly helpful if you’re trying to understand individual use cases and how specific users approach the product.

Run 3-5 sessions per customer segment

You should schedule 3-5 feedback sessions per customer segment. Examples of different customer segments might be:

  • Existing customers of yours
  • Potential customers in a new target market
  • Users of a competitor’s platform

Conducting 3-5 sessions per group will turn out an enormous amount of insight and provide a really well-rounded view.

Avoid leading questions

Avoid leading questions, because it’s easy to simply confirm your biases rather than learning new things from your customers. Ask open-ended questions instead! Let the person talk.

Be sure not to insert things that the previous participant said or repeat any ideas of the team. Then it’s easy for the interviewee to disengage from the question at hand and agree with what you said. To learn more, check out how to not screw up customer interviews.

Keep a regular cadence

Build these customer feedback sessions into your process. Conduct them regularly. Every week, every month, every sprint – whatever cadence works for your team. You don’t need to wait for a special feature or a big rollout. There’s always something that you can test and learn from. If you’re starting from square one, check out how to introduce a product feedback process in your team.

In general, product managers should spend a few hours per week with customers, talking face to face. (Of course Zoom counts!) It doesn’t necessarily have to be a customer discovery call, it could be just chatting about some issue that’s on their mind.

As a PM, you’ve got 40 hours a week. If you spend two of those hours meeting with users, that’s 5% of your time. Totally reasonable!

Bottom line: Make room for it. If you build it into your process, it will happen, and you’ll constantly learn from it. If you don’t build it in, it won’t happen, and your calendar will just fill up with other people’s meetings.

Who else should join customer feedback sessions? 

Product managers should lead the charge when it comes to feedback sessions. But it’s possible that other members of the team might want to or even should join, depending on what you’re testing. Here’s a short list of who those people might be:

  • Product owner – If your team has a designated role for this
  • UX researcher – Larger teams might have specific researchers who can join these meetings or conduct them in place of the PM
  • Customer Success manager – They help identify the participants and may be able to help ask the right questions. They spend all their time with the customers anyways
  • Developers – It’s good to get developers closer to the user sometimes. You can invite developers without the obligation that they attend the core meeting. They should definitely review the results after. (More on that later!)

What to do if a customer feedback session isn’t going well

Not all customer feedback sessions will run perfectly, and that’s okay. There are a couple of ways in which it might not go well. Here’s some advice for how to manage when:

  • They dislike your product and just want to gripe
  • They’re just in it for the money
  • They don’t actually know your product

1. They dislike your product and just want to gripe
You might have a disgruntled person who needs hand-holding. Embrace the moment and empathize with them. Their feedback might be spoiled by other feelings, but this is also a chance for you to understand those other feelings!

Figure out what’s niggling them, and get to the bottom of it. This is really valuable time if they’ve turned up and bothered to tell you what’s going on. In fact, from a product management point of view, it could be more valuable than learning about a new feature or whatever it is you’re testing.

And from a business point of view, you might actually save this customer from churning. You might stop them from spreading bad reviews of your product.

2. They’re just in it for the money

Inevitably, some people will show up for the incentive and not care about providing valuable feedback. They thought it’d be an easy $20, they don’t want to bother with the questions.

This is partially on you to ensure the session dynamic is fun or interesting. But sometimes you can’t engage everyone. Figure out the signals or red flags for people like this, so you can weed them out earlier in the process.

3. They don’t actually know your product

This user might not be much of a user after all – or maybe it’s a target customer who actually isn’t that tech-savvy. What a learning opportunity for you!

Figure out why they don’t use the product more, or how you can make it easier for them.

All of this said, I’ve rarely had bad experiences. For the most part, people come willing to engage, particularly if you’ve given them something good in return.

How to handle results from customer feedback sessions

Completing the feedback session is just half the job. The other half is recording and communicating these results to the team. You have to use what you learn!

There are plenty of ways to manage customer feedback in general. But here are three steps to handling the results from customer feedback sessions:

  1. Record the sessions
  2. Analyze your findings
  3. Report outcomes to the team

1. Record the feedback sessions

This is the easiest part, assuming technology cooperates with you! Most customer feedback sessions are done remotely these days. There are plenty of video call and screen recording tools that you can use to record the conversations and store them for later review. Zoom and Fathom are two popular services for this.

Just make sure you have the user’s consent to record them! You can say this in your invitation or at the beginning of the session. Some tools announce it for you.

2. Analyze your findings

You can come up with your own methods for analyzing the feedback. In general, you should look for:

  • Unique problems and trends in the problems.
  • Places in the product where customers stumble.
  • Common questions.

Out of these three categories, you should be able to identify some opportunities and areas for improvement.

3. Report outcomes to the team

Of course, you need to report the outcomes of your analysis to the wider team. Make them available to people. Put them in your Wiki, and attach them to the appropriate customer feedback records and ideas in ProdPad.

You could make a highlight reel and have a watch party! Or give a short presentation (and share the slides afterward), or write up a simple report of the top findings and circulate it. 

How customer feedback sessions should influence your product strategy

Customer feedback sessions should influence your product strategy, but they should not immediately infiltrate your product roadmap. Instead, what you learn from these sessions goes into your larger body of knowledge that informs your product decision-making.

You can compare findings to other feedback that you’ve received from previous sessions or other vocal users. You can compare/contrast it to the strategic initiatives you have going on. Ultimately, you should compare your findings with your overall product vision and see where there’s alignment – and where there’s not.

If you spot patterns, bring them into your product discovery process. You can test things by putting the problems on your product roadmap. Check with stakeholders and customers that you’re moving in the right direction.

If you keep up a cadence of customer feedback sessions and roadmap testing, all of this research will strengthen your product strategy over time.

The post How to Run Customer Feedback Sessions as a Product Manager appeared first on ProdPad.