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Qualitative Feedback: Examples, Types & Analysis

Qualitative feedback refers to insights gathered through open-ended responses, comments and opinions. This type of feedback provides a more nuanced understanding of customer experiences and needs. It differs from quantitative data which is statistical in nature.

Qualitative feedback is important in understanding customer needs. It provides rich insights into the thoughts, emotions and perceptions of customers. It allows businesses to understand the "why" behind customer actions, adding context to customers’ experiences.

This data is valuable for identifying pain points in the customer journey. Businesses can use this data to introduce new features & enhance existing systems, improving the customer experience. It allows them to meet & exceed customer expectations.

In this article, we explore the different types of qualitative feedback, and share examples of each. Each unique type of qualitative feedback allows a business to improve customer service and build better customer relationships.

Why is Qualitative Feedback crucial for businesses?

Why is feedback analysis crucial for any business? By analyzing feedback, businesses can understand how and where to improve customer experiences.

Product, operations and marketing teams can use this information to enhance products, services and improve efficiencies. Tracking patterns in feedback helps the business assess perceptions and experiences over time. Feedback collection and analysis also helps them to discover how to adapt to changing customer needs and market dynamics.

  • They discover what changes to the product and service will enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Qualitative feedback can be synthesized with quantitative metadata (scores, products used, customer tenure) for the insights to improve business decisions and stay competitive in the market.
  • Insights from analyzing qualitative feedback help tailor marketing strategies, making sure you use the language and terms that resonate with your target audiences.
  • Businesses can also analyze the feedback to close the feedback loop.

To use the feedback to understand customer needs, you must first properly handle the feedback data. Unstructured back is noisy, with an unending array of comments and conversations, so you must first clean out the noise and structure it into themes or buckets of topics. When you have thousands of comments, AI-powered analysis is the most efficient and effective way to transform the feedback into insights. In this way you make it easy for decision-makers like customer experience and product teams to discover how to truly meet, or exceed, customer expectations.

Diagram of the three types of qualitative feedback

What are the types of Qualitative Feedback?

There are three main types of qualitative feedback. When you begin to analyze your customer feedback, it’s important to understand how these three types of qualitative feedback can be used to improve your product or service. Each type brings something valuable, so it's key to know how to analyze and understand this information.

Customer feedback data is either structured or unstructured. Unstructured data includes qualitative feedback coming from text responses in surveys, comments on social media, reviews, customer service lines or chat logs. All this data is raw and needs to be structured for a faster analysis.

With the help of Thematic’s AI-powered platform, the unstructured qualitative feedback is analyzed and presented as structured customer insights. This process uncovers common themes and hidden trends within these customer interactions, all on a large scale.

The three types of qualitative feedback:

  1. Direct feedback
  2. Indirect feedback
  3. Observational feedback

The two main qualitative feedback types are direct and indirect feedback. It is important to gather and interpret both types to get a holistic understanding of customer needs and satisfaction levels - to get a full view of the customer.

There is another type of qualitative feedback called observational. This data is gathered from direct observations of a person's behavior, performance, or actions. Together with the other two types, it can provide a complete view of a customer experience

Let’s group qualitative feedback examples into direct, indirect and observational types and explore how each information helps get deep customer insights.

What is Direct Qualitative Feedback?

Direct feedback is information coming straight from your customers such as comments, opinions or suggestions. Users provide it based on their experiences with a product, service or interaction with the company.

You can get direct customer feedback from:

  • satisfaction surveys,
  • customer interviews,
  • focus groups,
  • support interactions,
  • website feedback forms,
  • direct communication.

Brands actively connect with customers to get this type of qualitative feedback for their perspectives. Let’s delve into the different ways of gathering direct customer feedback.

Examples of Direct Qualitative Feedback

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Surveys or questionnaires are commonly used to collect direct feedback from customers. Usually you will be asked questions that will guide you to provide more details about your personal experience.

Gartner research found that 95% of companies collect feedback through different types of surveys.

Some companies send out satisfaction surveys online so that you can easily fill them out with just a few clicks. Others choose to send them directly to your email inbox or do in-person surveys. Both ways are efficient for collecting customer signals and learning more about customer satisfaction levels.

Customer Interviews

Customer interviews can give you a better understanding of what your customers feel, think and experience.

Unlike surveys which mainly use structured questions and answers, in-depth interviews get more qualitative detail through a conversational approach.

  • They explore the specific factors that influence customer experiences and perceptions, for more contextual detail.
  • Interviews can be tailored to each customer and their experiences. This personalized approach is useful to help the customer share unique insights.
  • Interviewers can ask questions to clarify details, as needed. In the analysis, the answers to these questions help to unearth the deeper, sometimes unconscious, motivations for customers' opinions and behaviors.

The conversational interaction between customer and interviewer is a more empathetic method of gathering feedback, helping organizations to better understand their customers unique needs.

Focus Groups

Some businesses use focus groups to gather in-depth insights from a selected group of customers. Focus groups, with six to 12 participants, can be useful in exchanging ideas and evaluating concepts. The brainstorming atmosphere often inspires innovative approaches.

In focus groups, participants are chosen based on shared characteristics relevant to specific business goals. These features often include age, gender, location, user behaviors and brand preferences. By gathering a group with these common traits, businesses can gain targeted insights into the perspectives and needs of their target audience segments.

Moderators guide participants through a real-time conversation encouraging them to express their thoughts and engage with others. Moderators also observe non-verbal communication cues such as body language and expressions. These subtle indicators often provide context and enhance the interpretation of responses.

Support Interactions

Support interactions arise when customers contact support teams to report issues, seek assistance, or share their experiences.

As part of the chat to solve their issues, the support teams hear customers express their positive or negative feelings. By aggregating and analyzing the unstructured support chat data, organizations can assess the tone and sentiment of the customer journey. You can analyze customer sentiment to assess satisfaction levels and uncover the factors that shape positive and negative customer perceptions of the brand.

Businesses can also use the support chat data to identify recurring issues or frequently asked questions. With this insight, operations teams can look at how to reduce bottlenecks in support centers, and how to help customers address the issues proactively.

Website Feedback Forms

You’ve probably encountered and used online feedback forms before. They are usually embedded into the websites allowing users to provide comments or suggestions directly within the open-text fields.

They often include rating systems or scales to express the level of satisfaction on a numerical scale. This quantitative feedback data provides a quick snapshot of user sentiment.

To encourage honest feedback, companies may offer the option for users to submit feedback anonymously. This helps to elicit the full expression of the opinion, especially when users are addressing sensitive issues or concerns.

Direct Communication via Phone or Email

Businesses may encourage customers to reach out directly through email, phone, or other channels.

Feedback hotlines are one strategy companies use to gather insights about customer thoughts and also to have issues reported. This approach demonstrates a commitment to listening to customers' voices.

Sending personalized emails or following up after a purchase is another proactive approach to customer listening. This outreach expresses genuine interest in the customer's experience and encourages them to share feedback.

Serato analyzed direct feedback with Thematic

Streamlining Analysis Of Direct Feedback Using Thematic’s AI-Powered Platform

Serato is a leading audio software company with millions of users worldwide. To handle all the support requests from users, Serato introduced Zendesk to make the process more efficient.

With all the support interactions, they were gathering thousands of support interactions every month - a ton of customer feedback data. Initially, Serato's support staff manually processed and tagged each comment. However, this manual approach limited the tags they could use, the speed to get the data. This limited their ability to use the data to get insights on how to make improvements.

Thematic helped them automatically transform their Zendeksk support data into specific insights to improve their product and service. With Thematic's AI-powered platform, it was easy to identify the mood and importance of issues to customers. Armed with meaningful data, they could also collaborate with industry partners to resolve widespread issues and address specific product issues effectively.

What is Indirect Qualitative Feedback?

Indirect feedback is defined simply when customers share their thoughts without being directly questioned or given a specific channel through which to give feedback.

Some of forms may include:

  • online reviews,
  • social media comments,
  • community discussions.

Examples of Indirect Qualitative Feedback

Social Media Comments

The advantage of social media comments as one channel of qualitative feedback is their spontaneity. Customers share their thoughts in real-time, reflecting immediate reactions and emotions. This unfiltered nature provides businesses with authentic insights into customer sentiment.

The qualitative analysis of social media comments allows businesses to understand how people feel about the brand and discover the concerns of their customer base. This information can inform strategic decision-making and enhance a business’s online presence.

Furthermore, social media comments often generate a community-driven environment. Businesses can use it to foster a sense of connection and loyalty among customers.

Online Reviews

You may have used review platforms such as Yelp, Capterra, Trustpilot, G2 before. These are the best places to share your experiences, opinions and ratings. These reviews serve as a public record of customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. They offer valuable insights for both businesses and potential customers.

Potential buyers often rely on these reviews to make choices about their online purchases. According to this research, 98% of consumers refer to online reviews when evaluating local businesses.

Companies actively engage with and learn from this indirect qualitative feedback in order to build customer trust and loyalty.

Community Discussions

This type of qualitative feedback provides invaluable real-time insights into consumer sentiments and preferences. Businesses can benefit from monitoring community discussions to identify trends and potential pain points. Monitoring customer communities helps companies gain a better grasp of the issues that matter most to their audience.

Cover image of a Atlassian Case study: Scale or fail

Leveraging Indirect Qualitative Feedback to Improve Product and Customer Experience

Atlassian is a leading software company that focuses on creating tools that improve collaboration, productivity and customer experience. Its flagship products include Jira, Confluence and Trello.

The company built a super-engaged and passionate community of users, gathering huge volumes of indirect feedback data daily. Over sixty thousand comments a month! With that volume and complexity, the company’s research teams couldn't effectively harness the feedback data to empower their product teams with users insights.  

Atlassian turned to Thematic to make it fast and easy to transform the feedback into specific themes. They went from a six-week reporting process on insights to a real-time understanding of insights to improve the user experience.

They use Thematic like their personal analyst, providing cross-channel insights for product teams and enabling personalized and automated responses to thousands of users daily.

What is Observational Feedback?

This type of qualitative feedback is gathered by directly observing how customers interact with a product and use it in real-world scenarios.

Watching how customers use a product in real life gives important insights into their experiences. It helps find any issues that come up during actual use. Businesses can better understand how people use their products by directly observing customers and determining where things can be improved.

Examples of Observational Feedback

Customer Behavior Analytics

Observing how customers navigate a website or mobile app helps businesses understand the user experience.

Identifying areas of confusion allows companies to change design accordingly to enhance usability.

Usability Testing Sessions

The main goal of the session is to uncover usability issues that might present challenges for the user to complete the task effectively.

Usability testing aims to gather insights into user preferences and behaviors helping facilitate further product improvement.

How Hotjar Uses Observational Feedback to Improve Performance

Hotjar is a brilliant example of a company that uses its own tool to understand customer experience.

Hotjar is an integral tool for understanding website visitors and their behaviors beyond traditional analytics metrics. The company gains qualitative data and insights into customer journeys and product usage.

The tool influences day-to-day operations in various ways:

  • By capturing direct feedback through surveys embedded on specific pages,
  • By tracking the customer journey to verify the effectiveness of marketing assets,
  • By understanding customer content preferences,
  • By identifying friction points in the user experience through heatmaps and recordings.

The tool's features enable the company to address user needs and optimize content strategies based on real-time feedback.

How to Leverage the Strengths of Different Feedback Types

Many qualitative feedback examples represent an opportunity to explore the customer experience in detail. However, most of them have their limitations. It is important to see the advantages of one feedback channel and use it to address the limitations of the other, and vice versa. This will help achieve a balance in using various qualitative feedback types.

This knowledge fills gaps in insights by leveraging the benefits offered by alternative forms of feedback.

How to Use Surveys and Social Media Comments to Find a Balance

The main limitation of surveys is the lack of deep qualitative insights. They often rely on predefined questions and answers, making it challenging to find the context.

On the other hand, social media comments provide an outstanding advantage by bringing raw spontaneous feedback. These data include rich context that surveys can’t cover.

Users on social media often express a wide range of honest opinions. It allows for a more diverse and significant dataset. But this input is often unstructured and contains a lot of noise.

To get the most relevance of social media data it is important to:

  • Select a predefined group of users for analysis;
  • Filter users based on activity (for example, active or passive);
  • Choose the type of information to analyze (posts, comments, messages).

The insights collected via social media analysis will provide a good ground for surveys that can validate the data and add more specifics. By crafting questions that dig into certain aspects of customer experience, surveys help businesses extract subtle details that may not be readily apparent in the more informal setting of social media platforms.

By combining survey analysis data with social media comments, businesses can cross-verify the insights from different sources to enhance the reliability of findings.

In essence, social media comments can fill in the gaps left by structured surveys. The comments offer authenticity while surveys enhance the precision of the insights gathered. This forms a synergistic partnership that enables businesses to extract comprehensive and actionable feedback from their customer base.

How to Balance Insights via Surveys and Interviews

By integrating qualitative and quantitative data, you can mutually enhance their validity and depth. Triangulating information from diverse sources enhances the reliability and credibility of findings.

For instance, user interviews help identify user personas, goals, and pain points, while surveys add a more quantitative aspect to this data. Complemented by interviews, this information becomes contextually highlighted and provides better insights into the factors influencing the metrics.

That’s why surveys and interviews form a great balance for a complete view of customer profiles.

Here are some tips to balance your insights:

  • Define specific aspects you aim to explore through both interviews and surveys;
  • Design interview questions that align with your quantitative metrics. For example, if you measure user satisfaction, the interview questions should provide more details about the factors influencing satisfaction levels. Ensure that your qualitative data directly addresses the quantitative aspects you plan to measure.
  • Make sure that themes and patterns identified during interviews can be mapped to corresponding survey metrics.
  • Collect and analyze both qualitative and quantitative data simultaneously. Because surveys and interviews allow for more control of what aspects to cover, these methods can be used at the same time.
  • Compare and contrast qualitative insights from interviews with quantitative data from surveys.
Atom Bank and Thematic Case Study

Transforming Customer Feedback into Unified Insights with Thematic

AtomBank pioneered the first app-only bank in the United Kingdom. They gathered a mixture of direct and indirect qualitative feedback examples including online reviews, product feedback, call center interactions and surveys.

Their customer experience team was tasked with establishing a scalable process for collecting omnichannel customer feedback. Their goal was to analyze this feedback effectively and transform the data into actionable insights to enhance their product.

Thematic played a crucial role in overcoming these challenges, creating a unified customer view to inform better decisions into product improvements.

After piping in data from online reviews, comments, and surveys, Thematic automatically identifies patterns in the feedback to detect emerging themes and shifts in sentiment. The search tools facilitate theme discovery and provide deeper insights while alerting teams to new feature feedback or support issues.

With the real-time insights from Thematic, the bank successfully decreased call volumes by up to 69% for the three most frequent reasons customers contacted them. Simultaneously, they doubled their customer base year-over-year.

Summing Up

The value of qualitative feedback lies in its ability to identify pain points in the customer journey. With these insights, businesses can create or enhance features to meet customer expectations more effectively.

In this article, we explored various types of qualitative feedback, such as direct, indirect, and observational. Each type contributes unique insights helping businesses improve customer service and build stronger relationships.

Direct customer feedback comes from surveys, interviews, focus groups and support interactions. It provides real-time insights into customer sentiments and fosters loyalty.

Online reviews, social media comments and other forms of indirect feedback provide raw, spontaneous and unfiltered insights. Businesses can learn from customer experiences and build trust by actively engaging with their audience.

Observational feedback is about looking at how customers use a product in everyday situations. It helps businesses identify challenges that users face during actual usage. Through methods like customer behavior analytics and usability testing sessions, companies gain insights into user experiences and detect areas of confusion.

Diverse qualitative feedback examples and their analysis help gain a deeper understanding of user experiences. Recognizing the strengths of one feedback type and applying it to cover the weaknesses of another one, is crucial.

By combining the insights from quantitative and qualitative data, businesses can get a clearer idea of what customers like or don't like and make them happier. Thematic makes it simple to unlock the potential of this feedback and helps teams get specific insights for many different teams.

Together all the feedback types become a part of the big picture. By tracking them across channels and analyzing them to provide structured insights, businesses can create a powerful system of how to achieve customer satisfaction and improve the product while adapting to market changes.




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