By: Forbes featuring Byung Choi
“Beta testing your software, service or new product is essential to its success. The feedback you receive helps you understand what works, what doesn’t and, most importantly, whether your idea is worth pursuing further. However, you can only reap these beta test benefits if the feedback is thorough and insightful.
To find out what works, we asked members of Forbes Business Council how you can ensure you’re getting the feedback you need from your testers and team members. Their best responses are below.
There are many software options available to serve a business need, but each business has its own internal dynamic processes. Most software companies offer a trial that should be utilized for a proof of concept. Although it can add time to the implementation, going through a proof of concept with multiple options can save time and prevent the possibility of having to start over again. – Sean Vitale, Vitaltech Solutions
When a new version is released we hold an entire-company testing event. Issues are collated and divided into three types: usability (design team), functionality (product team) and operational (IT team). The product team makes final decisions, in consultation with leadership. Online chat allows users to comment in real-time and receives feedback via customer support, who also follow up with users proactively. – Payson Johnston, Crowdz
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Prevent tester overwhelm by creating clear, guided ways for them to provide feedback. Ask multiple-choice or slider questions. And leave room for the unexpected with an open-ended question such as “other comments/suggestions.” Plan for supporting uploads such as screenshots and screen recordings. Also consider separating testers into small groups and asking them different sets of questions. – Jocelyne Morin-Nurse, Loxentus Inc.
Go in with a plan and clear measures of success to validate or disprove your idea. Not sure what to test? Your customers might already be telling you what they want. Read the comments on Facebook ads. Look for trends in Yelp reviews. Beta testing offers a great “try before you buy” approach so you can keep your resources focused on scaling ideas with the highest chance of success. – Joel Milne, RepairSmith
It depends on the scale of the testing phase. If you have five to 10 testers, you can afford to interview them. However, if you have 1,000 testers, interviewing every single individual is not cost-effective. But you can identify the patterns and interview people based on the patterns. If 100 testers complain about the same feature, then it is worth hearing from them. – Serik Baimoldayev, Seka Moving
When vetting out a new service or new software, it is vital to understand the value that is being provided to the target customer. With that in mind, it is imperative to have the “testing team” include consumers of the new service or software. Choose them wisely. Leverage customers who are objective and will provide fact-based feedback, both the good and the bad, to help you understand the value. – Harry Hanelt, HP Marin Group
I think the best way to get usable feedback is to be clear about what the target outcomes will be before you even start. Making it clear where we want to see the value and the outcomes needed makes it easy to make a decision at the end of the evaluation process. – Chris Campbell, ReviewTrackers
This is what I have learned having built multiple software companies: When everyone says we are ready to go live before testing, things break because the user does something developers didn’t anticipate. Don’t assume everything will work like they do in the hands of experts. Consider how a novice user will interact with the project and have real people test things randomly. – Sid Mohasseb, Venture Farm
Understanding an offering’s viability can only come from meticulous trial and error as we let the seed of an idea be slowly nurtured by a group of strangers and the unique “fertilization” their individual interactions become during the test. Investing in the creation of a whole project or course when it will undoubtedly evolve pursuant to a beta event is bad business—full stop. – Angela Gallo, Angel Phoenix – Angela Gallo Education & Training PTY LTD
Since we design solutions that are a direct solution to client problems, it is in their best interest to provide feedback. Additionally, we meet clients on their terms: They can fill out a survey, get on a call, send an email or meet in person. Showing them that their feedback is impactful by making an immediate change is the key to continuing that feedback loop. – Elisabete Miranda, CQ fluency
Companies have to close the feedback loop by following up proactively to solicit the necessary feedback, whether it’s through a survey, conducting user interviews or both. We’ve also found it helpful to observe beta testers attempting specific tasks first hand, so we can see where they’re struggling, because sometimes people may be reluctant to give direct criticism. – Byung Choi, MarcomCentral
One of the most important things is to ensure you’ve got one dedicated resource who is responsible for the gathering, analysis, communication and prioritization of the feedback that you get. Often times, the last step is overlooked. Ensuring all feedback is reviewed and that the organization determines when and if the feedback will be incorporated is paramount to creating a clear road map. – Kim Kross, Elevate K-12
Go back to the basics and ask your clients to fill out a feedback form via email so that you can continue to troubleshoot their experience and ultimately provide them with the best level of service. The old school form works, so no need to reinvent the wheel with high tech solutions. Our clients are busy, so the easier something is to fill out, the better! – Alessandra Conti, Matchmakers In The City
As CEO, I pride myself on participating in user acceptance testing and answering customer support tickets. I estimate I allocate at least an hour a week to each. There’s no better way to gather insight on the quality of your product or service and to help support your team in improving QA processes. – Ted Chan, CareDash
Define “who” is your target audience and “what” problem you are solving with your solution. If you are asking the wrong audience their opinion, you are not making progress in the right direction. If you are talking to the right audience, for positive and negative feedback ask the “why” behind their answers to better understand their views. The true test of interest is, “Would you buy it now?” – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
Listen to both negative and positive feedback from testers and be ready to hear the tips they suggest. You can compensate testers to keep them readily available to provide feedback for you. To get the best out of a test, follow more than one way of getting feedback for your ideas such as feedback leaflets, online feedback forms, face-to-face meetings, and both individual and group comments. – Kiara Cancer, Extraordinary Headhunters LLC”
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