How Listening to Our Users Inspired Us to Develop Our Latest Product (Thank You!)

Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher reportedly used to say: “If you rest on your laurels, you’ll get a thorn in your butt!” It’s a cheeky way to capture his and his company’s commitment to never settling and to continually improving the customer experience. It’s a commitment that starts with listening.

Listening is what led the airline company to recently announce its plan to invest $2 billion in outfitting their planes with enhanced WiFi, power ports at every sea, larger overhead bins, and more.

As CEO Bob Jordan shared, “We listen to our customers, and their insights help us deliver on and exceed their expectations.”

Wifi may not seem like a big deal but at the end of the day, those details make the difference in winning customer loyalty.

Throughout Jotform’s 16+ years in business, I’ve tried to make a priority of listening. That’s how we landed on our latest product, Jotform Store Builder — a new type of Jotform app that Jotform customers can use to quickly and easily sell their products or collect payments online. We hope they’ll be as excited about the rollout as we are.

So, how can you tune it to your users? As it turns out, there are more ways than one — directly and indirectly. Here’s a closer look at both ways of listening to the people who matter most to your business.

How to listen directly

One of the cardinal rules of listening directly to users is knowing which questions to ask. As Joe Procopio, Founder, Teachingstartup.Com, wrote for Inc., “You can listen to your customers all you want. But if you’re not asking the right questions, you’re just wasting your time. And theirs.”

According to Procopio, there are two ways of listening to customers: reactive listening, when the customer reaches out to share their feedback (often negative, but absolutely mandatory to pay attention to); and proactive listening.

When it comes to the latter, it’s critical to “make sure the questions you ask result in answers that relate to your growth, not just a reflection of a singular customer’s point of view.” So an open-ended question like, “What do you like about X product,” might result in a ton of excess noise. But a more pointed query, such as, “Which additional features would inspire you to use X product more,” might help you improve that customer’s experience — and likely, others’ experience, too, ultimately helping you to grow.

The questions, of course, depend on your specific goals. But it merits some serious consideration before you start soliciting information from your users.

Once you’ve identified the “right” questions for your company, there are many ways to deliver them to users. Of course, I’m partial to our easy-to-use forms. But whether you opt for a survey, a questionnaire, or a competition, be sure to maximize your reach by sharing them through various channels — for example, by email and whichever social media platforms they tend to interact with your company.

And remember: users want to share with you — especially when it benefits them or serves their individual needs.

Research has found that 80% of consumers are willing to share personal data to earn loyalty program benefits, 70% of consumers are willing to share their data to receive special discounts and offers, and 71% of consumers will shop more often with brands or retailers that personalize their communications.

So don’t be afraid to ask.

Listen indirectly, too — here’s how

Observation and data analysis are also essential for truly listening to customers.

Take our Jotform Store Builder: through observation, we realized that 25% of our users were already including payment gateways in their Jotform apps, either for payments or donations. We figured that since users already trust our apps to collect payments, why not offer them a specialized app for that?

Then, digging deeper into the data helped us develop the feature itself. For example, the leading industries using Jotform apps for payment were food & beverage and e-commerce/retail. This kind of information is helpful in envisioning how our users will use the new app and what features they might appreciate — before they even have to ask for it.

How Listening to Our Users Inspired Us to Develop Our Latest Product (Thank You!) Image-1

Of course, users might choose to stick with the way they’ve been doing things. But if I’ve learned a thing in nearly two decades as a business owner, it’s that customers like having choices.

Consider Netflix’s recent decision to roll out low-cost advertising-supported plans, even though they used to be staunchly against advertising.

Said co-CEO Reed Hastings, “Those who have followed Netflix know that I have been against the complexity of advertising and a big fan of the simplicity of subscription. But as much as I am a fan of that, I am a bigger fan of consumer choice, and allowing consumers who would like to have a lower price and are advertising-tolerant to get what they want makes a lot of sense.”

Plenty of customers will stick with the ad-free Emily in Paris experience, but by giving users the choice, Netflix is sure to gain new loyal viewers.

By paying attention to the behavior of users (and even potential users), you can anticipate changes and features they will appreciate and offer them options.

Final thoughts

Tim Glomb, VP of content and data for Cheetah Digital, wrote for AdWeek, “Whether you are selling a car to people once every 10 years, or a cup of coffee to them every day, you need to treat your customers as individuals, whether they are an unknown consumer or loyal brand advocate.”

Indeed, a Salesforce survey found that 76% of consumers expect companies to meet and understand their individual needs and expectations.

It’s so important that your users feel like you’re listening to them; that you see them as real people with unique needs and preferences — not just sales targets.

To the outside world, integrated payment options or roomier overhead bins may seem like no big deal. But to your customers, it may make a world of difference. No one knows your users better than you — at least if you put in the effort to listen to them.

Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform and the bestselling author of Automate Your Busywork. A developer by trade but a storyteller by heart, he writes about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares advice for other startups. He loves to hear from Jotform users. You can reach Aytekin from his official website

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