In this podcast episode, we interview Matt Young, CEO of UserVoice, a product feedback management solution for SaaS platforms.

Matt explains how the platform captures user feedback to deliver insights into product problems and solutions and how this raw data can be used to inform marketing and sales strategies.

Matt also shares his insight into trends within the SaaS industry.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Matt Young – UserVoice

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Matt Young

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing b2b Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in b2b marketing today. Welcome to marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I’m joined by Matt young Matt is the CEO of user voice. Welcome to the podcast, Matt.

Matt: Hey, Mike, great to be here.

Mike: No, it’s great to have you on. So tell me a little bit about your career. First, you know, how did you get to become CEO of user voice?

Matt: It’s a weird story and not one that you would expect. Given my background. I’ve was born a technologist. So my dad worked for IBM, and we had an IBM PC in the 80s in the early days, and I was the kid that went and taught myself to programme.

So naturally through college and graduate school, I was a computer scientist and started out as a software developer, and was fortunate enough to start working in software development, right when the web became a thing when when web browsers were first coming out. So my entire professional career has been in the delivery of software for the web, and the web.

Over the years, you emerge from software developer to engineering, management, and engineering team leadership. And I had always assumed that I would be a vice president of engineering, getting people organised towards a particular goal as efficiently as possible. And that was actually the thing that drew me to use your voice, I came to use your voice in 2015. Because being in the position of directing a large engineering team to do a lot of work, you want to be fed the best quality information and the most valuable projects to do. And I frankly, didn’t really believe that product teams I was working with, were researching the work that they wanted to do well enough.

So you know, being the recipient and being asked to build all that stuff. It didn’t feel great user voice as a product, as we’ll get into that that really helped solve that problem. But over the years, I became the CEO. And if this is an interesting story, we can we can get into it. But UserVoice ended up spinning off a second product that the original founder of the company was working on. And I ended up taking over the original user voice product that was started in 2008. So unexpected position for me that I picked up about three years ago and never really had Grand Designs on being a CEO. And I don’t really fit the egotistic San Francisco mould of a b2b SaaS CEO. But nonetheless, here we are, and it’s been a really fun ride.

Mike: But I think it’s great to see engineers, you know, be able to take on that role of CEO and be successful. So for me, that’s a real positive.

Matt: Yeah, it has been in it. I think it’s a fairly unique perspective. I like many engineers, I’m an introvert, I am empathetic to quite a number of the different roles that we have in the organisation. And I’m really keen on making sure that we are logically delivering great value to our customer base and providing a great place to work for everyone who’s on the team here.

Mike: Sounds amazing. So you had a situation where effectively the company built a second product, the CEO, presumably love that product so much. He was what he wanted to go and work in the spin off. Is that, is that how it worked? Or how did it happen?

Matt: Yeah, so the original founder UserVoice, was was born out of the need to get feedback about a product that he was working on, he was building a calendaring app. And it was really, really hard to get people’s honest opinions about it. So he built user voice to solve that problem. Fast forward about 10 years later, and we feel like we need you know, the internet’s evolve the way people interact with providing feedback and their expectations of companies evolved. And we as a company and UserVoice felt like we needed to become a multi product company.

So Rich, the founder of the company went off and started it took a small portion of our team and in house started operating like a second company. He didn’t attend the all hands meetings, they had their own. They chose their own methodology for software development and product management. And they went through several iterations of a product and the the product turned out to be one that is really good for product managers who is our target buyer, but even better for sales, customer success and marketing. The market was much larger for that.

While this was happening, and this happened over the course of about a year. His mandate to me was like, Hey, I, I hold on to user voice too tightly. I founded it. I have certain No feelings about what can and cannot be touched. But you don’t. I’m not a founder of the company. And I think we we both recognise that things had stagnated a little bit, the market had evolved, the world had evolved. And, you know, I’m willing to take a hatchet to things that I don’t think are valuable anymore and take big swings and big risks, things I think, are important to change to make the product overall more valuable. And that had been going really well.

So through this really nice serendipitous moment, this was at the end of 2019. Rich decided to spin off the other product, which is called fathom that video, it’s a free zoom, integrated note taking app for doing any kind of interviews, market research, product, research, sales, calls, Customer Success calls. He’s like you’re doing a great job making User Voice better. So why don’t you just take over the whole company and run with that? So I did, and you know, naturally, less than six months later, a pandemic hits. So if you want a newly minted CEO, trial by fire, that’s a good recipe for it.

Mike: I mean, that must be challenging, and other CEOs must have gone through that. I remember when I took over Napier, it happened about three weeks before crash, so I can. Yeah, it’s a real challenge. So you’ve kind of by accident, inherited user voice, and become CEO of user voice, which is a very fortuitous accident. So you’ve talked about it briefly. But do you want to just, you know, really go into the details of exactly what problem UserVoice is solving. You mentioned, Rich’s problem with the Calendar app.

Matt: Yep. And how that’s evolved over time really, you know, won’t be until the company that doesn’t pay attention to what their their customers and potential customers are saying. But that’s easier said than done. You’ve got the problem of collecting all that information, you’ve got the problem of sharing all that information internally, you have the question of how reliable is that information. Customers don’t always express their problems, they tend to speak in solutions. You know, I want you to generate this report. Or, I wish I could do this or that you’ve got ideas coming in from your internal teams, you’ve got salespeople and marketing people saying, hey, I really think the product could be better. If we’re doing X, Y, or Z. Once you’ve gathered all that feedback, you’ve got the problem of deciding which of it is the most valuable, what you should pay attention to what action you should take from it. And that requires pulling in a bunch of different data sources like CRM, information, user behaviour, etc. And then once you’ve acted on that feedback, how do you then radiate back out to all the teams that need it like the sales team, the marketing team, the customer success team, all the why behind it, how they should present the new functionality that’s coming up what problem that’s really solving.

So really, User Voice is a software platform that’s meant to just make it easy for you to follow the best practices of listening to customers, assessing the value and importance of one piece of feedback versus another and then helping your whole team kind of rally around what you’ve learned through transparency, better communication.

Mike: And you’ve focused on SAS as a market. Is that right?

Matt: We have Yeah, I think it it works best for SAS, because you’ve got a lot of individual customers and a clear communication channel available to you. It works best in b2b, it works really well in b2c. But it’s a it’s a slightly different problem. b2c is more of a popularity contest, or a b2b is more of a segmentation of your accounts problem. And make sure that you’re looking at the things that are most desired by the market that you serve. We have had customers doing things like consumer packaged goods, or internal IT infrastructure. That stuff can work. I think it just takes a little bit more discipline on the part of the user of the software to be able to do that effectively. But we tend to orient all our software primarily around b2b SaaS, and secondarily, b2c SAS,

Mike: anytime see that expanding into more general product feedback in the future?

Matt: May maybe I will never say never, but but we’re a pretty small company. So you know, to try to dilute the use cases that we’re trying to solve for we’re just probably make an inferior product. So even though I think that’s something that we could solve, it’s probably not something we’re going to tackle in the next year. So

Mike: it makes sense for sure. So you mentioned quite a lot of sources of data that you’re pulling together. So how do companies use uses voice to gather all this data from different places whether it’s you know, user behaviour or CRM or whatever, and pull it together to make conclusions. I mean, is there a sort of process they follow?

Matt: Yeah. So we we try to be present wherever that information might show up, especially the qualitative information. So, if a marketer is doing market research are a really good easy to understand example, is a salesperson doing a demo. And they’re getting feedback in real time from the person watching the demo, and they’re taking notes. In Salesforce itself, if that is product features and functionality that is missing, and potentially causing the deal to be lost, the product team needs to know that to be able to do that. So user voice integrates with Salesforce, and a bunch of other CRMs and support tools like Zendesk, we have API’s, we have the ability to integrate with email and any other kind of communication that you do, or even if you’re using Zoom recording tools, and capturing notes that way, just to make sure all of that stuff can filter into a singular repository that gets it all, and makes it really, really easy for a salesperson to capture that stuff and be able to watch it. That wasn’t the way that user voice started in.

In fact, the way it user was started was to get the feedback straight from the people using the product, they could go to a web portal and you know, vote on ideas or offer their own ideas. They could pop up a JavaScript widget within the application, we still support all of those mechanisms. We have API’s for collecting feedback directly from users. But I think a lot of a lot of product teams are a little bit nervous to open up the firehose of feedback coming directly from users, if you if you think about it, it’s a pretty brave thing to say, hey, tell us anything about what’s not working for the product, there’s going to be a stream of pretty negative information coming your way, they’re not going to sing your praises, they’re going to tell you all the ways they want you to be better.

So most people get started by collecting all that feedback through their trusted team, the people who are on the frontlines talking to customers. And when they realise like, Hey, this is really, really valuable information, it’s helping me get visibility into what’s actually in the heads of our users, I would value having that straight from customers. And then that creates the opportunity to have a much more open dialogue, it creates the ability to say that, you know, the product team is thinking about a feature, but the marketing team wants to know about how to talk about that feature. So we already know who’s interested in it, we already know who’d be game to have an interview, who to connect with. So in terms of gathering all the feedback, we just tried to be wherever that feedback might show up and make sure that it’s very easy to capture at any particular time.

Mike: And is there kind of a processing step where you’re trying to take this big pile of feedback information and make sense of it?

Matt: There there is because there’s a lot of it even for small companies, we handle companies all the way from, you know, 20 or 30 people companies all the way to like the Adobe’s and very large companies in the world where the volume of feedback they’re getting is, is massive. So I think it all starts with making sure that we always know who provided the feedback.

If you think about a b2b business, if an individual provides feedback, that individual needs to be associated with the account that they belong to, What business do they represent, you probably want to know what that account is worth, how long they’ve been a customer, what plan they’re on what kind of segments they’re in. Also, that you can relate that data to what your overarching goals as a company are, if you’re trying to sell into a new market, you’re trying to increase revenue, you’re trying to drive up your ACV, or increased retention.

All those goals mean that you’re gonna want to look at that data a little bit differently. So it all starts with who provided that data. And once we have that, we can pull in all kinds of information from CRM and financial systems to decorate it and make sure that you can query it the right ways. I think that’s kind of a nice power user feature. A lot of us most of us are not necessarily a business analyst. So you don’t necessarily know what the right question to ask is. So on top of that, we also try to throw on some automatic parsing have the information to point you to what’s really the most important. We do that on very tactical levels, for example, like duplicate feedback becomes an issue for a lot of people but we use AI systems to try to suggest you how to deduplicate that automatically, all the way up to really high level roll up reports that let you say, Okay, I want to break into the Asia Pacific market. And Alright, tell me what the top ideas are that people are request stealing from a PAC and rank them by how much revenue, those companies are making us. And most of the time, I think we advise people like lean into your fans, they’re the ones that kind of represent the people who are going to expand that customer base the most easily. So we can just deliver a report that is constantly updated, there’s literally no work you have to do. It’s just always there in real time updated for you.

Mike: That’s interesting. It sounds like you’re not effectively ranking how many times people ask, but you’re actually looking a lot deeper. And you’re looking at, you know, what the most important customers want, or, you know, what your next territory wants is that really what you’re trying to do to get another level of insight,

Matt: it really depends on what a company’s goals are. It’s, it’s not always wrong to say, how many people voted for it being a driver, if you’re going for the popularity contest, if you might be going through an effort like where you want to increase CSAT. And one way to increase customer satisfaction is to look at what most people want. And that’s a good way to do it. But if you’re if you’re looking more at strategic business growth, you might be looking at things more from a business metrics perspective instead.

Mike: So, I mean, this is interesting, can you give us some, you know, maybe some specific examples about how people have used the product to improve their SaaS products.

Matt: Let me give you two examples. The first is not going to be a SAS example. Because I think it’s easy to understand and relatable. User Voice is used by a lot of gaming companies like Electronic Arts. And in that case, it is a popularity contest. They are you know, if they’re producing a game, that sports game that gets iterated every year, they want to make sure that the next year’s version reflects the desire of the biggest player base, so that they have the highest likelihood of selling next year’s version to those people. So that just happens all the time every day.

A really good success case for us as a company called Procore. Procore is a it’s a unicorn SAS company that feeds construction managers. So if a suburb is being developed with 100 houses or something like that Procore deliver software that makes sure that all the materials are arriving on the right time that every other construction is on schedule, etc. But the users of that software are men and women who are wearing hard hats, and construction boots and using an iPad, to access the software. And that’s really different from most of us, what most of us think about is assess user who’s sitting in front of a computer with, you know, a nice polo shirt or something like that. They’re happy to use software. If you use something like user voice, you can understand really like how to really serve the needs of a very specific audience like that, like how to make it simple enough to use to understand so that they can really get to the bottom of a very specific use case, which is building houses. So Procore is a company needs to really understand the business that their customers are in. But this gives them a really iterative feedback mechanism for them to find out where they’re hitting the mark and where they’re off. So it’s, those are kind of two extreme areas. Most people are just working on using the feedback to figure out like, what’s the next sprint going to look like? What’s our next quarter or six month planning going to look like? And really trying to equate that with, with what the goals of the business are?

Mike: Makes a lot of sense. So one of the things I’m interested in is marketing, make use of user feedback. And I’m thinking particularly, you know, do you get feedback about features that customers particularly like? Can you then use that in marketing? How do marketing people use the data? Yeah,

Matt: I think that we always share the feedback that we use User Voice ourselves, of course, and we always share the the raw feedback that we got from our users with marketing, because as they’re crafting messaging to this to describe what we actually did, what its value is what you use it for. It always lands better. If you’re using the words and the phrases that came to you in the first place. This is the way that the user of the software is actually thinking about the problem and thinking about the solution. It’s just going to make it very easy for you to communicate it effectively to people when it comes to allowing marketing to lean into the most loved areas of the product. We determined through behavioural Analytics, which is something that user voice doesn’t do, where people are spending the most time and all of those things.

But whenever we’re researching a new product, we take the opportunity, as we’re interviewing customers from a product perspective, to learn about how it fits into the big picture of their workflow. Why do they want this improvement? How does it relate to the other tasks they’re doing day over day, we capture all that feedback again, back into user voice. So you might think that user voice just captures the initial idea. It does do that. But then we continually add to that as we learn more about it. As we conduct interviews, all of that information goes into user voice. So if you look at the maturation of an idea in user voice from when it first showed up, to us actually deploying a solution for it, you can see all the discussion. And that’s just a goldmine, not only for marketing, but for sales. How should we demo the software? What kind of collateral should we put together as a leave behind? Or, you know, what videos should we create? And how should we narrate those videos? In the end, I’m a firm believer that all the research that any company does, whether it’s product research, market research, sales research should be shared cross departmentally, because there’s value in it for for everybody. That’s not always easy to do. And some company organisations get protective of their their fiefdoms a little bit. But if you can share that stuff, you’ll at minimum, prevent duplicate work. And at best, just create something that’s just a knock it out of the park, answer to the problem from the get go.

Mike: I love the idea of sharing. And it’s particularly interesting, you know, when you started talking about the benefits to departments like marketing, it’s not about the features. It’s about how you talk and understanding the way that goes, we think I think that’s a really interesting benefit from from getting that user feedback.

Matt: Yeah, I also think that it helps the whole organisation understand how product teams make decisions about what they build. There’s a lot of recency bias in market research and in what salespeople hear, you might think that just because you’ve heard something twice recently, that it is the best thing to do. But if someone could actually come to you and say, Hey, thanks, I got that feedback, we read it, I can definitely acknowledge that I heard what you told us. But here’s the analysis that we did. And we compared it against everything else that we’ve heard from you from sales from the research that we’ve done. And we can show you that, hey, you know, our biggest opportunity really looks like it’s here. And then suddenly, the marketing team who’s tasked with putting forth information about new features and retaining people isn’t starting from this position of like, I don’t know why they did this, you know, I told them that this was the most important thing to do. And that all came from a good position, a good healthy position, but it just wasn’t objectively the right thing to do at the right time. And I think that takes away a lot of these like anxieties about not necessarily believing in what the r&d team or an organisation is building.

Mike: That’s great. I love that way of getting everyone you know, buying into to the same goal effectively. I mean, that’s a really cool benefits.

Matt: Yeah, we, we also User Voice intentionally, we don’t charge based on seats, it would be an easy way for us to make more money, but like if, if I made you pay for everyone on your support team to be able to send feedback into the system that would kind of discourage you from doing that. And we think like, the more data, the better. We also don’t limit the number of people who can log in and use that data for their own purposes. So I think it would just be at odds to try to like limit access to that information for people. So it’s really common for our marketing team to look in our own user voice instance, not to figure out what we should build, but to start looking for phrases and language about how we should talk about things.

Mike: That’s cool. I mean, you mentioned pricing there, and you said that you deal with you know, everything from a small 20 person SAS company to you know, some of these giants. I mean, how does the pricing work then for that? That’s such a range of customers?

Matt: Yeah, the the growth levers are really built based off of the coverage of your user base, how many how many unique users you actually have giving you feedback, because we did a lot of research through a third party company to get this objective feeling about where, where you feel value, and it’s, it’s in the diversity of perspective that you’re getting. If you’re doing one on one interviews right now, that’s great, but it’s hard to scale up to a lot of them. And you might worry that like at great, you know, I’ve got this person’s perspective, but they’re the people I always talk to, where if you’ve got 200 or 500 or 1000 different points of view on it, you can feel much more confident in the actionability of what’s going on.

So So, we have three different tiers. And those tears just have limits in the number of people giving you feedback and the early stages of a company, you might not have a huge user base, so it cost less. When you’re a very large company, and we’re processing a lot of data for you, then we’re saving you a lot of time by being able to deliver insights from all that stuff for you. So hopefully, it scales well with the perceived value of a product.

Mike: I love that as it was just like a really simple approach to pricing there, you know, how many users are you doing? Let’s put you in tears. That’s great. I mean, is it as easy to deploy? Because it sounds like you’re pulling data from lots of different systems is that does that become quite a complex project?

Matt: It’s not, we’ve spent a pretty significant amount of time making sure that all of those integrations are quite simple, selfishly, from a business perspective for us, if we can’t do that, and we tell you, you’re going to have have to pay us a bunch of money, and then you’re going to have this project. No one wants that the goal of SAS is to like have an out of box solution for people. So historically, integrating software with Salesforce has always been a big pain in the neck. And for us it anyone can do it, and it takes about three minutes to get done. So we try to make that very, very simple.

I think the biggest effort is likely in the organisational change of making sure that people think to capture feedback when it comes in. And one thing that’s that we view is our job is really important to help our customers with is to make sure that everyone in their organisation like a marketing individual understands the value of doing this, you might not see it right now. But in two months here, you’ve got a bunch of really useful information to help you with your job as well.

Mike: That’s, that’s amazing. I, you know, one thing I’m intrigued about you obviously work with a lot of leading SaaS companies. Do you see any trends in SAS, I mean, what we’re going to see in SAS products in the next couple of years is going to allow us and make us excited.

Matt: Oh, my God, I see a lot of trends in SAS, I think the as a, as a CEO of a company, I could say the diplomatic thing and say that I think that competition makes all of our products better. But if I were honest, I would say oh, God, that makes your job so much harder to begin with. But the nice thing about competition is that it really drives the quality of solutions forward. Eventually, even if you there’s I think we all know the expression product market fit is the product appropriate for the market that you’re you’re getting into. There’s another phrase called purchase market fit. Where are you able to sell the product to people? Is your marketing really good? Is your sales really good. But then your attention might not be good if product market fit is not there right behind it.

So I think some of the trends I’m seeing and says is that the people who have these amazing marketing engines, but they don’t have the technology chops underneath or the smarts to really solve the problems, those companies are going to fall by the wayside. And it’s not enough to be flashy, it’s not enough to be the cheapest, it’s not enough to be the newest darling. So, because of that, I think that the biggest thing that most SaaS companies need defend against is the very easy portability of moving from vendor to vendor in the same space it’s vendor lock in is not as much a thing as it as it used to be. So we all as assess business operators need to make sure that the product is really good, that our support is really good, that our ability to coach and provide best practices. And I think that that’s an area where I see marketing, being a very huge help less about selling the product more about driving continual value in the product. And that’s where I think a product like user voice is really important. You may achieve product market fit, but how are you going to hang on to it.

As products become easier and quicker to develop easier and quicker to market, it means you just need to keep up and keep two or three steps ahead of where the market is going. So I don’t see operating SAS businesses as getting any easier. anytime soon, I think it’s going to get more challenging. I see.

You know, I’m a consumer of SAS software myself, and I don’t have the time to look at all the options that are out there. I don’t want to talk to people about it. I really want a product lead experience where I can do a free trial on my own, decide if it’s the right fit for me, I want transparency and pricing to be able to understand what this would cost and make all that evaluation when there’s so many options out there. The it doesn’t need to be completely self service. There can be sales involved, but you need to be able to get to a point where you understand whether it’s worth investing your time really, really quickly.

So I don’t think I gave you one problem. I think I gave you the Legion of SAS problems just now but it’s none of it’s getting any simpler. It’s getting there. To give you a positive, it is easier than ever to develop software, which is good because it will lower r&d costs over time.

Mike: You know, I mean, it sounds good to us as like me. You know, science pros are just going to get better. Maybe not so good. If you’re the engineer, he’s got to develop all the new features. But

Matt: yeah, are the person needs to place the right bets at the right time. But then again, that’s why I think that research is so important. If you discover before you’ve lifted a design or an engineering feature, that something will not have the market impact that you thought it would. Cool, you may be throwing out some work that you did, but you didn’t go way down this path, only to discover that it feels much later.

Mike: So awesome. I mean, quite a positive view there for SAS. I mean, I’m interested in what are your ambitions? So yourself? I mean, where do you see user voice going now that that your, your CEO, and it’s all down to you?

Matt: Yeah. This may sound a little unusual, I think most CEOs will tell you that they expect to be a billion dollar company. And you know, from their private islands, start seven more companies and keep going and going. User Voice doesn’t want to do that. But we want to be the best at what we do. And oftentimes we get asked to do things that are kind of horizontally associated with what user voice does. Why haven’t we built a general purpose survey tool for marketing or for sales, because we’re in the feedback business, or why don’t we also have behavioural analytics or design review tools like product managers often use.

So user voice is going to continue to be the best at making sure that we can understand product problems and product needs from people and give people the ability to understand that versus their business goals. To do that, effectively, I think it’s either going to come down to partnerships or acquisition for us like we need to hold hands with other best of breed solutions that are needed to operate a successful b2b SaaS company. And we are one of several tools that you would use to communicate with your customer base. Obviously, you’d use a CRM tool, your marketing team is going to have their own tools through HubSpot, etc. Making sure that all of those can provide value across the whole organisation is really important to us. And I think for us, that’s going to mean partnerships from a business perspective. And then ongoing automation, the the volume of data that we deal with is going to not decrease as long as we do our job. Well.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is keeping customers engaged. I think all of us know how hard it is to get people’s attention. It’s the slew of survey requests, meeting requests that we’re all getting every day. So how do I make it as easy as possible for a customer or an internal team member to share their thoughts and bring it in. And we’re trying to think of ever simpler ways to make that more natural through technology so that as you’re thinking of it, boom, it’s there. And it’s very, very low effort.

Mike: So some, and I love the focus, we’re going to do what we do, and we’re gonna partner and that’s how we’ll be successful. Yeah, it’s really refreshing to hear that

Matt: I don’t want to produce a watered down version of something that someone else just really really does well, like, what why bother?

Mike: So awesome. So I really appreciate your time on the podcast, man. I mean, if people have got questions, wanting to know more about User Voice, or just want to talk to you about what you’ve said in the podcast, what’s the best way to contact you?

Matt: Sure. I always say that it would be very hypocritical for me to not want feedback about what we have to say it’s our core line of business. So my email door is always open. It’s Matt at user You can find me on LinkedIn met young Matt, young User Voice is the best search term because my name is so common.

But user is where you can learn more about our products. You can do free trials of any of our products and just learn a little bit more about it. Even if you’re not interested in buying it. I’d love to have people take a look at its men in especially if you’re willing to share with us like what resonated with you and where you thought like, yeah, not for me. It’s just basically like free customer interview for me. It’s a great thing. But if we can help on on any other front, like you just something that we said was interesting, and you’d like to chat. Happy to do that, too.

Mike: Well, that’s awesome. I really appreciate your time. Matt, thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Matt: It was a lot of fun, Mike, thank you.

Mike: Thank you.

Thanks so much for listening to marketing b2b Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier b2b dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.