“Swimming in user feedback at all times has been really critical to us creating a new way for people to access local news.”
With the rise of digital media, local news publishers have been shrinking or disappearing altogether, increasing the number of “news deserts” across the US. That means that in this day and age, finding high-quality local news coverage about what’s going on in your neighborhood has become more difficult than ever.
Patch, a hyperlocal news platform in 1,200 US communities and growing, has set out to solve that problem. From 2015 to 2019, they’ve quadrupled their audience from eight to 32 million users, a testament to how valued local reporting — and the service Patch provides — truly is.
“We focus on that shared resource at the community level to create a sense of connection and belonging that’s hard to come by in some other way,” says Warren St. John, President of Patch. “Our mission is to find a sustainable model for local news, which we think has incredible value for democracy.”
Creating a sustainable model for local journalism, Patch operates on a revenue model that doesn’t rely solely on pageviews, since the relevant audience for quality hyperlocal content is by definition, limited.
When they first started testing new products around local classifieds to diversify their revenue streams, they tracked fundamental operational metrics, such as revenue and the number of repeat customers, but it wasn’t enough.
What they really needed to know was how customers felt about those new features they were launching, and why.
That’s when they turned to Delighted. Patch uses Delighted’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) solution to measure real-time customer sentiment. With NPS, they get a score that’s trackable over time, as well as qualitative customer feedback that reveals the “why” behind those scores. “NPS is one data point of many, but provides an opportunity to understand why people are behaving the way they are,” says St. John.
“The way we’ve achieved that growth is really by listening to our users and incorporating their feedback, and Delighted has been an integral part of that process.”
Guided by user feedback, Patch now has a self-serve ad platform for local classifieds that is one of the most scalable, fastest-growing, and highest-margin parts of their business. St. John says, “Revenue in our self-serve ad platform for local classifieds and events is up 85% year over year. The way we’ve achieved that growth is really by listening to our users and incorporating their feedback, and Delighted has been an integral part of that process.”
Their first milestone revelation from Delighted was that looking at operational metrics alone can be misleading. In fact, the NPS from their first round of surveys turned out to be negative despite revenue gains from new feature launches. “What we couldn’t see initially was that users disliked the thing that they were spending money on, which means they were never going to come back,” says St. John.
Patch had to understand what was holding users back from being promoters, and hunches and theories wouldn’t be enough. Delighted removed the guesswork, and let users share in their own words exactly what they hoped to accomplish.
“Before Delighted, we had no way to know what our users wanted out of Patch. We were basically just guessing,” says Marc Torrence, Senior Product Manager. “The customer feedback was a wake-up call, and really put in clear terms the challenges we faced.”
While the negative score provided a clear signal they could monitor over time, the open-ended feedback that accompanied the ratings were the key to understanding how they could improve.
Torrence says: “When we first sent out surveys to the group of users who had paid us to promote their events on our local calendars, we saw a couple of themes emerge from the responses. One of them was that it was too expensive and they didn’t feel like they were getting the return on their money. So one of the first decisions we made was to cut our prices.”
Users validated Patch’s decisions almost immediately via NPS feedback and feature usage. “Within a couple of days, we saw the NPS graph go up and to the right. We actually didn’t see that much loss in revenue, and we saw more and more customers piling in, which pays dividends for us over the long-term,” Torrence says.
With both experiential and operational data driving their decisions, they could be confident they were striking the right tone and earning loyal users.
“Customer feedback helps us prioritize, set roadmaps, and deploy our resources efficiently. Delighted is our North Star.”
NPS feedback also helps them decide whether a new feature is worthwhile. “We can gauge in real-time whether the resources that we are using to improve a product actually make a difference with our users,” adds Torrence. When they see that a particular feature has low financial impact along with low NPS, no matter what changes are made, it makes the tough decision of deprioritizing the feature that much easier.
Now, Patch bakes customer feedback into everything they do. “As a product manager, the user is everything. Everything we build, everything we do is for them, so you have to hear from them. And Delighted makes it super easy to reach the user where they are,” says Torrence.
They collect NPS feedback on the Patch website and via email for free users, and also trigger survey sends through a Stripe integration for feedback on paid features. “We’ve been able to spot bugs in real time, and make strategic decisions around content,” adds Torrence. “Customer feedback helps us prioritize, set roadmaps, and deploy our resources efficiently. Delighted is our North Star.”
The voice of the customer reaches far and wide in the organization. Not only does everyone from sales to product see Delighted feedback come in through their Slack integration, the customer service team meets weekly to go over customer feedback, too.
“I’m constantly checking all the different Delighted dashboards to see what users are saying. If someone is dissatisfied, I can quickly reach out to them and solve their problems,” says Maria Cormack-Pitts, Customer Care Manager at Patch. “Delighted is an invaluable resource for us, because it’s just so important to feel connected to the customer and hear what they’re saying all day, every day.”
The team ranks and prioritizes customer complaints, some of which they would be unaware of without constant, real-time feedback. “Delighted was a huge part of solving a longtime issue at Patch. I realized, month over month, that the highest complaint that we were receiving from customers was that they were unable to reset their password,” adds Cormack-Pitts.
After realizing the scope of these types of issues through feedback, they can completely eradicate them for an improved user experience that translates to increased loyalty.
St John says: “With Delighted we opened a torrent of user feedback, which we prioritize and act on to create a much more user-friendly site. It’s informed our understanding of what our users want covered in their communities, and their expectations around user experience, navigation, posting flows, and signup flows. All of these things that have helped us build and grow a loyal audience.”
“Focusing on the user needs, swimming in their feedback at all times, has been really critical to us creating a new way for people to access local news. Having a single place like Delighted to go for all of that feedback has been vital for us, and it’s really helped change our business.”
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