5 takeaways from how Notion Mastery applies Deploy Empathy
Welcome to the new Substack version of the Deploy Empathy newsletter!
Deploying empathy at Notion Mastery
If you use Notion, chances are you've come across Marie Poulin's engaging Notion Mastery videos and course. Marie and her team are passionate about helping people get the most out of their brains and optimizing their workflows with the help of Notion. Regular feedback helps them make sure they’re fulfilling that mission and delighting customers.
Delighted customers aren’t just people who don’t refund. They’re also the people who talk about a business to their friends and online. For a small business like Notion Mastery, that kind of positive energy from customers is valuable marketing.
For some companies, feedback is as low-touch as running NPS surveys and calling it a day; yet many other companies see that feedback is worth investing time and resources into. According to Notion Mastery’s operations manager, Georgia Cyr, “sometimes the extra hands-on time that a team member spends on a particular part of a process actually creates a dramatically better experience for your customer—and that is worth it.”
And I whole-heartedly agree!
I love how they’ve taken Deploy Empathy as a starting point and applied it in a way that suits their business, customers, and team. Like any research effort, collecting feedback is a process of continual learning and refinement for the Notion Mastery team, and this is merely a snapshot in time of what it looks like right now.
Let’s dive into how Notion Mastery collects feedback and a few things we can take from their approach.
1. Collect feedback regularly at different touch points
People can join the Notion Mastery course at any time, so everyone is on their own schedule. This means that the team is continually sending out surveys that are triggered based on certain milestones. Feedback is collected from students throughout their 12-month access to the course.
There are three key touch points when they solicit feedback:
One month after purchase, when they send them a form that asks where they’re stuck and what wins they’ve experienced so far (remember the key questions?)
Three months after purchase, they send out a form with the same questions as the 1-month survey, plus the option to book a 20-minute call to discuss their experience
Six months after purchase, when they send an in-depth survey
Here’s what the check-in form looks like:
And here’s what one of the replies looked like:
I asked Georgia what percentage of students fill out the feedback form and then participate in follow-on research (whether a survey or call). She said 13% take the first survey, and 12% go on to participate in further research. While that’s a respectably high percent for participation in follow-on research, she said they’ve noticed that people who take the first survey are much more likely to become active participants in Notion Mastery’s Circle community.
2. Do surveys — and interviews
At the three-month check in, students also get the opportunity to book a 20-minute call with a member of the Notion Mastery team to discuss their experience.
The 20-minute chats were directly inspired by Deploy Empathy:
The 20 minute chats are something I started offering in the spring after reading Deploy Empathy by Michele Hansen. Since then I’ve had 1 or 2 people book calls with me each month. It’s an enjoyable opportunity to have a 1:1 conversation with a student and I always walk away with inspiration for how we can continue to improve the course experience.
3. Review feedback responses as a team
Whenever someone submits a survey, the entire team reviews and discusses the responses.
I love when customer feedback — whether from surveys, usability sessions, interviews, or etc. — is shared with the entire team. This makes everyone feel like they’re discovering customer needs together, at the same time, and can be so powerful for shared motivation and alignment.
(To paraphrase Erika Hall in Just Enough Research, the effect of designers and researchers emerging with insights can be off-putting for other team members. Everybody likes to feel like a smart person, rather than having the smart people tell them what to do.)
4. Reply to each respondent individually
If you’ve ever filled out a survey from a big company, you’ve probably felt the gut-punch that comes from an automated “thank you for your response” email. It feels like your answer just disappears into the ether, doesn’t it?
Since surveys are an important part of gauging student experience for Notion Mastery, students need to know that their responses to the first — and every — survey are valued. That’s why, after the team has discussed them, Georgia personally replies to each student.
While this might not seem efficient, it is absolutely one of my favorite things to do each week.
When Georgia replies to surveys, she also encourages them to take another step that will further increase the value they get out of the course and the value that other students get out of it: she encourages them to participate and share questions in Notion Mastery course’s Circle community. This generates conversation and brainstorming among the other students, and increases the role of community as a source of value for students.
I can confidently say that responding personally also increases participation in the community we host on Circle. I almost always use my personal responses as a chance to remind people Circle is there, or to invite them to post their question to the group so we can crowdsource ideas, and they most often do follow up and do that.
Communities are a vital part of a lot of products, but they can sometimes be intimidating to jump into or unclear to people how to derive value and contribute. By personally inviting people to contribute, Georgia gives participants permission to contribute, which in turn nurtures a lively, helpful community for all students.
5. Continually refine your feedback process
I asked Georgia about how their feedback process has evolved over time:
I will say too that pacing of feedback collection is something we are still working on. We've been offering the check in forms since about April, the 1:1 calls since June and the feedback form has been around for a while. But, our challenge as a hybrid course where people are all starting and completing material at different times is working out the best timing to be checking in and asking for feedback. The 1 month, 3 month, 6 month cadence will align well with some student journeys, but not all, since some people will go through the material super quick and carry on. So, there is still some tweaking to do here!
Feedback processes are a living, breathing organism that need to be refined and adjusted as you learn from them. Whether it’s tweaking the questions, changing the cadence, or introducing new research forms, I encourage you to take all advice you get on research — mine included — as merely a starting point.
You can read more about Notion Mastery’s feedback process below.
Talking Deploy Empathy on $100 MBA, Indie Bites, and The Bootstrapped Founder
I’ve been on a bunch of podcasts recently, talking about customer research, running a SaaS, and more.
The Bootstrapped Founder with Arvid Kahl
I’ll also be on next week’s episode of The Weekly Build, chatting with Llama Life founder Marie Ng. Subscribe to get it in your podcast feed when it comes out!
You can listen to the full Deploy Empathy book tour on Spotify.
One last thing: welcome to this newsletter’s new home on Substack! Twitter decided to shut down Revue, which was this newsletter’s first home. I’m sad to see Revue go, but excited for the new features at Substack, like enhanced reader engagement (comments, chat). Here’s to new beginnings!
If you, like me, are getting set up on Mastodon just in case, please comment with your Mastodon URL so we can stay in touch, no matter what happens at Twitter. You can find me here.
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