How we measure and improve our users’ experience year-round (part 1)

September 26, 2018 by David Peralta

When we first launched Hotjar, success was anything but guaranteed.

We were completely unknown, didn’t have a cent of outside funding, and were facing some well-known competitors.

Four years later, we’ve gone from €0 to €15 million in Annual Recurring Revenue and Hotjar has been installed on over 670,000 sites. 

A huge factor in reaching this level of growth has been a strong belief that whoever gets closer to the customer wins.


In this article, we want to share with you the exact methods we use to stay in touch with our customers year-round at Hotjar, and how we use that feedback to constantly improve their user experience.

✏️Note: even though we are a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, the techniques we cover in this post are highly applicable to e-commerce and lead generation businesses.

Table of Contents

It starts with obsessing about our users

For us, obsessing about our users isn’t just an empty phrase.

It’s what drives everything we do at Hotjar.

It’s what leads our product team to go through every single piece of incoming customer feedback on a monthly basis to spot trends and make improvements.

It’s why we chose to double-down on our commitment to privacy and allow our users to anonymize Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in their Recordings.

It’s why our CEO David Darmanin sat down with a glass of wine and a box of Belgian chocolate to read and analyze over 3,000 open-ended responses to our NPS survey in one evening.

And it’s what led our Director of Customer Experience to take a customer’s request for a hand-drawn dinosaur seriously and send this reply:



It’s a huge investment of time, for sure. But it’s the most important one we could possibly make.

So what follows are the exact steps we take at Hotjar to get as close as possible to our customers to WOW them and encourage them to become our biggest evangelists.

The 6 ways we collect user feedback at Hotjar

It breaks down into three stages with six touch points total:


The Proactive touchpoints are where we go out of our way to find out how our users are doing early on in their experience with Hotjar and discover what we could be doing better.

The Reactive touchpoints are triggered by a specific interaction with us, such as a support ticket or when someone downgrades their account.

Finally, On Demand is how we give our users the opportunity to reach out at any point in their experience with us.

In this article, we’ll be focusing on the Proactive touchpoints; Reactive and On Demand will come in Part 2.

For all three stages, our main focus here is on the qualitative side of the experience (i.e. what our customers experience, WOW moments, and frustrations were in their own words) as opposed to quantitative side (measuring usage of the product, how long did our users stay with us, etc.).

Let’s start from the top:

1. Point-of-Conversion Survey

  • When: Within seconds of purchase
  • Where: On page
  • How: Hotjar script tag or page-specific poll

We show the post-purchase survey seconds after our users sign up for a paid plan: blog-21a-question-flow-01

This is the moment when the credit card is still in their hand and the experience is as fresh as possible.

It helps us uncover direct insights for improving the experience. And since our customer just converted, these responses are as qualified as you can get.

And, most powerfully, we use Hotjar to then view recordings of people who had a bad experience.


Watching session recordings of users who rated having a negative experience is one of the ultimate forms of customer empathy

The point-of-conversion survey allows us to uncover the exact negative experiences that almost stopped our customers from purchasing. By fixing these issues, we’re able to make the experience smoother and more positive for everyone else.





David Darmanin - CEO at Hotjar

✏️NOTE: For more info on the exact questions we ask and how you can set up your own point-of-conversion survey, check out this post.

2. Customer Effort Score (CES)

  • When: 1-2 weeks after signup and the customers has started using key features
  • Where: On-page
  • How: Hotjar Script tag or page-specific poll

Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how much effort it took to complete a task on a scale of 1-5 or 1-7.

CES is often used to measure support interactions, but we use it slightly differently at Hotjar.

The very first time that users create a new Heatmap, Recording, Poll, or Survey, we ask them:


We set the poll to only show up just once, regardless of whether they answer or not.

Here are the results from our CES:


1 means customers feel Hotjar is difficult to use, 7 means They feel it’s easy to use


At first glance, the results look good, right?

They’re stepping up, with 47% of our customers giving the highest score possible.

But here’s how we look at it:


Almost 50% of our customers gave us a 4, 5, or 6. That’s half of our customers not having an optimal experience.

Now you might ask, “wait a minute, why aren’t you looking at the 1s, 2s, and 3s?”

Because they only make up around 3% of responses. That means we’re doing a pretty good job of not having a terrible experience. And the overall impact of helping them would be minimal compared to bumping more people up to a 6 or a 7.

Again, session recordings play a super valuable role, for example, to view sessions where a user said using Heatmaps was difficult:


We’ve also gotten feedback through our CES survey that has allowed us to build an even better Hotjar:


Actual feedback we've gotten from our users via our CES surveys

At one point, we did notice a trend across lower CES scores that caught our attention.  It turned out that quite a number of our customers were complaining about their experience with Hotjar’s Recordings.

So our product team started having 1-on-1 interviews with these customers. That helped our team map out the experience a typical customer might have while using Recordings:


That’s when we realized there were more potentially negative experiences than positive ones with Recordings


So we added better filtering and segmentation of our users’ recordings as a direct result – all thanks to the responses from our CES survey.

3. Net Promoter Score® (NPS)

  • When: 30 days after signing up for a free trial and 15 days after becoming a paid user, repeated every year
  • Where: Hotjar dashboard
  • How: Hotjar poll/script tag/customer attribute

After our customers already converted, have been onboarded, and are starting to use the product more and more, we dive deeper into the experience using an NPS® survey.


It’s a great way to keep a pulse on what our customers love about Hotjar and what needs to be improved.

The goal with NPS is to learn, will our customers actually recommend us? And if not, what’s holding them back?

Since referrals and word-of-mouth account for 40% of new signups for us, getting the answers to these questions is essential to our success.

We calculate the score and process the responses once a month, then present the results to the whole team.


But for us, the most valuable part of NPS isn’t the score.

It’s the responses we get to the follow-up questions:


That’s where we learn what expectations people have of Hotjar that we aren’t meeting and how we can improve them. We hear from people who want to love Hotjar, but something’s getting in their way.

In fact, here we have two customers literally telling us what we should do to make them love us:


That kind of feedback is absolute gold for building a customer-centric product.

And the NPS results definitely influence our day-to-day decisions...

For example, our CEO David Darmanin recently had a call with our product team about the plan to update Recordings. He wasn’t happy with it because it was getting too complicated, so he pointed to our NPS results and said:

Simplicity and usability are one of our main selling points. We cannot make this complicated. If it’s not dead simple, then we’re moving in the wrong direction. 

As always, Recordings provide a priceless way to view the actual experience people are having, which in our minds is the ultimate form of empathy with our users.

Out of the first three touch points, if there’s only one you can do, it’s NPS. It’s the most qualified, with the people who have stuck around, and it really helps you understand what to improve to increase your referrals. This is really, truly the most interesting one.




David Darmanin - CEO at Hotjar

✏️NOTEWe wrote an entire post on how to create an NPS survey for your site.

How do we analyze all the responses we get?

Since all of these surveys contain several open-ended questions, they generate a lot of answers that we need to go through.  

So how do we analyze all those replies?

By hand!

(Well, by Excel to be more accurate).

We see manually going through every response as just part of the process of getting as close to our customers as possible. It’s not something we would ever recommend automating or outsourcing.

Luckily, we recently published a post about exactly how we analyze and review open-ended questions at Hotjar. (And don’t forget the chocolate!)

Next step: read Part 2

That’s it for the Proactive side of how we stay in touch with our users.

In Part 2, we're covering the Reactive (triggered by a specific interaction with us) and On-Demand (where our users reach out at any point in their experience with us) touch points:

New call-to-action(Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.)

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David Peralta

As Hotjar's Outreach Marketer, David is obsessed with helping others succeed by putting people first. He also loves a good walk in the Redwood grove near his home in Mendocino County, CA.

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