Customer feedback is a goldmine of inspiration and insight for product teams. But for many, the thought of opening the floodgates and inviting yet another stakeholder group to weigh in on the product can be overwhelming, or even feel like an unnecessary nuisance in the development process.
But the truth is, customer feedback is absolutely critical in building great products and product experiences. In fact, listening to customers, investing in scalable feedback processes, and closing the loop with stakeholders are all cornerstones of the best product-led organizations. And if you aren’t implementing customer feedback into your roadmap, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage users and uncover valuable insights to make your product truly sing.
Hannah Chaplin (director, product marketing at Pendo) and Rebecca Notté (product operations manager at Pendo) recently sat down to talk about why customer feedback should be part of every product manager’s (PM’s) planning arsenal, and how to work customer feedback into your roadmapping process.
Read on for the recap, or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the full recording.
Why is customer feedback important for your roadmap?
When you’re a small startup, you likely have the benefit of knowing every one of your customers and talking to them directly about their experiences with your product. But as companies scale, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay close to your customers. It also becomes harder to put yourself in your customers’ shoes as their use cases expand, roles change, and needs evolve.
The bottom line? You can’t be every customer. So instead of basing product decisions on gut feel, it’s important to take a data-informed approach and ask customers for their feedback. This valuable qualitative insight is a powerful source of product inspiration on its own—but when paired with quantitative user analytics, can really help you get a full picture of the product experience so you know where to focus your energy.
Bringing the customer voice into future and current projects
A proactive way to start taking a more feedback-informed roadmapping approach is to bring the voice of the customer (VoC) into future projects. Hearing your customers’ feedback and learning from their experiences with your current offerings is a great way to plan for what comes next. And for those \who might be worried about over-indexing on what your customers have to say—remember that their feedback should inform your strategy, not drive it.
When you’re planning for future projects, thinking about your future customers (aka your current prospects) is a great place to start. Requests and feedback from prospects are a great way to benchmark your product and understand how it stacks up to competitors. And if you’re losing deals, hearing from prospects who have chosen to go elsewhere could give you insight into the feature gaps that matter most, and where you have opportunities to grow in the future.
So when it comes time for your next round of product roadmap planning, think about how you’re collecting and using customer and prospect feedback. Consider which voices are most important for your product or company goals. And be mindful of timing—give yourself enough time to process the right data so you can best use it to inform your research and development.
The great thing about feedback is that it’s never too late to ask for it. For most product teams, releases are iterative, and improving the product never truly stops. Customer feedback can help validate (or pivot) projects that are currently in-flight, and add context to how users are currently engaging with features so you can understand the “why” behind their behavior.
A common misconception about leveraging customer feedback in current projects is that you should only involve the people who originally submitted the requests. But sometimes input from users without a vested interest in a particular project or initiative can be equally as valuable. Their feedback provides a fresh perspective on your work, and—when paired with product usage data—gives you an objective understanding of how well a feature actually functions in the hands of first-time users.
As you evaluate your current initiatives, consider where you’re incorporating customer feedback. Do you have processes in place to follow up with customers and understand what they think about your product experience? Do you have usage data to see how features are being leveraged? Are you encouraging input from people outside your product organization to help create products that even non-product people will love?
Process, process, process
Setting up—and ultimately scaling—a customer feedback program doesn’t have to be daunting. When you break it down, there are only four key steps in getting a simple, repeatable, and highly effective VoC process off the ground.
1. Pick one place for customer feedback
Putting all your feedback data in one place helps you avoid duplicity in your data and allows you to more easily spot trends and patterns so you know what to work on next. If you do one thing to get your VoC practice off the ground, this should be it.
2. Create a review process
Feedback isn’t a ticketing or bug system—it’s a two-way street. An important aspect of keeping customers excited to share their feedback is setting clear expectations around how you use their requests and what they can expect from your team in return as you review (and potentially act on) their input.
3. Communicate back
If you expect your customers to take the time to share feedback with you, it’s important to make sure they feel heard and appreciated. Create workflows to close the loop with customers, leveraging automation to do as much of the heavy lifting as possible. A Product Feedback Policy is extremely useful here, too—it helps set clear expectations with your customers so they know how and when they’ll hear from you after they submit requests.
4. Get your teams on board
Your sales and customer success (CS) teams can be incredible partners to help gather and add context to feedback, particularly because of how close they are to your users. Involving sales and CS in the feedback process not only helps you get better data, it also empowers them to have better conversations with their customers and prospects. Not sure how to get them involved? Your product ops team is a great resource to help keep your customer-facing teams aligned and informed on what’s going on in the world of product.
Watch the full recording of Hannah and Rebecca’s conversation to learn even more about how to leverage customer feedback in your roadmapping process—plus tips for building a Product Feedback Policy, telling a resonant story with your roadmap, and using feedback to guide better product decisions.