Product teams have a lot on their plates: development deadlines to hit, features to build, bugs to squash, internal and external customers to keep happy.
When you’re heads down and focused on getting your next release out the door, it can be hard to make time for anything that isn’t already in your project plan. So it’s no wonder that, historically, Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs haven’t been a core focus of product teams. But as the way we interact with our products has become more “love it or leave it” and less “til death do us part,” it’s never been more important to look to your customers’ feedback to guide your product decisions.
A VoC program allows you to engage and learn from the people using your products and services every day. It gives your team direction and structure around what to build next. It shows your users that you’re maniacally focused on their needs. And it helps you continually deliver value through features that generate outcomes and product experiences that delight.
Product teams are uniquely well-positioned to help lead the charge and foster a more VoC-focused company culture. With more organizations embracing a product-led strategy to super-charge their growth, expanding their product teams to keep up with demand, and leveraging the power of a great product experience to generate lasting brand loyalty, there’s never been a better (or more influential) time to be a product person.
Here are a few ways product teams can use their influence to champion VoC in their organizations.
Building organizational buy-in
In an ideal world, VoC programs would always be greeted with enthusiastic support from stakeholders across every part of the organization. But in practice, building VoC buy-in can sometimes be a challenge.
For starters, no one likes it when someone calls their baby ugly—which is how receiving negative feedback on something near and dear to your heart can feel. Plus, for companies that haven’t historically considered themselves customer-centric (a core tenet of any organization considering a VoC program), the groundwork to implement VoC can seem daunting. It requires a mindset shift that puts the customer experience at the center of every decision. It calls for a commitment to continual iteration and bottom-up ideation. And it demands investments in systems to capture and act on feedback at scale.
Product teams can play a key role in catalyzing customer-centricity and advocating for VoC. By operating at the intersection of business strategy, technological innovation, and customer needs, they are uniquely positioned to influence (and benefit) from VoC programs that unify these three branches. And as products continue to become synonymous with the companies who create them, product teams can lead by example—leveraging customer feedback to plan their roadmap and prove the positive impact VoC can have in the products they build.
Sharing a unified vision
Most enterprise organizations have to contend with silos at one point or another in their evolution. But silos can render VoC programs useless, sending valuable feedback to a black hole where it goes unaddressed. This means success teams miss out on valuable customer experience insights, support teams get stuck in reactive cycles, and product teams are left to guess which features their users actually need.
A strong VoC program can help unify teams and improve collaboration across the organization through a shared vision and single source of truth—focused on the customer, driven by the product. Again, product teams have a powerful role to play here. By rallying their colleagues around a unified understanding of their customers—through roadmaps, closed-loop communication, and user sentiment data—product teams can foster a culture of transparency that helps everyone see how customer feedback fuels product (and company) innovation.
Speeding up development cycles
Like playing a game of “telephone,” feedback tends to get diluted or misinterpreted when it takes a winding journey to its intended recipient. Product teams are in a prime position to make feedback available directly to the teams who need to act on it—for example, engineering.
Product teams want to be able to iterate quickly to respond to customer needs, and developers want to be able to understand these asks and build resilient code that meets the right product and user requirements. A VoC program operationalizes customer feedback and puts processes in place to streamline its intake and action. Through VoC, product teams can easily share data-driven evidence and customer requests with their engineering teams. This helps speed up development cycles and eliminates the back-and-forth often required to make the case for engineering resources.
Strengthening the product
Operating in the dark, without data or input from the people your product serves, is hugely detrimental to your team’s productivity—and your ability to deliver on the promised value of your product. As a product leader, there are few things worse than pouring resources into developing a new feature, only to later learn that your users don’t really want or need it. If your objective is to build high-quality products that serve real-life needs and solve meaningful problems, VoC has a big role to play.
Perhaps more than any other part of the company, product teams are in a position to be natural advocates for the importance of VoC. Insights and feedback requests gathered through VoC programs empower teams throughout the organization to stop guessing what they should work on next and start making decisions based on what users are actively asking for.
A well-executed VoC process helps align business priorities and customer requests—and the teams working on them—so everyone understands the “why” (because starting with “why” really does matter). It also helps all the internal stakeholders who touch your product feel more fulfilled by focusing their energy on producing experiences that delight your users. And in a world where your product is your reputation—who could argue with that?