Product feedback - Walk the walk

By Natalie Macks

Everyone likes to talk about customer feedback and how important it is. And how it's valued. And of course how "you listen". But it's what you actually do with feedback that makes or breaks your product, your revenue, and your customers. Today I'll focus on the key area of product feedback, specifically feature requests and bugs. Here's a framework for setting up your processes to take your customer feedback beyond "thanks for your suggestion!"

Set customer expectations

The customer needs to know that their feedback did not fall into the abyss and when or if they can expect any follow up. Describe your process a bit and how things get escalated. 

With bugs, ask for additional information up front if it's needed for troubleshooting. Let the customer know that you're sorry and are working to make it better. Give a timeframe for when they can expect any response.

For features, ask for more details if the request is unclear and don't be afraid to ask them why they need something. Often it's more important for the product manager to know what exactly the customer is trying to accomplish than how they want to accomplish it. Not all customer ideas will be actionable. It's okay to let them know that something is not on the roadmap, but that you'll keep it in mind as you consider future revisions.

Track the issue

Establish a way to document feedback that ties it back to your customer data. Once there is more than one customer with a specific request, set up a parent case and roll all cases or tickets under the same issue. Adopt a standard title format for cases and make sure everyone uses it.. For bugs, consider adding an identifier that ties it to a specific release. This can help quickly answer that inevitable question from the CTO, "Are you hearing of any issues?" with a simple search.

Use buckets and tags

Set up general case categories for your product that make sense for customers, customer-facing teams, and internal teams. It's okay to include subcategories, but add these sparingly. It's tempting to try and get as granular as possible, but remember that simplicity is your friend. Don't add too many steps to the process or you'll discourage your team from recording feedback.

Assign a specific person on your team to vet, compile, and create parent cases. Empower them to escalate critical bugs immediately. Ensure that they have time set aside to accomplish this task, especially with feature requests.

Create reporting

Start out with a basic view of parent cases sorted by the number of reported instances, and then an additional sort by associated revenue. For bugs, consider adding a color coding for severity. For feature requests considering adding in data for company size and industry. Decide a set number to highlight in the reporting and include the rest of the data file in case others want to view the full data set.

Establish regular meetings

A regularly recurring meeting ensures that internal teams understand what is impacting customers and uses that information to drive change. Start out with a weekly meeting with a representative from the engineering team to discuss bugs and fixes. Feature requests should be covered monthly at the very least, and with a greater frequency depending on how quickly your product evolves. 

Don't spend valuable meeting time going over the reporting or dashboard. Send out or update any reporting at least one day prior to the meeting to allow everyone time to prepare. At the meeting discuss how this feedback will shape product and engineering plans, and what information is appropriate to pass back to your customers. Ask if any additional information is required from customers. Don't be afraid to push back if those requests seem unreasonable or are likely to upset a customer. Make sure that everyone at the table knows where to find more details about the case.

Close the loop

Don't forget to let customers know when that annoying bug they reported has been fixed or that sweet new feature goes live. Thank them for playing a pivotal role in making improvements. These wins provide an excellent reason for your CSM to reach back out to the customer and keep the relationship fresh.

A comprehensive process around customer feedback drives product innovation and helps to ensure that your customers stick around. Every customer touch point is an opportunity to better understand and serve their needs. Your team has a finger on the pulse of the customer.  Don't just talk the talk.

Need help setting up your customer feedback loop?  The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that can work with your existing tools to build strong processes that scale with your team.

Natalie Macks - Natalie builds a culture of dedicated customer evangelists, as well as the systems and processes required for success.  Her award-winning leadership expertise coupled with integrity and passion produce increased customer retention and generate revenue.  With over 15 years in customer-facing roles, Natalie excels in bridging the gap between business technologies and the user experience.  She holds a BA in Zoology/Genetics from Michigan State University and resides in San Francisco, CA.