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Never prioritize your roadmap based on customer feedback

Demand from your user base in only one input into product design

Image credit: Rachel Voorhees, Flickr

The problem with customer feedback

When you are building software it’s inevitable that the minute you ship your first features and gain your first real customers, the feedback will come. Customers expect great service and increasingly, this includes giving them a way to give feedback, ideas and feature requests.

Can it be blue? Why don’t you have feature X? Why do you have feature Y? It would be nice if…

Anyone who’s built a software product will be familiar with this scenario. As software vendors, we are in the amazing position of being able to listen more, test multiple solutions to a problem and iterate quicker than ever before. It’s a great time to be building software, yet it’s incredibly easy to start shipping features that don’t move the needle. The main issues with customer feedback are:

  • You don’t need a lot of customer feedback before you feel overwhelmed;
  • Your product teams spend hours & hours acting as administrators — manually collecting, prioritizing and making sense of requests;
  • The loudest customers or that new, big customer can have too much sway on how you are building your product;
  • Feedback from important customers gets swept up with requests from “poor fit” users and free triallers;
  • Communicating updates back to customers is manual & incredibly time-consuming;
  • Customer priorities change over time so you’ll often find yourself making product decisions based on old information;
  • It’s impossible to see how customer feedback fits with demand from your internal teams and the market.

This all sounds very challenging but getting customer feedback right is absolutely essential for software vendors; if you don’t you’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity to delight customers, reduce churn and increase growth.

Note that “Getting customer feedback right” absolutely does not mean building exactly what your customers are requesting — that is always a disaster.

Why I hear you cry..!

Customer demand is only one input into product design

Customer feedback is essential but it is only one input into product design. Unless you balance demand from your customer base with the requirements of your internal teams and the market, you can end up creating a product that does not support the needs of your business.

For example, if you are currently serving the SME market, but the company strategy is to start closing larger accounts, then feeding demand from small customer accounts into your product roadmap isn’t the best use of your resources. You’d need to understand demand from the market & sales team and it’s guaranteed that feedback from your current customer base won’t help you learn how to design your product to close those important, bigger accounts.

Not all customer feedback is equal

You can’t treat customer feedback as a whole. It’s a sum of many voices and each segment will have their own demands on your product. Collecting & prioritizing feedback as a single unit means you miss out on key insights into the different customer groups.

Think about how your largest paying customers will have very different requirements to free triallers or how users in different locations or markets have changing needs too.

Think about how feedback from customers who have churned will inevitably hang around on your very long list of requests — wouldn’t it be best to view that data separately?

Segmentation brings understanding and actionable data to your product decisions.

How to use customer feedback effectively in your product roadmap

You can’t use customer feedback effectively in your product roadmap if the data you have is pretty useless to start with.

Adding features to your roadmap based on popular requests from your customer base creates terrible products; especially when your backlog can be full of feedback from poor fit prospects, free triallers, churned users and noise from your most demanding customers. As well as understanding why certain feedback has been given, never forget that you are the experts  - building a SaaS product is not a democracy.

Up-to-date, prioritized data from your customers is the key input. After that, it’s all about understanding the information by segmenting customer feedback. When you understand the priorities of your customers and who feedback is coming from, you can bring real data to the table to backup your product roadmap decisions and create something really special.

Never forget that customer demand exists as one part of the picture. Demand from internal teams and the market are also essential ingredients that feed your product roadmap; a roadmap driven by customer feedback alone causes more harm than good.

Learn about Receptive’s Roadmapping

Receptive’s own public-facing roadmap
Receptive product roadmap overview
How to setup roadmap

Building a SaaS product — it’s not a democracy
Product Managers Shouldn’t Prioritize Feature Requests
Feature Votes Alone are as Useful as a Chocolate Teapot

Check out our other resources on prioritization to learn more.