We had a great time as Silver sponsors at SaaStock 18 over in Dublin this year. Brilliant meeting so many new people and catching up with so many Receptive customers too.
On the first day, I was lucky enough to be one of the speakers. Here’s the write up & slides from it. It was called:
F*** Customer Feedback
Video will be available soon too. Enjoy!
F*** Customer Feedback
Hello, I’m Hannah Chaplin the CEO at Receptive. It’s great to be back here at SaaStock.
I hope you like the catchy title. I’ll admit it right now that is was kind of ‘click baity’ but with a hint of seriousness in there of course.
What you think the title might be sums how a lot of customers feel about their experience with SaaS organizations big and small when it comes to giving you their ideas, feedback & feature requests.
However, customer feedback is actually a huge opportunity for your business. When you handle it well, it’s a powerful data point to bring to your product decisions and having a good feedback process in place, which actively involves your users, says a lot about how much you value your customers.
So what I actually want to do today is give you a set of best practices to…
…free customer feedback to make it work for you and your users.
Before I get to the practical stuff, let’s understand a bit about the situation most SaaS businesses are in right now.
You might not know it but a ton of customer feedback is probably trapped in your organization - spread across your CRM, stuck in support tickets or your latest project management tools and in spreadsheets owned by your customer-facing teams.
This is because customers want to give you feedback and, honestly, they always will. Times have changed and technology has shifted power to the user. Customers have valuable product feedback and they are demanding that their voice is heard.
That’s why so many successful SaaS organizations are investing in Voice of the Customer programs. It matters. And it should because handling feedback can be a big competitive advantage.
That’s not to say it’s easy though right? I’m sure some of you will feel overwhelmed by customer requests or on the other hand, you might actually want more feedback but you’re unsure how to get started.
Getting your organization to move from tolerating customer feedback to actively welcoming it can feel very daunting at first; especially in a larger business. A lot of people are scared of opening up their product & business to customer feedback for a variety of reason. Here’s a few from real conversations I’ve had recently…
People tell me:
They don’t want customers telling them what to build because they have a strong vision.
That, letting customers give feedback means they will have to build exactly what is being asked for and when they don’t, it will only lead to disappointment.
And that they have a roadmap for 2 years, so their customers can’t help them right now.
This fear is completely understandable but it’s holding you back. The good news is there a a few things you can put in place so that when you handle customer feedback it leads to great products, a better business, and customers…well they won’t just pay you for your service, but they will actually shout about it. They become advocates and help you grow which is pretty amazing.
I’ll share 3 things you can do right now to make this happen but first you need to change how you see customer feedback.
It’s not black or white. It’s not listen to customers or don’t. It’s not build things your way or their way… It’s all about…
Think about where your product feedback comes from. In your SaaS business, who has the ideas? Who gives you features requests? Who understands use cases and pain points? Who comes up with the strategy?
When you sit down and think about it, there’s actually only 3 places that you’d get any of the information you use when you are deciding what to build next.
Here’s are the places you get product feedback from:
Obviously, there is customers then you have teams (feedback from within your organization) and finally, the market.
Each group brings very different types of information that you can use to make product decisions.
Customers are using your products day in and day out. They are brilliant at picking up on workflow issues, small annoyances in the product and it’s their pain points that can help inform bigger, more strategic pieces of work. They can also supplement what you are already building with knowledge of how they use your software.
When we created a separate channel for customers to give us feedback and prioritize their requests, we very quickly saw that the things that mattered most to our users weren’t new features, but improvements to what we already had.
Team feedback is an interesting one. As well as the strategy being created internally, I found some great research into team feedback by Troy Stevenson who is the former VP of customer loyalty at eBay. He found that for every dollar spent on employee feedback, companies spend hundreds of dollars on customer feedback but that companies rarely connect the 2 systems but that when you do connecting them can create powerful feedback loops that engage employees and help companies adapt to fast-changing customer expectations”
Finally, there’s market data. A lot of this feedback will come from sales teams working with prospects and your BAs…where is the market going? Which features are blockers to sales? All this helps you decide the direction you need to be moving in.
Understanding customer feedback as one part of the puzzle helps remove the fear and puts you back in control so you can be sure that you are incorporating the problems of real users into your product while still innovating and delivering to your company strategy. If you do have a plan for 2 years that’s great, but you could do so much better if you involve your customers along the way.
Before we look at customer experience in more details, here’s a quick summary so far:
- Product demand comes from your customers, teams and the market
- Different sources tell you different things
- You need to embrace it all because the cost of building, supporting, maintaining and marketing the wrong product improvements and features represents a huge cost to your business.
Now, back onto how you free your customer feedback and how you make it work for you, not against you!
As I said at the start, the best companies give customers a great experience when it comes to product feedback. And to be clear, this absolutely does not mean committing yourself to building everything customers ask for. Building a SaaS product is not a democracy!
You can create a respectful and positive relationship with your company by welcoming customer feedback but a big part of that is how you set expectations from day 1. Here’s 3 top practical tips to get your started:
- Get a Product Feedback Policy in place
- Create a feedback library
- Communicate back
So first off, make sure you create a Product Feedback Policy. Get a Product Feedback Policy in placeThis is something we have seen a lot of SaaS companies putting in place this year.
It’s a short document that explains how you collect product feedback, what you do with it and how you communicate progress back to your customers.
The main thing is that it sets the right expectations with customers from the start and it’s brilliant for your teams too. Instead of saying, “yes, very nice I’ll pass that onto the product team”, they can explain the process and point your users at you feedback policy for reference.
A good comparison would be a support SLA or section in an employee handbook. If you set expectations out, then customers are really appreciative and this is honestly most of the solution.
The best part is that a feedback policy is really simple to put together & it will take up very little time - I’ll share a link at the end to a website which has some real policies on there and a free template too.
Step 2 is to create a library of quality feedback that you can actually use.
One of the biggest issues we see is that SaaS companies ask customers for feature requests then to simply vote on features they want.
This can actually lead you a long way down the path and you can waste time and resources building features into you product that won’t give you a good ROI. You have no idea what a nice-to-have and what is major pain point that needs to be addressed.
If you ask customers the right questions when you reach out for product feedback, you get a really rich and powerful set of data - ask about their pain points, if they have a work around and how a solution would help them.
Your product teams needs to be empowered to design the right solutions and good quality customer data helps a lot. This gets rid of a lot of the fear of customers dictating your roadmap and helps get a good balance between strategic projects the demands of your users. Instead of blinding building features, you’ll be enhancing your strategic roadmap with real customer use cases.
And the great thing about this approach is it helps you build a library of feedback that you can access when you need it.
If you are going after the manufacturing market, look at the feedback and pain points from your users and prospects in that sector.
If you are doing a redesign project, look at your UX feedback from your customers.
Think back to the product feedback policy, setting the expectations with customers means they know how their feedback fits into your process leaving you to access the feedback you need when you actually need it.
Finally, you need to make sure you are communicating to your customers.
There’s nothing worse than giving feedback then getting a generic answer back or simply hearing nothing at all. I call this the black hole of customer feedback.
Don’t underestimate how good communication is for your customer base - it makes a huge difference to their experience with your company. You’ll quickly find that even though you aren’t building exactly what they ask for, showing progress and what’s coming up really helps keep customers engaged and excited about where you are going.
There’s loads of ways to do this like a sharing a release log, a short customer-facing roadmap or email updates when you act on feedback they have provided to you. Your customer-facing teams are under pressure to give product and feedback updates all the time, adding a small amount of process around feedback is a huge ROI.
Set team and customer expectations with a Product Feedback Policy Create a library of use cases and request, note a backlog of feature requests Communicate back
So I hope this has inspired you to think about how you can free your customer feedback to make it work for you and your users because when you do, great things happen…
You won’t be wasting time building the wrong things and if you give customers a great experience by welcoming feedback and communicating well, it opens the door to advocacy and people really will stick around. It’s all part of a great SaaS service.
ProfitWell did some excellent research into the impact of customer development in SaaS and found:
The companies that aren’t doing the work to know their customers are falling behind. The growth gap between companies actively engaged in customer development and those who aren’t just keeps on getting bigger.
And finally hope I’ve helped show that there is a balance when it comes to developing your product - it really isn’t listen to your customer or don’t so embrace your customer feedback, balance it with your product strategy and give your customers the experience they deserve to help you win the race.
I’ve popped together a landing page with a ton of resources on to get your started and here’s the link.
Grab me around the conference or reach out to me if you have any questions.
Cheers to the photographers on Unsplash who provided the wonderful imagery.
Cat: https://unsplash.com/photos/6wEnDzbWQ8Q</br> Pumpkins: https://unsplash.com/photos/Uq3G_VhLYXc</br> Balanced pin: https://unsplash.com/photos/902vnYeoWS4</br> Customers: https://unsplash.com/photos/7H6_jhXCbkQ</br> Teams: https://unsplash.com/photos/aH9p_lOKTZU</br> Market: https://unsplash.com/photos/sYMvH-4AB_Q</br> Heart balloons: https://unsplash.com/photos/1GRvY9WUu08</br> Library: https://unsplash.com/photos/hhZEaVS5QMo</br> Blackhole: https://www.flickr.com/</br> Summaries: https://unsplash.com/photos/8i30HqjiwqE</br> Stairs: https://unsplash.com/photos/J1G7ty47zpI</br> Door: https://unsplash.com/photos/n1kE9-NyyeM</br>