If you think about it, product teams often work miracles. They’re given all manner of feedback, strategy, and stakeholder demands, and they somehow turn that into an amazing product that people want to buy. This is no easy task.
Your organization’s overall product strategy or roadmap may demand that the product team focuses on one aspect, while the feedback you collect from customers and users may suggest that other areas are more important.
This essentially places the product team on a high-wire, hands them several balls to juggle, oh, and gives them far too little time to make it across.
There is, however, one simple thing you can do to make life slightly easier for your product team if you work in customer success. You can make sure they have all the information they need to make the best decisions. In particular, you can provide them with qualitative feedback from customers, which they can then pair with quantitative usage data in order to get a more complete picture of what to work on next.
Here’s what product teams need to know, and how you can help them.
Share Problems, Not Feature Requests
One thing that infuriates most PMs is when they’re given feedback in the form of solutions. This is annoying because coming up with solutions is basically a PM’s job. It’s like going to the doctor and not only telling them what’s wrong with you, but also what treatment you need.
PMs thrive on problems and pain points. Building a product is like solving a puzzle, and a crossword that’s already filled in doesn’t entertain anyone.
Any feedback or requests that contain solutions will likely be ignored. Instead, requests need to explain the problem that the customer is facing. What is it that they’re trying to achieve? Remember that every time a feature request is made, ask WHY.
This way, your product team can find the answers to those problems, without being told what they should be doing.
Round and Round and Round We Go…
A lot of the time, your customers will have devised some sort of workaround to help them solve the problem they’re facing. While this workaround isn’t always the best approach, it can help your product team understand what the key issue is.
For starters, it provides them with extra context. If a customer works around your lack of a commenting feature by manually emailing a link to their colleagues, then perhaps the problem isn’t the lack of a commenting feature, but how hard it is to share items between people.
This extra context can help the product team narrow down the list of possible solutions.
Another way the workarounds help is that they show how serious the problem is. If a customer is going to great lengths to work around the problem, then chances are they really need it solved. If they’re simply ignoring the problem for the time being, it can’t be too important.
Priorities and Data
Which brings us nicely to the final thing that product teams need to know — how much of a priority is it and what does the rest of the data show.
SaaS companies receive a lot of feedback. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, as it helps you to build up your feedback library. The issue is deciding which requests should be prioritized.
Instead, let your customers decide which problems are more pertinent and which can probably be sent to the back of the queue. This frees up more time for your product team, and it means that you understand what matters most to your customers. It’s a win-win.
You can also empower your product teams by providing other data that is important to them. The types of data will vary from one organization to the next, but being able to demonstrate ARR at risk due to an unsolved problem or the volume of good fit users with the same issue, will go a long way.
Remember that the “most popular” requests are rarely the ones you should build. When you ask customers to prioritize, you start to get a clear picture of what matters and why.
How to Get the Data Product Teams Need
So, now you know exactly what your product team needs to know, how do you go about getting that data, and how do you pass it on to the PMs?
The answer is deceptively simple — You should ask your customers.
What I mean is, you should ask your customers those questions specifically. Don’t simply ask them to provide their feedback. Ask them questions that will provide your product team with the answers they need.
Having a series of questions to guide your customers’ thoughts not only means you collect the relevant data, but it also helps your customers to express and communicate the problem they’re facing.
It means they can’t just write a long, detailed rant, or a short, vague sentence. It means they have to engage. And that means better feedback for your product team.
So remember, some key questions to ask your customers are:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- Do you have a workaround?
- How much of a priority is this, on a scale of 1-10?
Those three questions will provide your product team with the information they need to make the best possible product decisions.
About the Author
Hannah Chaplin is a serial entrepreneur turned director of product management. Most recently, she co-founded SaaS company Receptive, which was acquired by Pendo in early 2019. She enjoys spending time with her family, being outdoors, mountain biking, and camping.