Getting Product Management To Listen to Feature Requests: Thoughts and Methods from 10 PM/CX Leaders
You have a pile of feature requests that you want to bring forward. But, how do you approach your product management team to get them approved?
We talked to 10 product and customer experience leaders about how they get their product management teams to listen to customer feature requests.
Andreas Johansson, UX Specialist @ Andreas Johansson UX
I have tried several tactics on how to get feature requests as part of the backlog. Some of my most successful tactics include:
1. Become the product manager's friend, and really try to help them where they are.
You as a UX designer can do a lot of work that is really helpful to clarify the product manager's vision. As part of that work, you could also suggest more visionary prototypes (including features that you think that customers and users would love). I personally had a lot of success presenting these kinds of features through a great conceptual demo / prototype.
2. Clearly show the business benefit of a given feature.
If you for instance do a competitor analysis from a UX perspective, don't just present the pros and cons between your product and competitors. Instead I suggest that you go one level deeper and try to connect the value of your product (or shortcomings of your competitors) to actual business benefits. For instance, you might find out that it takes 5 minutes longer to set up a user account for the first time in your competitor's solution, compared to your own. Or you could compare the time it takes to do a certain task manually, to how much money a company could save by using your product instead.
3. Present several design alternatives and rely on hard facts.
I find that I get a lot more support from product management if I 1) show different alternatives of design to them (with pros and cons) and 2) connect these design alternatives to what my user research has shown before. This makes things more objective to evaluate, plus it shows that I've done my homework and checked what the users actually need.
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Andrew Motiwalla, Co-Founder & CRO @ monitorQA
Since our auditing software is used slightly differently in each industry, we must maintain the delicate balance of serving our customers, but also not creating features that are industry-specific. So, our leadership team has internally published four clear criteria to analyze new feature requests.
What percentage of our customers will benefit?
How hard or easy is this to implement?
What are the opportunity costs or competing priorities?
How well does this fit into our product strategy and roadmap.
By having a transparent set of criteria, we can then easily score feature requests on these dimensions and the top scoring requests float to the top.
Kristina Symes, Director, Product Development and Marketing @ GIDEON Informatics
The important thing to remember with feature requests is that they should not be taken at face value. They indicate a problem that is yet to be solved and the customer's attempt to find a solution.
Sales, support, and customer success departments are often the first to receive feature requests. These then get passed on to product management - sometimes along with the full emotional load and the ‘urgency’ level equal to that of the stress experienced during the conversation with a customer.
Product managers have a different job - they need to balance finite development resources with hundreds of requests in the backlog, not least taking into consideration which items will bring benefit to all customers and which will only help a few.
To help product management, colleagues in customer-facing roles could investigate what problem the customer might be trying to solve by suggesting a feature. For instance, a customer may demand functionality to retrieve data in a formatted Excel spreadsheet. But what they really want is to share it with their peers and Excel just happens to be one of the software programs they are familiar with.
There is nothing quite as powerful as a good user story, that enables creators of the product to see the world through their customers’’ eyes. In this case, knowing the full story would allow product management to find the best solution - a button to email PDF to a friend could work just as well to meet the request and take a lot less time to implement.
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Gleb Hodorovskiy, Co-Founder @ conversionrate.store
Smart profit-driven project managers will refuse to build most of the customers' feedback requests because it will not always result in better LTV or retention for the majority of users and make a product more messy and complicated or not aligning to core value proposition or company mission.
So you should categorize users’ feedback based on the probability of impact on churn or LTV growth. It could be done by 1) simply counting most popular requests 2) collecting feedback from users who are about to abandon your product with exit-intent triggers or from segments that start to use the product less often.
Product hypotheses that are done based on such categorization tend to grow LTV based on our experience of running A/B tests on 127 million of our client’s users
Borja Prieto, Head of Growth @ FROGED.com
We use a product management tool to receive and handle all our customers' feedback. It also allows customer support/success and sales teams to add any new request they got from clients or prospects so the product team can check it later on.
Inside this tool, users can upvote anything they find interesting, and the Product team reviews this weekly.
If there are many requests/upvotes for a feature and we see it aligns with the company's vision and business goals, we'll add it to the roadmap.
Jason O'Neill, COO @ LiveHelpNow
Product management cannot be successful without meeting 1:1 with customers. They need to hear the customer's pain. They need to hear their goals. They should learn how to ask customers questions to dig deep and understand their businesses. When armed with that type of information, product managers will be better at innovation, prioritizing what’s important on product roadmaps, and communicating new releases to customers. Putting product managers in direct touch with the customers also creates a personal relationship between the two. And that facilitates more willingness and motivation on the developers' part to implement the necessary changes. If customers are just some faceless entities, their pain, their struggle do not matter as much. When you meet them, hear them, and understand them, that empathy acts as a motivator for change and improvement, which eventually result in happier customers.
Keyne Smith, Owner @ TACIT ALLY, LLC
At TACIT ALLY, LLC we pride ourselves on flexibility. We tailor our services to the customer and do not provide a "one size fits all" service. If a client needs us for a few hours for one day, they have that option. If service is needed long term, month-to-month, 3, 6, and 12 month contract options are available as well. To service a customer/client is to listen to their request and meet it.
Ray McKenzie, CEO & Founder @ StartingPoint
Customers are the backbone of companies. Customer’s requests are a large piece of the produce development lifecycle. Your customers will tell your company what they want and if you talk to enough of your customers or prospects, product themes and features will develop. Customer feedback is essential for companies. A company should want to know how their customers feel about their product. A company should want to know how they can improve. The improvements and feedback should be framed for product management in the method of “We polled our customers and here is their feedback on our product. This is what our customers would like to see added, changed, or updated. We prioritized the top themes and fixes and have our customers available to speak if you would like more clarification.” Once product management has that information and data, the importance is shared with the PM team and can be added to the product roadmap and prioritized based on resources.
Allison Murdoch, Customer Success Manager @ Beaconstac
We have a constant feedback loop between customer success and product management that allows us to make improvements quickly and efficiently.
We also use a few project management tools like Trello to track and prioritize feature requests, and that lets the customer-facing folks see what’s on the pipeline and reach out to the product team if they have any additional suggestions.
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Daniel Kyne, Founder and CEO @ OpinionX
Understanding how PMs influence decision making with developers is key to ensuring influence of customer feature requests. Dev teams are naturally orientated around quantitative data. They engage with user behaviour stats far more often than user research quotes. The best way to help Product Managers to carry forward changes requested by customers is to find ways to quantify them. Convert those requests into multiple choice lists or run social surveys to quantify user feedback so that PMs have the data they need to get the attention of developers.
In what is becoming a recurring theme, communication remains key, whether that is communication with other teams, with customers, or with someone else. Making sure you have a frictionless system also goes a long way.
Build what your customers want.Last Updated: 02-26-2021
Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.