Five teams to collect product feedback from in a SaaS company
If you ask, these teams can provide valuable customer feedback to improve your product
Customers can provide a wealth of customer feedback - if your team is listening.
But if they're not, or you don't have a system to centralize your customer feedback, all that fantastic feedback is going to waste.
Here are the five teams who you need to capture feedback from so that you've got a full picture of the set of your customers' challenges.
Feedback from Customer Support
Support is an absolute gold mine of customer feedback. They hear about bugs, customer problems (and potential improvements) all day, every day. This feedback's valuable because it's almost always from current customers, or people who want to become customers (e.g. trials).
Support teams are often most eager to help customers and so are usually happy to embrace a lightweight process to organize, prioritize, and share customer feedback with Product. They're motivated to send feedback to Product Management so that the problems they hear about every day will go away.
Note that some feedback that Support gets can also be solved with better documentation, better knowledge about available workarounds, or better product marketing. There should be a tight relationship between Product and Support to keep customers happy.
For most SaaS businesses, this is the team we recommend collecting feedback from first. That's because this is feedback from existing customers who you want to retain. And since retention is the key to SaaS growth, keeping your customers happy is paramount.
Feedback from Sales
Our friends in Sales have a ton of feedback from prospects. There are two types of feedback that are particularly useful:
Feedback about lost deals. This is useful because it'll help you understand why customers choose competitors (and also why they choose you). If you want to win more deals you can look for product feedback in lost deal reasons and improve the product so those issues are no longer relevant.
Feedback about new revenue streams. Often Sales will raise ideas about things the product could do, but doesn't. These are usually to solve customer problems that are related to your core product. For example, you might be a ton of requests about integrating with another tool to smooth a painful customer workflow that touches on your product and the tool. You tend to get this feedback from Sales because customers are in the process of considering how to integrate a new product (yours) into their existing workflow. This kind of feedback is great because it can provide a way for you to increase revenue by building add-on products (for example: the core product is $x/year but that key integration costs another $y/year).
You can sometimes feel a lot of pressure to act immediately on feedback from Sales teams. That's because the perception amongst sales is sometimes "building this one feature will help me close this deal!" (and get a nice commission to boot!) One way to work around this challenge is to ensure you have a transparent process to track and act on feedback. When you do, Sales will trust that you'll eventually act on feedback they send you (so they'll keep sending it). Plus, it gives you a reason to say "not right now": the feedback needs to work its way through your process and be weighed against all the other feature ideas your team may act on.
If you don't have a process, every conversation with Sales becomes about "doing this one thing for this one customer", which will make every conversation with Sales difficult.
Like Support, Customer Success teams talk to customers all day, every day. So you'll want to collect up feedback from this team regularly.
But unlike support, Success often viscerally feels the same problems customers have. This is because Success will often screen share and ride shotgun with customers when customers run into product issues. Or they'll hear about problems on the phone. And since they need to be experts on how the product works (so they can help your customers be successful), they'll often run into product issues before customers do.
Plus, Success will always work with your most valuable customer segments to keep them happy. And since any and all feedback from your most valuable customers is gold, you'll want to pay attention to what your Customer Success team has to say.
There's often a fine line with feedback from executives. You'll want to figure out whether feedback you collect from these folks is something they dreamed up in the shower (which could be a great idea) or whether it's something they heard on a visit with an important customer.
Be open to feedback from execs - obviously! But as with Sales, push as hard as you can to run feedback through your process to prioritize it appropriately against all the other things you might work on.
Your Development Team
Devs are fantastic sources of feedback - especially the ones that tend towards being interested in the customer experience. They're in the product and using it regularly as they build and test new features, so they can see rough edges sooner than most teams.
The challenge with feedback from devs is that sometimes the scenarios they care about are not ones customers care about. It's important to understand the context they have when providing feedback so that you can weigh it appropriately.
Devs will also raise issues around paying down technical debt. These are important to consider, but you'll also want to balance paying down debt with building features or fixing bugs to solve your paying customers' problems. One approach to this is to share feedback with the dev team. Devs are problem-solvers at heart, so sharing customer verbatims about problems that the dev team can solve with the dev team can be a powerful motivator.
Plus, since it's hard to get a demotivated dev team to build good software, it's important to keep good lines of two-way communication open with your dev team.
As your team gets larger, your customers will talk to people in Support, Sales, and Success. Execs, Devs, and other teams (like Marketing) can also be great sources of product feedback.
To get a full picture of your customers' problems, you'll want to have a lightweight system those teams can use to centralize feedback, so that it's easier for you to organize, prioritize, and act on.
- Daniel Elizalde on 5 great sources of product feedback
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.