Managing Feature Requests: A Comprehensive Guide
Feature requests are invaluable opportunities to discover ways to improve your product and better serve your users’ ever-evolving needs. A smooth feature request process can demonstrate to your customers that you’re listening to them and prioritizing their needs, in turn earning their trust and loyalty. However, some product teams find the many components of a streamlined process for managing feature requests overwhelming — and we can’t blame them! Establishing repeatable ways to capture, aggregate, contextualize, and follow up on feature requests can take time and effort at first.
Look, don’t sweat it, we’ve got your back when it comes to managing user feature requests. We’ve got some tips to help you understand what processes you can improve and what modifications you can make to offer a richer experience and better product to your end-users.
Capturing and organizing user feedback
Enable customer-facing teams to share feedback
Your customer-facing teams are constantly having conversations with your users — and building deep customer empathy in the process. Don’t leave them out of your product feedback management process. In a study, we found that 80% of product managers feel that feedback from customer-facing teams is important, yet only 14% of them have an effective process for getting feedback from sales and support. Here are a few tips for better enabling internal teams to surface what they’re hearing to your team.
- Help customer-facing teams understand why feedback is just as important to them as it is to the product team. Customer-facing teams are the ones in the field talking with users and prospects daily, so it’s clear they have some crucial insight that the product team may not.
- Help them find ways to easily share the things they hear with you. Leverage a dedicated Slack channel, SaaS product, or spreadsheet. The quicker and more efficient you can make the process of sharing feedback the better (and the chances of building the wrong features and product are much lower).
- Don’t forget to close the loop with them and give them regular updates so they don’t feel like their feedback is going into a black hole (more on that later!)
While there are many ways to involve customer-facing teams in your product feedback process, we created a step-by-step guide of best practices to help you get started.
Centralize your feedback
First and foremost, think about how you might get all of your incoming feedback in a single, centralized place. When your feedback is strewn about in various locations, it’s very hard to get a high-level aggregate view of your customer needs as a whole. Look at the channels you are currently getting feedback from and think about how you might aggregate it all in one place for a more cohesive view. You can use spreadsheets, forums, a dedicated Slack channel, or another devoted tool. A product feedback management system like UserVoice stores all product ideas, user feedback, and requests submitted by your end-users and collected by your customer-facing teams. For more help on choosing the right feedback system for your product, check out our buyer’s guide.Visibility is another benefit of getting all your feedback into a single place. When you have a centralized feedback repository, you have an easy tool for helping folks across your organization understand what your customers are asking for. Driving visibility into customer needs is a key part of becoming a customer-centric organization.
Share your feature request process with customers
Before we dive into the how let's start with why articulating a feature request process is important. It sets clear expectations with your users and conveys that your organization is actively listening to user feedback so they continue sharing their input with you. There are many examples of feature request processes and whichever way you choose, your method should include the following key aspects:
- When your users share feedback, help them understand what might happen next. Whether your team has determined they’ll send an automated response, personalized email, or set up a call, make sure your users are notified.
- Show your users where and how they can share feedback. If you’re using a product feedback system ensure your users are comfortable using the tool and feel confident that their feedback will be respected and appreciated.
- Set expectations for updates on your users’ feature requests. Let them know what the communications look like from here and when they will be updated on their valuable feedback.
- Be transparent on how often your team reviews new features. Set legitimate, feasible expectations on when the product team prioritizes new features because the more in the loop you keep your end-users are, the more confident they will feel.
Prioritizing feature requests
Prioritizing feature requests is a continuous process where product teams have to work in conjunction with both internal stakeholders and end-users to determine which feature requests they should focus on. Find a prioritization framework or process that works for you and your team. Userguiding has a really great blog outlining several popular feature prioritization frameworks if you’re curious. At UserVoice, we’ve used multiple prioritization tactics over the years and customer feedback has always been a core input for our decisions. In fact, our move from SCUM to Shape Up was largely motivated by a desire to keep customer needs at the core of every decision we make and maintain hyper-focus on delivering real value to our users. Everything we build starts with a customer problem worth solving.
Start with your company’s vision and objectives
Before you dive into the repository of feature requests let’s not forget to lay out the foundation. Your company’s vision and business strategy are crucial indicators for which direction to take your product and thus, what feature requests to prioritize. Start by encouraging a deep value and understanding of these things so your team can quickly eliminate things that don’t align.In other words, centralize the focus of your actions around your company’s vision and current business objectives: this will inform the areas of focus and the lens with which to look at each request. For example, your business wants to move upmarket, you want to follow through and prioritize the feature requests from your users that will allow you to do so. Looking to your enterprise customers, see what they’re requesting, prioritizing, where their challenges are, and use those requests as a guiding force for your product decisions.
Discuss feature requests with your teammates and relevant stakeholders (and ensure they understand how you’re making decisions)
“The bottom line is that everyone in the company owns the product, and its success or failure lie in the hands of everyone who touches it.” -Martin Eriksson, Mind the ProductCustomer feedback is a team sport. So naturally, the aspect that really ties all the pieces of your feature request process together is communicating at a team level. Continuous communication about product feedback and product validation keeps your organization aligned and moving in the same direction. Bring internal teams along with you on your journey to maintain a culture of trust, transparency, and customer-centricity.Plus, customer-facing teams like sales, marketing, success, and support will be more likely to participate when you keep them in the loop. To kick start the conversation, we suggest a few tactics of our own.
- Ask your customer-facing teams specific questions and share insight about features you’re considering or conducting discovery on so they can collect more information during their conversations with users.
- Share the “why” behind your decision. Help provide context to internal teams why an idea is or is not a priority can demonstrate to them that customer needs are at the core of all you do.
- When preparing to release something new, ask internal teams if they have any ideal beta customers so you can further test.
- Inform sales and marketing when a feature is planned for launch so they can plan accordingly.
Finally, let’s talk documentation. Documentation of a decision-making framework for your internal team can help keep everyone honest and leave emotions and subjective opinions out of your process, but that’s not the only part of your process you might want to consider outlining. Other considerations may include:
- How to share feedback. As discussed earlier, giving your internal teams an outlet for feedback is the first step, and elucidating the importance of their feedback is the second. To take this a step further, help your customer-facing teams understand how they can communicate feedback they hear on customer calls.
- Where feedback will “live”. Documenting where your housing internal and external feedback sets expectations and aligns the entire organization.
- How frequently the team will review feedback. Just as you should notify your users of this, make sure your internal teams are aligned so there are no opportunities for miscommunication or misalignment.
- Understand the plans for responding to feature requests when they are shared. An automated email, in-app message, or whatever your response of choice, make sure the communications are consistent.
Communication: Don’t forget to close the feedback loop
Feature requests should not be one-directional -- make sure your users are being rewarded with updates for taking the time to share their valuable input. Here are a couple of key communication points to follow up with users on their feedback.
- Acknowledge each request and set expectations around how it will be handled.
- Follow up as decisions are made, even if the decision was not to act on their request.
Better yet, don’t just provide updates, have conversations. Continuously engage your users to better understand the struggles they are encountering. Ask questions...lots of them. Because the more you know, the better-suited your team will be to develop solutions that actually get adopted by your users. Find opportunities to clarify the intent behind the feedback you receive -- what is the outcome they are trying to achieve in asking for the product change they’ve requested? Keep these tips top of mind so you can receive the most value out of your users’ feature requests. The feedback you receive from your users provides the context around what is and isn’t working with your product, and also helps you improve your product, and better alleviate customer challenges.