What Is a Feature Request and How Can You Use It To Connect With Customers?
In nature, symbiotic relationships help both organisms grow and succeed. They allow seemingly unrelated species to exist together in harmony and mutually benefit one another.
The relationship between business and customer can often be symbiotic, too—like in the case of feature requests.
End-users reach out to SaaS organizations to either fix, improve, or add a new feature to a product. Then these organizations close the feedback loop by keeping their customers informed about the status of their requests. With feature requests, users benefit from products that better fit their use cases, and companies benefit from this direct consumer insight.
But the most substantial benefit of the feature request process is that it creates an open connection to your customers. Through this connection, your team can encourage users to make their voice heard and deepen their relationship with—and investment in—your product.
What Are Feature Requests?
Feature requests are a form of product feedback you may frequently encounter as a SaaS product manager. They typically come in the form of end-users’ (or even internal team members’) ideas for product improvements.
Feature requests are ideas, comments, messages, or specific customer inquiries asking for a particular function to be added to your product. Typically, a user will provide a company feedback and ask them to add a particular feature that they feel will improve the product or support a specific use case.
Feature requests can include, but are not limited to:
- Suggestions to modify and improve your user interface (UI)
- Requests to integrate with other products your customers use
- Requests to update a popular existing functionality
- Requests for completely new functionality
Feature requests often reveal how users leverage your product and what they expect from it. When customers use your product, and it provides exactly what they need from it, their trust in your organization increases. When customers trust you, they’ll be more likely to share insights that can benefit your whole audience.
When users request features through an online form, product feedback tool, email, social media response, or any other method of communication, it creates essential communication channels between you—the product manager—and your end-users.
What Should a Feature Request Include?
The best way to maximize your chances of receiving all the feature request information you need is to request regular feedback from your customers. As mentioned above, feedback can come in through many channels, but if you want to standardize the type of information you get, it’s best to use a template. Templates not only make feedback and feature requests consistent, but they also make product iteration—and your overall workflow—more efficient.
Feature requests need to be as descriptive as possible, so consider asking requesters to also include:
- Clear statements about what the feature is (or will be)
- Descriptions of how the feature may work
- Explanations illustrating the problem the new feature will solve
- Descriptions of scenarios that demonstrate the requested feature in action
A good feature request should typically include the requester's contact information, the name and a brief description of the feature they're requesting, and any relevant attachments that may be helpful for your team. While there are many ways to capture and analyze this information, a product feedback platform is the most seamless way to do so.
The easier your feature request process is for end-users, the more thoughtful responses you’ll get from them.
What Are the Different Types of Feature Requests?
We can break feature requests into three core categories based on the users’ intentions when sharing them:
- Reporting a bug
- Suggesting improvements to your product
- Requesting new product functionality
Let’s break the types of requests down a bit, shall we?
Requests for Bug Fixes
Most often, you’ll receive bug reports when end-users encounter something that is not working, but sometimes a “bug report” is a result of a feature not working the way they believe it should.
Suggestions for Product Improvements
Product improvement requests indicate ways you can make existing functionality better, either by improving usability or revising existing workflows. Users generally share suggestions for product improvements because they feel that their feedback will be valuable to your business.
Requests for New Features
Though your product may be functioning seamlessly, users sometimes want entirely new functionality. New feature requests come about when end-users are seeking more value out of your product or have identified a new problem that your product is yet to solve. Often these requests represent new use cases for your product. And with new use cases come opportunities for you to expand your market reach and get your product out in front of new people.
4 Tips for Managing Feature Requests
Feature request management is an invaluable opportunity to discover how you can improve your product and better serve your users’ ever-evolving needs. Without an established process for capturing, reviewing, prioritizing, and following up on feature requests, your business can miss out on this valuable form of product input. Here are a few tips to help you start honing a repeatable feature request management process for your team.
Put All Your Feature Requests in a Central Location
Consistent feedback is the key to successful feature request management. And it’s difficult to remain consistent if you’re disorganized. You could keep everything housed in a spreadsheet, but it would likely end up siloed and in chaos, causing you more trouble than it was worth creating. Not to mention the difficulty of sustaining and scaling your operation if there’s limited visibility across teams.
One of the best ways to stay on top of all requests and user feedback is to use dedicated product feedback management software. This type of software centralizes the whole feature request and feedback process. By gathering all customer requests and feedback in one place, you can visualize, prioritize, and keep track of projects as they move through the product development lifecycle.
Discuss Customer Feedback as Part of the Product Development Process
When you receive a product feature request from a user, you should first run everything by the other relevant stakeholders so you can all determine the best course of action. After all, your team members may have a different interpretation of the request.
You and your team should talk through several questions before taking any action.
- Does our department have the resources to fulfill this feature request?
- Should we prioritize this specific request? Are there any other feature requests that, if developed, will provide a larger overall benefit?
- How relevant to our end-users is this feature? Is it a “would be nice to have” feature or a “need to have” one?
- Are there any obstacles to developing this feature?
Customer feedback is essential, but users can only see things from their own perspective. Since your customer support, sales, and product teams are directly in contact with your whole audience, they will be able to provide more realistic feedback about potential feature development.
Sharing end-user feedback with internal stakeholders is imperative to the feature request process. Not only does it keep your team focused on the needs of your target audience, but it also provides insights into customers’ feelings with regard to their requests and decisions. When discussing customer requests with all stakeholders—designers, developers, testers, sales reps, marketers, etc.—you should share any feedback associated with their specific part of the product. Additionally, by asking the questions above, it allows companies to put their resources toward the products and features that are most likely to succeed.
Determine How You Will Prioritize Feature Requests
There are countless documented feature prioritization frameworks out there today. Determining which features to include and exclude on your product roadmap may take a little bit of research. You can’t act on every request you receive, but you can ask yourself the right questions about requests you receive to determine which to table for now and which are worthy of further exploration.
Let’s start with the basics.
- Does the feature align with my organization’s product vision? Don’t lose sight of your product vision; it should shape every decision you make moving forward, so stick to it!
- Are users genuinely interested in the request? Are those who are making requests your target users? This question is key to protecting yourself from building one-off features that don’t add value to your broader user base.
- Will it improve my customers’ experience? When assessing the features you’re considering building, make sure they’re alleviating your users’ challenges or giving them new functionality to simplify their workflows.
- Is it trendy? Will this new feature stand the test of time and continually provide your users with unparalleled value? Or will it flop after a few months of use?
- Will it help achieve my business goals? Seems simple enough, but it’s important to revisit your business goals and align your product with them.
- Will it impact my organization’s revenue significantly? Are your product decisions and business objectives aligned?
You can quickly determine if the request is worth bringing further down the pipeline by using the basic assessment questions above. Next, it’s important to determine the workability and feasibility of the request by asking more tactical questions, like what is the total development effort? Assessing if your team has the bandwidth and resources is a quick way to weed out feature requests that require a lot of effort for low impact. Similarly, this assessment can help you identify high-impact, low-effort asks from users.
Communicate the Status of Requests to Stakeholders to Create a Feedback Loop
Responding to your users’ inquiries, challenges, and requests helps your business foster long-lasting relationships with your users and maintains an active feedback loop. However, when your team is juggling a large number of users and a variety of products, maintaining this loop isn’t always easy. To keep your feedback loop moving, follow these four steps:
- Acknowledge every feature request. Let your users know when you receive and file their feedback. All requests, big or small, deserve a response. It’s also a great way to earn brownie points and build a lasting relationship with your customers.
- Be transparent about your feature request process. Ask your users questions to understand their product use cases and pain points. If you have a documented feature request review process, share that with your users to help set expectations around what will become of their request, when they can expect to hear from you next, etc.
- Under promise and over deliver. Taking action doesn’t always mean adding a feature request to your product roadmap—you could offer users a workaround or send a knowledge base article instead.
- Learn to say “no.” Don’t be afraid to say “no” to functionality that does not align with your product vision, provide value to your target customers, or otherwise contribute to your product as a whole.
Being open about product and feature development not only suggests to your audience that you’re a customer-centric company, but it also helps to reduce churn. When customers can see what you’re working on and check for requested features, they’re more likely to stick around and give you the time you need to complete the job.
Popular Channels for Tracking Requests
Leveraging every feedback mechanism out there can become chaotic, but at the end of the day, the more opportunities you provide your users to share their thoughts, the more feedback your team will receive. Understanding the variety of user feedback channels is important, so here are a few feedback channels we encourage you to try out.
In-app feedback is the simplest and potentially highest-yielding feature request tracking channel of them all. By providing opportunities during an end-user’s workflow, you’ll capture real-time feedback instead of relying on users to share at a later time.
Feedback From Internal Teams
Customer-facing teams talk with users more than any other department, whether it’s during critical issues, onboarding or training, or even at the prospect level. Typically, users are more comfortable sharing their woes, challenges, and requests with these teams since the relationship is already built. The next step is ensuring that your customer-facing teams have a simple way to share the feedback straight from their customer meetings so nothing falls through the cracks.
Customer Advisory Boards
Customer advisory boards (CABs) are undeniably useful. Your users are the experts of your product, so putting them in a “room” together can yield some incredibly valuable insights, especially when it’s a varied group of professionals (not just executives or board members). By gathering an audience with unique perspectives—who are genuinely interested in your product and excited for your success—you can aggregate diverse, high-quality feedback and potentially turn your advisors into paying customers and brand advocates.
Feature Requests Are a Two-Way Street
Feature requests are a symbiotic relationship between an organization and its audience. When end-users make requests for product features, your team can soothe their pain points and make their requests a reality. In return, your customers help you keep your product cutting edge and useful to your core customers. Each party needs the other to succeed.
Ready to try a centralized feature request and feedback solution? Contact UserVoice for a free trial of our product management software. Discover how UserVoice can help you gather, aggregate, analyze, and follow through on feedback from your team and your customers.