Software applications are the bread and butter for a SaaS company. The more value customers receive from the software, the more the SaaS business grows.
Great software then, needs to deliver great value to its customers. It must also continually evolve to meet the ever increasing demands of customers and the product must scale as the customer base grows.
It means that the product must be well architected to facilitate functional evolution as well as enable the software to scale.
To achieve the former, it is essential to regularly incorporate customer feedback into the product roadmap. To achieve the latter, it is imperative that the SaaS company rigorously upholds the integrity of its product by controlling its architecture.
To add to this tension, customer success and support have a vested interest in customer feedback being incorporated into the roadmap while delivering solid architecture is what development focuses on.
These varied and dynamic parameters have a significant impact on the product development lifecycle, as well as the customer success and support processes.
If not managed properly a SaaS company can spiral into an ever increasing cycle of reactive customer escalations, and the integrity of the product can be compromised by these continual interruptions to development.
The challenge then for SaaS companies is how to incorporate large amounts of feedback to maintain relevance to customers and address their issues, while preserving product direction and control?
The answer lies in providing customers with solutions that can be achieved with the product as it exists currently, and incorporating aggregated feedback into the roadmap to address the most frequently occurring customer issues.
Offering viable solutions with the existing product reduces the number of requests that development needs to review leaving them with more uninterrupted time to work on core development. It protects the product roadmap.
Incorporating aggregated customer feedback into the roadmap addresses the most frequently occurring customer issues eliminating them for Customer Success and Support to handle. It is responsive to customer inquiries.
This balance between aggregating customer feedback and protecting the product roadmap is what allows SaaS companies to accomplish both evolution and scale.
How is this balance achieved?
For SaaS companies to effectively achieve this balance they must:
Provide Solutions the Existing Product Supports: Customer Success and Support need to first understand what outcome the customer is trying to achieve and then offer solutions that the product can support today, not automatically pass through product requests to development.
Incorporate Development into the Customer Solutioning Process: When development assistance is required, they need to promptly triage the escalated request (issue, feature or bug) and either outline a solution the product can support, or offer a high-level estimate of if and when the request will make it into the roadmap. This allows customer facing teams to respond back in a timely manner and engage in a dialog with the customer to address their needs.
Aggregate Customer Feedback: Customer Support needs to consolidate their top reported customer issues and report the findings to Product Management. The list should be prioritized and indicate the impact a fix would have on the customer base as a whole. NPS results and anecdotal feedback via Customer Success should also be incorporated to validate trends.
Allow Customer Success & Support to Influence Roadmap: Customer facing teams must have a say in the product roadmap. They represent the voice of the customer within the organization and keep the product evolving to meet customer demands. Customer Success and Support ensure that items that improve product adoption and retention are also on the roadmap.
As a SaaS company grows, so too will the demands on the product.
To successfully meet the ever increasing needs of the customer base, the product must be architected to evolve as customers do, and it must scale.
The natural tension between resolving customer issues to make adoption easier and smoother, while ensuring that customers do not inadvertently drive product architecture will always exist.
The most effective way to balance between these often competing needs is to implement a closed loop customer feedback system.
When closed loop feedback is conducted as a regular course of business customers receive answers to their inquiries effectively and in a timely manner. Customer facing teams operate more efficiently focusing on business outcomes and development is left with more time to focus on the product roadmap. That’s good business for everyone.