Product (product management, development, QA) “owns” the roadmap and needs to protect its integrity.
Sales wants additional items in their briefcase to sell.
Customer Success wants the product to be intuitive and easy to use for efficient adoption and ongoing usage.
Support wants customer escalations, bugs and features to be resolved to meet their SLA’s (service level agreements) and deflect similar requests in the future.
The Customer wants to realize their business outcomes, ideally, without noticing that the product is even there (i.e. that it just works and delivers results).
This tug of war where everyone is vying for something from the product places a natural tension on the product roadmap.
If not managed properly, this tension is a real threat to a business as it can erode the utility of the product and the user experience.
A company needs to maintain the integrity of its product in order to deliver on the value proposition and continue to innovate, but it also needs to incorporate customer feedback to ensure the product is continually in demand and easy to sell, use and support.
How does a company protect its ability to advance the product but not detach itself from the reality of how it’s being used?
The answer lies with a customer centric closed loop feedback model.
I specifically note the word “model” because closed loop feedback cannot just be a ticketing channel collecting product issues, bugs and feature requests.
This often does nothing more than a create an ever-increasingly expensive list of product requests that form a “black hole” backlog which Product cannot get to.
A closed loop feedback model must be a mode of operation within the business which involves all of the actors so that the right balance of product innovation and user experience is achieved.
The SaaS company must own the roadmap and continue to develop innovation that will drive business outcomes that benefits customers.
The customer’s feedback must be heard to ensure that any disconnect between product design and actual user experience is kept to a bare minimum.
The key to doing this is aggregated feedback and keeping the context of the customer’s journey in mind.
Too often I see SaaS companies trying to address individual customer requests in isolation and in a new manner.
It is not scalable and causes a lot of disruption to the roadmap.
With the inclusion of anecdotal feedback from CSM’s, Support should be responsible for stepping back and looking at all the requests coming in and aggregating common trends that they feed back to Product.
Rather than solely escalating individual requests, Support can become a partner to Product by grouping inquiries into common themes that inhibit product adoption.
This provides Product with the larger context of user experience within a customer environment (which is typically missing to determine the right, holistic solution) and come up with product advances that address the larger concerns at play as a whole.
It also allows Product to maintain the integrity of the application rather than scrambling to address each (often mutually exclusive) request.
There is effort and organizational structure involved in this, hence the need for a model.
Resources able to pull themes from aggregated customer input, as well as resources able to construct roadmap plans and develop product to innovate and improve the user experience are required.
As are the processes and tools to support these roles in their work.
Finally, the context of the customer’s journey is also vitally important.
It provides the business context of how and what customers are doing with the product that acts as the benchmark against which aggregated themes can be identified.
Various stakeholders have various requirements for the product.
This natural tension is healthy to keep the product innovative and meeting the evolving needs of customers.
If not managed properly however, these often-competing requests for Product’s time can erode away at the integrity of the product and churn the company down to a grinding halt.
To accomplish the required balance, create a closed loop feedback model that contemplates the customer’s journey so that the business and user context guides the product roadmap.