How to Scale Product Feedback for PMs (2 of 3)
The power of the feedback loop is in using real customer data to justify product decisions. A reporting channel can sometimes focus too much on “what the numbers are saying.” It can be easy to allow the data to blind us to the fact that customers are real people. They can offer insights that go beyond the data. Your customers can articulate and aid in understanding the full picture behind the data.
As an organization grows, it needs to balance and blend what the data is showing with what customers are actually thinking. By tying specific feedback to customers you are personalizing the feedback and reminding your colleagues that these are people like them.
Scaling Product Feedback Effectively
To scale product feedback effectively, it needs to be an ongoing and centralized process. Capturing the feedback once, sporadically or inconsistently makes it difficult for stakeholders to understand whether progress is being made. It can also lead to bad practices that can derail progress.
Make sure that the process is easily accessible by all parties involved. A branded online community is an excellent platform for this. This way, you can include everyone from customers to stakeholders and management and it removes as many barriers to entry as possible.
They’ll get to interact directly with your team, and stand a better chance at being a catalyst for change.
Customers need to see that the product feedback community is comprehensive. It needs to thoroughly represent your various customers and stakeholders. For those customers, ensure you are capturing and encouraging feedback from using the product directly and indirectly.
A developer might have a very different experience with the product than an end user, or even for a user that uses the product in a very specific way.
For stakeholders, consider those on the front line and ways to overcome recency bias. They should have an easy way to log the feedback (especially if it is being given at speed over the phone), and to connect back to the customers and prospects that want to influence the roadmap.
A Real-World Example of Customer-Powered Product Feedback – Cireson
Cireson is a leading consultant on the Microsoft cloud system and platform. They’ve been using online communities to connect with their customers since 2015. And community-borne customer feedback is the backbone of their product roadmap. You can check out their case study here.
Cireson has centralized their feature requests, and the discussion about their products, in an online community. They’ve also divided those requests into specific categories. Users get to vote on the ones they feel will be most useful, which informs the product team as to how crucial each specific request is to the community.
At the top of each page, they set expectations for their forum members. Check out the screenshot below. You’ll see this at the top of the top of each of their category pages for feature requests. This management of expectations goes a long way towards ensuring that everyone knows what to do, and what to expect.
Here’s a great, and possibly unexpected benefit, of this type of community. Often, someone will have a feature request that can be addressed by either a Cireson community manager, or even a community member. This reduces the need for new development, and it keeps customers engaged and satisfied.
How to Leverage Community-Powered Product Feedback
A centralized online community offers a way to centralize the incoming product feedback. The information can be aggregated, compared, and managed. It’s time to walk away from spreadsheets and isolated document production and embrace a single system.
A community offers a way to capture ALL feedback both from customers, internal stakeholders and management. It can be the heartbeat of your organization, becoming a central hub for knowledge and insight that you can manage.
It also allows comprehensive visibility levels that can be customized to the needs of the organisation. For example, you are able to split out which feedback is from customers and which from internal stakeholders. It becomes easy to know which customers the ideas originally comes from, track and share accordingly.
Community therefore allows you to break down visibility options and areas into useful compartments such as:
Stakeholders – private rooms
These can be private, not only from other customers but by seniority level. They could be opened to management at the right time so their time is managed effectively by looking at the key outputs.
Consider the value of being able to invite or open key private rooms to escalating levels of seniority right at the moment that they are needed. Their time is optimised but they are still able to go back through the product ideation history should they wish. It’s all centrally held and trackable.
Customers – open at various levels
Not only does this become the main repository for feedback, but the community is able to offer such things as a Customer Advisory Board, or to tier customers by use case or user type.
This becomes extremely important when operating at scale. Much like stakeholder private rooms you are able to bring the right people to the right feedback and iteration at the right time.
In both examples each action can be tied back to specific sources and used as data points to explain decisions to all stakeholders. As ideation develops, powerful options such as grouping ideas by merging or moving allow a fluidity that mirrors the needs of the organisation.
You can offer suggestions of similar feedback to those providing it so they can vote on the ideas. You are also able to control what your customers see and ensure that the feedback loop is complete by sharing outputs with them as and when needed.
In our next blog, we will take a look at the critical success factors to consider when looping in customer feedback with internal stakeholders feedback.
For now, if you are looking for additional resources, check these out!
- For executives: Why Product Leaders Should Care About Community – Webinar
- For product teams: How to Build a Product Community From Scratch – Webinar
- For product managers: The Complete eBook: Managing Product Feedback at Scale