What works to manage and keep customers updated about product enhancement requests?

Options
Brian O'Keeffe
Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 205 Expert
First Anniversary Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Comment
edited March 2023 in Customer Journey

I have been in the software sector for many years and have yet to see a well organized, customer friendly way to keep customers updated on a regular basis efficiently, and with solid customer facing, timely updates about their product enhancement requests.

How do we welcome product enhancement requests and keep customers updated on the progress when:

We know most will never make it into the product.

The requests that do will often take months, even years, to get into a build.

Often they come in the form of support tickets or other interactions that are closed or managed according to a strict timeline. (I was all for keeping cases open for years, if necessary, to track the progress but other groups were opposed, noting it would kill a number of key metrics they are measured on.)

What do you do?

What works?

What does not?

I would love to hear from you! Share your experiences?

Tagged:

Comments

  • Javed Maqsood
    Javed Maqsood Member Posts: 31 Contributor
    First Anniversary 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes First Comment
    Options

    Hi Brian - Why would you solicit product feedback ideas if you know the turnaround time would be either long or it will never make it? You should definitely revisit that practice with leadership.

    Other ways of notifying and addressing this with customers -

    • Make it available as part of the portal that the customer has access to. I have seen this work in my previous life.
    • Set expectation with them that these feature enhancements typically take a while to be considered and worked into the product. After a while, customers usually stop bothering you which is also not a good practice.
    • Also, some of these features are looked as feedback for a larger release / newer version etc.

    There is really no good messaging about this to customers if your product team is not doing their part. Customer expectation management around product enhancements has to be a team sport and you should not expected to hold the dirty laundry on your own.

    Javed

    Javed Maqsood
    Advisor, Mentor
  • Amanda Watson
    Amanda Watson Member, CS Leader Posts: 31 Expert
    First Anniversary Photogenic 5 Likes
    Options

    Hi Brian,

    Great topic!

    We receive a large amount of customer feedback, often unsolicited. We are evaluating ways to close the feedback loop and become more transparent with our product roadmap.

    We are close to deploying a new customer community which will have an ideation feature. We hope to drive a lot of feedback there for upvotes, downvotes, comments, etc. and provide more transparency into enhancement timelines.

    I am interested to hear more from others about their customer feedback strategies.

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 205 Expert
    First Anniversary Photogenic 5 Insightfuls First Comment
    edited March 2023
    Options

    @Amanda Watson Moving all requests and updates, via subscription options, to the community was the most successful and least amount of complications. Making sure all product updates announcements are community posts is a key to making that work.

    The problem I am trying to solve is as follows:

    There are many channels for customer feedback that result in product enhancement requests. All end up in the same place. Currently that is productboard.

    Product enhancement requests rarely result in a change. Most are rejected. It is easy when it is rejected right away, provide that update, no soft soaping it.

    Many are put on a possibilities list, that may work there way into the product over time. Months, even years go by and even then many end up never making it. Or priorities change and the planned inclusion gets pushed, over and over. How do you provide updates when the update may be "under consideration" (over and over) followed by "not moving forward" which leads to what I call the boulevard of broken dreams? Years worth of a zombie like update tend to turn customers into detractors. Or the submitter is long gone, but it might still be important to the business needs of the organization. Or they no longer recall it and it is not tied to the original method of the request that gives it the context needed to comprehend the update? (re: Added to support ticket in 2020, logged in product board in 2020, ticket closed in 2020, rolled into a build in 2023 with schedule release in 2024.)

    I have experience moving them all to the community, under the ideas banner: all submissions are entered and ranked (behind the scenes) and, customers can vote on them (the votes are carefully watched by the product team and the highest vote getters get prioritized!) and all are responded to publicly by the product team with a lot of interaction. All updates are in the threads and all larger updates start in the community as a post. Users can subscribe to threads and general updates. I found this easiest to manage of all solutions and fairly higher level of customer satisfaction. Though even this has some holes and puts the onus on the customer to subscribe.

  • Chitra Madhwacharyula
    Chitra Madhwacharyula Member Posts: 20 Contributor
    First Anniversary Photogenic GGR Blogger 2023 5 Insightfuls
    Options

    For our strategic customers with dedicated CSMs, the CSMs review key product enhancement requests in monthly calls and also in Strategic Business Reviews if needed. We especially call out all the requests that have been fulfilled since it underlines our commitment to be a good partner for these key customers. Customers also get an update regarding their product enhancement requests, bugs, new releases and other info in their monthly status reports. These reports are in a standard format and automatically generated by our in house tool and very visual and easy to read. We also introduced custom customer portals for our biggest customers which contain all relevant info to those customers in one place, including their product requests info. This is especially helpful for big customers with multiple teams working with us on different projects, each of which need access to similar info from us.

    Chitra Madhwacharyula

    Customer and Partner Success Executive

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/chitramadhwacharyula

    Author of 'Scaling Customer Success': https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-1-4842-9192-4