I'd love to get this community's thoughts on the role of CS as it pertains to Product development, r

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Kyle Bennett
Kyle Bennett Member Posts: 8 Contributor

 

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  • Jay Nathan
    Jay Nathan Member Posts: 108 Expert
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    edited May 2020
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    I've always thought of the CS team as a "front end" to Product Management. At one of my last companies, my CS team (composed of Support, Client Services/Implementation, CS Management) we kept a master list of product enhancement requests across our customers. 

    Before we took anything to product, we prioritized our asks within my teams, then took the top requests in a unified way to Product. Having formerly been in product management, I'm empathetic to the prioritization calculus that they are faced with. There will always be more to do than there is capacity for. 

    At that company and others, it helps to have a repository for customer requests so that they can be managed. I've used Zendesk and UserVoice for this in the past, and of course, in one case Google Sheets :-(

    It's important to be able to manage these items separately as they have a different workflow than a typical support case. Follow up is important with a clear "yes, this is in" or "this is not currently in our plan."

  • Kyle Bennett
    Kyle Bennett Member Posts: 8 Contributor
    edited May 2020
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    @Jay Nathan love this insight! Did the CS team invite product managers/owners into calls with clients and if so, did product acquiesce? I can think of nothing more important to product ownership than a chance to talk directly to customers... but I could also be biased. 

  • Jay Nathan
    Jay Nathan Member Posts: 108 Expert
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    edited May 2020
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    Yes. Definitely. 

    However... If product is on a call and the customer knows it, then there's an implied expectation that we'll be making a product change. 

    Expectation-setting around product feedback and needs is critical. I've found that most of the time customers don't understand our product development processes. And they shouldn't really have to.

    On the flip side, if a product is working on a specific development theme, they should be actively seeking input from customers who are known to have that need / use case. CS can identify good candidates for and facilitate those discussions.

    Two common things that happen are: 

    1. CSMs become emotionally attached to individual customer needs ahead of product strategy and roadmap direction
    2. Product plans and builds in a vacuum without enough customer and broader market feedback into the problems they are solving

    Neither one is okay. 

    Product (in conjunction with the exec team) needs to lead from the front on strategy and direction. Customer success needs to advocate for customer needs, but also advocate and communicate effectively to the customer about the company strategy. 

    Two-way street. Alignment and leadership on both the CS and Product side is critical.

    (Way more than you asked for... this is an area I'm passionate about!)

     

  • Kyle Bennett
    Kyle Bennett Member Posts: 8 Contributor
    edited May 2020
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    Your passion is exactly what I was looking for! 

    100% correct on the two common threads - and neither being okay. It's interesting how companies guard their product development processes like a secret sauce. Honestly, some really successful companies actually market the way they build their product as a key differentiator (Spotify comes to mind). 

    One thing I've always thought was helpful was including customers in a user-community. Moderated of course, but allowing customers to talk to each other and then including that broader community in product discussions. You've pointed out something that's incredibly important, however, and that's the expectations around the purpose and outcomes of these user groups. Often times you can leverage these user-groups in a beta/early adopter cohort and that also allows for a more partner-esque feel to the development of roadmap features coming from clients as well. It opens the lines of communication for things like, "We really liked your suggestion, but when we looked at the broader user-base and where we want to lead the market, we made a few changes and here's what they are and why we made them..." 

  • Dan Maldonado
    Dan Maldonado Member Posts: 12 Contributor
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    edited May 2020
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    Loving this thread! At my previous company (Procore), I essentially sat in between CS and Product so was able to see first hand how the two orgs can collaborate. 

    Agree with most of what has been said so far. In addition to prioritizing requests before being brought to Product, my team also circulated surveys to our teams (CS, Support, Implementation, Sales) to also see if we saw different priorities coming from each role. We brought the results to Product knowing that it wouldn't necessarily change the roadmap, but it would lead to some insightful conversations.  

    Since it was brought up - @Jay Nathan do you have a preference on which customer feedback forum to use? We had UserVoice at Procore and am now in the process of looking for a solution for an early stage startup. Happy to move this to another thread if that makes more sense too!

  • Andreas Knoefel
    Andreas Knoefel Member Posts: 74 Expert
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    edited May 2020
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     Adding to @Jay Nathan 's great response with more on the why:

    Existing customers generate the bulk of the revenue. Unfortunately too many exec's heard the quotes from Steve Jobs and Henry Ford to ignore your customer's needs and boldly go where noone has gone before, and establish an isolated ecosystem between Marketing, Sales, and Product, disconnected from your revenue base.

    I had used many of the tactics described above and provided all the inputs, yet the roadmap decisions were made without CS consideration. That changed when I tied my requests to dollars at risk. This also dampens the risk that we in CS become so loyal to our customers, we lose focus of the bigger picture, and yell loud because our customers do so to us. Then we are no-value add messengers, a costly way of getting customer feedback.