Best Practices

Collaborating with customer success to create a great product feedback experience

Feedback can come from anywhere. And as most product managers (PMs) know, it usually feels like it’s coming from everywhere.

For early-stage software companies, this healthy influx of feedback can be a reassuring sign of stakeholder interest and a useful way to validate product decisions. When companies are small, the product team has the benefit of being nimble and easily collaborating with teams like customer success (CS) or enablement. 

But as organizations mature, managing all that feedback data at scale can quickly become overwhelming for PMs… unless you have the right systems and processes in place to help make sense of it all. An important—but often overlooked—element of that feedback management strategy? Leveraging the CS team’s expertise.

Hannah Chaplin (director, product marketing at Pendo) and Rebecca Notté (product operations manager) recently sat down to talk about how product and CS teams can better collaborate to create a great product feedback experience. They discussed the pain points both groups experience around feedback, why CS is a valuable resource for gathering actionable feedback, and how to build processes to empower your teams and scale your feedback engine.

Read on for the recap of Hannah and Rebecca’s discussion, or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the full recording of their chat.

Common feedback pain points

Historically, product and CS teams haven’t had the easiest time working together. And in the world of customer feedback, both groups face unique challenges.

Without a good triage process in place, product teams can quickly feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of feedback being sent their way—be it directly from customers and prospects or indirectly from internal stakeholders like sales and customer success managers (CSMs). 

For CS, the challenge comes with managing expectations and making sure the right requests get communicated to the product team. And as their customers’ primary points of contact, CSMs must also contend with relaying updates back from product. When they can’t confidently talk about the roadmap or explain why particular requests are or aren’t being addressed in the roadmap, CSMs are left with uncomfortable conversations that can erode trust—and ultimately impact their customers’ renewal intent.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

CS is a goldmine of knowledge

Collaborating with CS is a great way for product to tap into a wealth of knowledge and context that direct customer feedback alone can’t provide.

CSMs hear about customer pains all the time, and thus are a direct line to understanding users and their needs. Because CSMs hear feedback from customers first-hand (a luxury that’s not often afforded to PMs), they can help product identify which data points are actually blockers impacting feature adoption vs. which are gaps in enablement or minor issues that may not warrant development resources.

The CS team is also the best advocate for the Voice of the Customer (VoC). They can provide useful direction to help product determine which customer groups to really listen to; share valuable insight into customer sentiment; and help product inform, validate, and prioritize initiatives based on the anecdotal feedback they’re hearing from customers.

Alignment with CS can also take a lot of heavy lifting off the product team. CSMs serve as champions for the product by helping customers get the most value from the products they’ve purchased—freeing up PMs to focus on building and optimizing features, rather than “selling” them. CSMs also provide valuable context to help PMs get to the root of requests more efficiently—helping the product team better understand customer pain points so they can build more impactful solutions, faster.

How to create a product feedback process

Creating a product feedback process doesn’t have to be daunting. Hannah and Rebecca suggest starting small—and remembering that processes are there to help you grow and scale your feedback program in a consistent and repeatable way.

Step 1: Get your feedback data in one place
It may seem simple, but the most important step you can take in establishing a feedback process is consolidating all your feedback into a single platform or system. Bringing all this information together in one place—and tracking where it came from—helps you maintain the integrity of your data and identify the value of each request (i.e. a request from a paid vs. free user). Compiling your feedback data in this way also allows you to assess emerging themes in aggregate, so you can easily spot trends and opportunities for improvement.

Step 2: Agree on a process with CS
Creating a feedback process in tandem with CS also allows you to gain valuable insight into customer behaviors that you might otherwise miss—adding context to the feedback and better informing your product strategy. Create a forum for product and CS to regularly sync up on customer feedback. This will keep everyone on the same page and help equip the CS team with a clear product narrative they can share with their customers.

Step 3: Create a Product Feedback Policy
Just as successful support organizations use SLAs (service level agreements) to set clear expectations with customers, feedback programs need Product Feedback Policies to show customers how their feedback is managed and used. A Product Feedback Policy is also a great tool for demonstrating how much the organization values customer feedback, and can be used to encourage customers to keep sharing their thoughts.

Product feedback top tips

Hannah and Rebecca wrapped up their conversation with a few best practices to help product and CS teams create great product feedback experiences.

  • Partner with CS
    Think of them as an extension of your product team. Lean on their deep customer insight and expertise to augment product feedback and inform the roadmap.
  • Align around a clear and shared feedback process
    This helps ensure your CS team (and their customers) feel heard, and gives product the valuable data they need to continually improve the product.
  • Empower the CS team
    Enable CS to confidently talk to customers about the product vision and roadmap. Keep them updated on what’s being built in-quarter, what’s in discovery, and what’s on the horizon.

Watch the full recording of Hannah and Rebecca’s conversation to learn even more tips and best practices for unifying CS and product around feedback: