How CS teams can more effectively leverage customer feedback

Written by Pippa Armes  | 

7 min

 

When it comes to collecting product feedback from customers, many people assume that it’s the sole responsibility of the product team (it’s in the name, after all). But in reality, product feedback actually touches all areas of the business—and it’s often customer-facing teams who are best equipped to help gather and add context to it.

So why do so many customer success (CS) teams still feel so disconnected from the product feedback process? 

Historically, the management and activation of product feedback has left customer success managers (CSMs) feeling somewhat disempowered. Without a unified view of the feedback that’s coming in—and an understanding of where it’s going and what’s being done with it—customer-facing teams can easily feel left in the dark, or as if they’re operating in silos. This leaves them feeling like they have no say in the product’s direction or strategy, and can even leave them feeling under-informed about the product (and at the mercy of some very uncomfortable, yet easily avoidable, conversations with customers).

But here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be this way.

Hannah Chaplin (Director, Pendo Feedback) and Rebecca Notté (Product Operations Manager) recently sat down to discuss how CS teams can more effectively leverage customer feedback, and shared simple strategies to get CSMs and product managers (PMs) working better, together. Read on for the recap, or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the recording of their conversation.

 

Why CSMs are perfectly positioned to help manage customer feedback

CSMs are uniquely positioned to help gather and follow up on customer feedback. 

In a single day, a CSM may hear from an array of users across segments and industries, giving them a broad view into all the ways customers are engaging with the product—as well as where they’re getting stuck or experiencing pains. Plus, CSMs have a frontline view into their customers’ sentiment, and visibility into what areas or issues with the product might be putting renewals at risk or signaling a likelihood of churn. CSMs can also add valuable qualitative context to the product team’s quantitative data (like user analytics), giving both teams a richer and more complete understanding of the customer experience, and empowering them to make data-informed product decisions.

 

How to banish the black hole of feedback

The key to creating a healthy and sustainable feedback engine is by adding a little bit of process. Aligning your CS and product organizations around how customer feedback is collected, used, and communicated back leads to better decision-making; creates transparency; and ultimately builds trust with customers. Here’s how to start.

1. Get your feedback data in one place

If your data is spread throughout multiple platforms or management systems, there’s no way to spot trends or identify themes—and you’re far more likely to feel overwhelmed and therefore never use the feedback you’ve collected. In other words, you get stuck in a vicious cycle of ignoring the data and leaving it to get lost in the dreaded feedback black hole.

When it comes to finding the right place to house all the feedback your CS team collects, start by having a conversation with your product team. Are you a small organization that only needs something like a spreadsheet or Trello board to get started? Or does a more comprehensive system like Pendo Feedback fit the bill?

While having a centralized feedback hub is crucial for identifying trends and themes, it’s also extremely valuable for collecting one-off or “fringe” requests. Documenting these lesser-known areas for improvement helps you keep an eye out for similar comments down the road, and can serve as a rich source of inspiration the product team may not otherwise have considered.

2. Agree on a process with your product teams

Work with the product team to establish a clear feedback management and sharing process that allows you to keep a steady pulse on your customers’ feedback. This is also a good opportunity to consider what CS-related data might be interesting or useful in helping the product team prioritize the roadmap, based on what you know your customers care about most. For example, you can help the product team understand whether a specific feature request is urgent and far-reaching, causing several accounts to become at-risk vs. a cosmetic or nice-to-have feature request that isn’t mission-critical for your customers.

It’s important to set up a regular cadence to check in with the product team and discuss the feedback you’re receiving—even just 30 minutes once a week or every other week is a great place to start. As a CSM, also be sure to ask for enablement on how to speak to the product roadmap. Having a clear sense of what’s in the product pipeline (and why) readies you to have more productive business discussions and executive reviews with your customers, and helps them feel heard and cared for.

3. Write and share a product feedback policy

A product feedback policy is a critical element of any good Voice of the customer (VoC) or customer feedback program. It ensures that everyone (both internal team members and customers alike) understands how they can submit feedback, why their feedback matters, and how their feedback will be managed and used. Setting these clear expectations up front goes a long way towards creating accountability, mitigating potential confusion or frustration, and building trust.

If you’d like to create your own product feedback policy, try starting with this template and reviewing Pendo’s take on product feedback.

 

Tactical tips to make the most of your feedback process

Hannah and Rebecca wrapped up their conversation by sharing a few tips to help CS teams make the most of their customer feedback process.

  • Think like a PM
    Do some digging, ask good questions (try to get to the “why”), and set clear expectations with your customers about how their feedback will be used—and why it matters.
  • Help PMs feel at ease
    Don’t hold PMs accountable to all of your customer demands. Act as an extension of the product team and help communicate to your customers why things are (or aren’t) being built.
  • Bring data to the table
    Be on the lookout for common themes and trends in your feedback data—and don’t just give in to the loudest voices in the room. Surface insights, like ARR associated with specific customers or requests, to the product team to help inform and guide their roadmapping decisions.
  • Remember the context of customer feedback
    Recognize that there are a lot of inputs that impact product decisions, not just what you’re hearing from customers. For example: market trends, prospect feedback, internal feedback, and product strategy.
  • Don’t respond to every request
    Log requests in one place and clearly communicate what your PMs are building back to your customers—but remember that it’s impossible to act on every single request at scale (and keep in mind that your customers don’t expect you to!).

 

For even more advice for CS teams looking to make the most of customer feedback, watch the full recording of Hannah and Rebecca’s webinar: