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How to Build an Accurate Product Roadmap with Customer Feedback

Written by Kayla Brehm | Nov 16, 2015 9:01:02 PM

Customer experience is everything at Help.com. If our customers aren’t happy, we aren’t either. One of the most important parts of customer success at Help.com is making sure that the voice of our customer is heard and acted on.

Getting valuable feedback from customers is essential in developing a product that truly fits their needs. Without a good rapport with customers that enables them to be honest with you–and you honest with them–you’ll develop in isolation or, worse yet, based off of dishonest feedback because a relationship based in trust wasn’t established early on. The end result in those situations: a product that doesn’t help the majority of your users.

Our team at Help has made getting customer feedback a cornerstone of our development methodology. We’ve built relationships with our customers that allow for a constant flow of communication. Through open communication and good relationships are a great start to be sure, we recently decided to take it a step further.

What did we do? Rather than just collect feedback, we implemented a suggestion board where customers can create, vote, and comment on ideas. Thanks to our suggestion board our customers collaborate on ideas not only with us, but with each other, and as a result, become invested in our product development.

So why have we implemented a suggestion board?

Suggestion boards allow your team to collect immediate feedback from your customers. What are their pain points? Are there any gaps in your product?

This question is better answered by your customers than your QA team.

With this data, your team can prioritize product development based on what will help your customers. At Help, we’ve been closely following the top posts that have been upvoted or highly commented on in our suggestion board. This lets us know where most of our customers might be struggling and their comments really help us really understand their needs.

We’ve always been strong about communicating with customers but one of the biggest advantages of the suggestion board is that customers can now add or upvote ideas at any time, not just when we’re talking with them. It also enables customers to check out other company’s ideas and vote on them, ensuring that we’re building something that will make their lives and their customers lives better. Not only do they know that we’re invested in them, but it allows our customers to be invested in us.

It’s a win-win.

 

What were we doing before?

Prior to our public board, we were using Trello to gather feedback. The Trello board allowed us to create a roadmap of sorts where we categorized feature ideas and the sources of each suggestion.

This was very useful in the beginning, since it allowed us to see ideas as they were coming in. One of the best features of Trello is its agile capability. We considered each idea and moved them into lists like “future implementation” and “current roadmap” accordingly.

As we grew, we realized Trello was limited in its scope and did not let us fully see the value of certain features over others, nor did it allow customers to see the suggestions made by other companies.

Since it was for internal use only, our customers weren’t able to collaborate with each other.  Without these interactions, we couldn’t get a full view of how all customers could potentially benefit from an individual idea, nor were we able to understand the scope of the potential utility of a feature.

 

How did we implement a suggestion board?

Our team did extensive research on potential suggestion boards that would allow us to customize the board to our brand. Most importantly, we wanted the board to allow customers to easily create ideas, vote, and comment on them. In the end, our team went with Aha!.

3 key reasons why:

  1. Aha! has a great transfer feature that enabled a smooth transition from Trello. It also gave us the ability to categorize each suggestion, which makes it much simpler to bundle interrelated ideas. By categorizing ideas, customers can easily search for suggestion based on particular functionality, simplifying their voting and commenting process.
  1. The suggestion board also has functionality for customers to add, upvote, or comment on an idea, with only an email required. The ease of access is very important to our team, since we want our customers to be able to leave feedback without jumping through too many hoops.
  1. Once the ideas were up on the board and customers started to upvote them, we could easily search through the “most popular” to view the most upvoted ideas. More importantly, we could leave comments as “administrators” to give our own feedback on our customer’s ideas. In this way, our customers not only leave feedback, but they know that we’re actively considering their suggestion.

 

What are the results so far?

Though we have only had the suggestion board up and running for about a month, we’ve already gotten useful results that we can use to not only improve our product, but improve the overall customer experience.

Because we’ve built relationships with our customers on trust and communication, they’ve been immediately receptive to leaving feedback.

We quickly noticed that ideas that had been suggested by some customers became popular ideas among others who hadn’t thought of the benefits those ideas could bring.

One of our customers suggested that we improve desktop notifications for new chats so that they are more obvious. This was a suggestion that was originally only brought up by a single customer, but once it was public on our suggestion board, it quickly became popular. Many other customers upvoted the idea and commented on how we can best implement the feature.

Without the suggestion board, we might have never realized that improved desktop notifications could significantly benefit a large subset of our users. With the feedback on the suggestion board, our team has implemented a plan to improve notifications.

We are still in the early stages of gathering feedback, so our team is just beginning to benefit from our customer’s collectively shared ideas. What we do know is that the suggestion board will help us determine our development roadmap.

 

How can a suggestion board help other teams?

Suggestion boards can benefit all teams–especially those who are growing and who may look to their customers to help improve their product. If your team wants to gather feedback, you can start by asking a few key questions:

  • What kind of feedback are you looking for? If you want your customers to not only give you feedback, but to actively contribute ideas to better your product, then a suggestion board may be the way to go.
  • Do you already have an internal system for gathering suggestions? If so, try adding those ideas to the customer facing suggestion board that you create. Customers are more willing to create and upvote suggestions if they see existing activity.
  • How do you want your customers to access the suggestion board? Will a link be placed on your site or your app, or will you email it to specific customers from whom you’d like to gather feedback?

Every team is different and every product provides its own challenges, so it’s up to you and your team to decide what is the best way to implement a suggestion board. You’ll want to make sure that you set it up for success so that customers are happy to leave valuable feedback.

Likewise, it is also very important to make sure that you set up the board so that there is great ease of access for your customers. Creating categories, allowing your customers to view the most popular ideas, and making it searchable are key.

If your customers feel comfortable navigating the board, they’re more likely to contribute. After all, you want your customers to spend their valuable time contributing to the suggestion, not trying to figure out where to put their suggestion.

It’s important to give it time to develop results. Feedback won’t be accumulated immediately and it will be difficult to determine patterns without giving it time to collect data. Wait for your customers to leave enough feedback so that you can determine which suggestions are the most important to your customer base as a whole. At Help, though we’ve already have suggestions that we’ll act on based on consistent feedback, we’re still waiting to gather more comments and upvotes before we act on others.

We want our customers to have a voice, and our suggestion board will act as a living document that we’ll use to listen to those voices for developing and improving our product. Whether it’s Aha!, Uservoice, or even a Google Doc, giving our customers a way to communicate not only with us but with each other has been tremendously helpful in creating a development plan that will be useful to our customers.