During one of my daily peruses of the tech Twitter-sphere, I came across a tweet I feel should be plastered on the walls of every single product organization ever.
Tight and continuous feedback loops with real customers is common in great products. Stop debating and start validating #Prodmgmt
— Karan Peri (@karanperi) June 29, 2017
Yeah, we all know feedback will forever be critical to product orgs, but how feedback is ‘looped’ to product teams is just as integral. If feedback is not reaching your product team and/or not continuously, you seriously risk stunting your product (and organizational) growth. So how do you transfer feedback to your product team in a “tight and continuous” manner?
Meet part of Roadmunk’s customer success team. They’ve set up an effective customer feedback loop here (#proudcolleaguealert). When they’re not doing a fun photoshoot for our blog, they’re our front-line; the middle-women between customers and Roadmunk. We’ve got Steph, a Customer Success Manager, who manages client accounts. Main duties include upselling, maintaining retention and contract renewals. Michelle, another CSM, takes on more of a training role to get customers up-to-speed on releases or updates. And then there’s Kait—our User Support Specialist. She’s all about diagnosing customer inquiries as user errors, product issues or bugs.
I enlisted the women of CS to explain how we’ve set up an effective customer feedback loop here at Roadmunk so that our product team can make the most of user feedback. Here’s a breakdown of our feedback loop at Roadmunk.
Step 1: Collecting user feedback
The first thing you’ll need for a customer feedback loop is some, well, feedback. There are more than a few ways (and tools) for capturing feedback to send to product teams.
Intercom that ish
Intercom is the biggest tool for our CS team in terms of gathering feedback. It’s the hub that collects all of our support tickets, customer conversations, emails, user information, questions—you name it. It’s a customer success (and organizational) lifeline. And at the forefront of the tool is Kait.
As the “diagnoser” (a nickname I really think she should consider), Kait is the first to encounter customer feedback. “Feedback falls into my lap, because I’m the first point of contact,” she explains. “They write in and I’m the first to see on Intercom if they’re happy or not and what they want improved. Then I’ll dive in—just asking a bunch of questions. What purpose will this feature request serve?How beneficial would it be? Would it be a deciding factor for you as a user?”
Intercom isn’t just Kait’s domain, though. The rest of the CS team is also always keeping an eye on tickets/comments/concerns that might be relevant to their accounts or something they’ve addressed before (it’s actually a policy at Roadmunk that ANYONE can jump on support at anytime). With a tagging system in place that classifies Intercom conversations and messages based on feature requests, bugs, feedback and more, the team tracks and classifies all incoming feedback in a neat, organized manner that they can transfer over to product.
The old-fashioned way (i.e. phone calls and in-person)
Our CS team isn’t the hide-behind-their-screens type; ‘traditional’ outreach via human interaction is a must. As Steph puts it: “The most effective way to gather customer feedback is always hopping on the phone with them. Or even better, in person. Because for us that’s where you can create a real relationship with the client. And that’s where the real feedback comes from.” (Or as Kait likes to say, “Being honest without just complaining.”)
“We try to have a regular cadence with our clients. When we set up meetings, whether it’s a training session or a regular quarterly call with them, we’ll get their feedback,” says Steph. “Face-to-face is the best and second is on the phone talking to them. In person or over the phone, you can really dig and ask why. Whereas by email, you’re limited.”
And the team doesn’t limit themselves to speaking with only existing customers. They like jumping on calls and talking to every type of customer. “We like to get feedback from all areas. It doesn’t matter who they are. Trial user, existing client, top-tier client, small client, churn client. We want to hear from them,” says Steph.
“And we encourage people to get on a call. Even if they’re a trial user, we take calls. Even if they have no prospect of purchasing the product in say, the next year, we still want their feedback—positive or constructive,” says Michelle. “Anything helps us build a better product.”
Proactive outreach (based on usage data)
So while waiting for incoming feedback through Intercom or in-person/phone meetings is a successful tactic for our CS team, our CSMs find that being proactive even outside scheduled interactions with customers helps get more feedback. Specifically when studying usage data. “It allows us to be more proactive, instead of reactionary,” says Steph.
“We have a monthly churn meeting where we pull usage data and see which clients have the lowest activity. Based on usage data, we proactively reach out to offer training or to talk about new features,” says Michelle. “This outreach opens the door for more feedback, as my emails always say this is also time to offer feedback.”
But our CSMs aren’t just studying usage data of churn risks. They’re constantly evaluating customer activity and jumping on opportunities for feedback. “We implemented Totango, a customer relationship management tool, which is a huge step in helping get health checks. We can see customers go from ‘green’ to ‘red’ based on their usage. And based on that we do outreach to get their feedback,” adds Michelle.
Never forget churned customers
Shoutout to our churned customers: our CS team really, really likes talking to you as much as any of our existing customers.
Observe & talk to real people. Eloquent presentation of a problem is not a substitute for real validation and course correction. https://t.co/UlkfbqYP8V
— Karan Peri (@karanperi) July 1, 2017