Chapter 3

How to gather actionable customer feedback from customer-facing teams


Without a strategy for handling internal feedback, PMs might be missing out on product gold. More importantly, it keeps product managers from the validating and experimenting space.

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What’s internal product feedback?

Internal and external feedback are technically the same. After all, internal feedback comes from customer-facing teams who are constantly tapped into conversations with day-to-day users⁠—something PMs wish they had the time to do, but realistically can't.

In a nutshell, internal product feedback is any customer feedback received by teams like CS, sales and marketing. This kind of feedback looks like emails, call notes, and intercom/zendesk messages. It's not easy to handle this raw faucet of qualitative information—it requires a focused, strategic approach and the closing of feedback loops to ensure that both customer-facing teams and the customers feel heard by the product team.

The question then becomes: how can PMs strengthen that bridge between product and internal stakeholder feedback to ensure they’re getting the most relevant and actionable insights into the needs of customers⁠—insights that they can then use to prioritize what to build?

Collect all the feedback you want, but if you’re not funnelling it to and from your product team for them to actually act on it, you may as well stop collecting feedback. Not only does a tight and continuous feedback loop ensure that your product team isn’t missing any incoming feedback, it also ensures your customers know you’re not just talk; you really do listen and care about their opinions. Which in turn encourages more feedback and just keeps the loop going.

— From Roadmunk’s Creating effective customer feedback loops for product teams

Let's start with the problems that come from not having a strategy for tackling internal product feedback.

What are the best practices for collecting internal product feedback?

customer feedback

PMs are familiar with this scenario: a member or leader of a customer-facing team messages them on Slack or books a one-on-one to go over the features their highest MRR customers keep requesting. The PM listens, makes a note to circle back to it with more research later, then totally forgets about it or deprioritizes it over something that’s better documented and better tied to relevant customer segments and business goals.

And in large organizations where having one-on-ones to go over customer insights is hard, a set of spreadsheets, Trello boards and Google docs become that “meeting” place. Customer-facing teams drop the snippets coming from all the relevant segments, tag the PMs in charge, then the PMs go in and try to make sense of the pieces that make up the big picture.

There's a better way, and it all starts with aligning customer-facing teams on the following strategic pieces:

  1. An actionable product vision: Who is the product for and why? Why is that the vision?
  2. What problems are we definitely never going to solve in the long-term because they don’t align with those goals and that vision?
  3. What are the top three customer segments whose feedback gets prioritized over the rest? In smaller organizations and startups without a ton of customers that can be segmented, an ideal customer profile (known as lead scoring in marketing) can help.

internal customer feedback

  1. What's the consolidated place for the feedback coming from customer-facing teams? Is it a spreadsheet? An idea management tool? Slack messages?

Once those overarching strategic pieces are clear and wiki’d, the next step is to strengthen the relationship between customers and customer-facing teams using problem/need discovery methods and tight customer feedback loops.
internal customer feedback
1. Build empathy for the user’s needs and problems

Part of having an actionable, focused internal customer feedback strategy involves improving the relationship between customers and the touchpoints they interact with at your organization.

This can be something as simple as asking the following questions when a feature request comes in:

What purpose will this feature request serve?
How beneficial would it be?
Would it be a deciding factor for you as a user?

— From Roadmunk’s Creating effective customer feedback loops for product teams

It also involves managing customer expectations using a feedback loop. Feedback loops require:

  1. Not under-promising or over-delivering. If a customer asks a specific question like “Is there any way this feature can be ready for the next quarter?” Don’t give an answer that’ll come back to bite you if things turn out differently.
  2. Transparency. Whether it’s via an external-facing roadmap, or by admitting that it’s hard to estimate how long something will take to complete outside of development, customers will always appreciate honesty and open communication.
  3. Following up. Touching bases with the customers who requested a big feature is great for the customer-product relationship. And in competitive industries (ahem, if you're building a B2B software, for example, you definitely have 2-3 competitors you need to stand out from) the strength of the relationship between a customer and the company is table stakes.

Having a solid feedback loop ensures that your product team isn’t missing relevant, actionable feedback coming from important customer segments. It also builds the trust your customers place on your product⁠—it tells them that their conversations with the company’s touchpoints aren’t meaningless, and that their opinions and needs are being taken into account.

This encourages those relevant customer segments to keep the feedback going throughout the product development process.

Keep your internal customer feedback in one place

internal customer feedback
Better documentation of customer feedback leads to better informed product teams. You can use a mish-mash of tools like trello cards, an intercom-slack integration, spreadsheets, etc. The truth is, having a consolidated space for customer feedback makes all the difference in how well the strategy aligns with those requests.

On top of that, an idea management tool allows for team voting. This way, customer-facing teams can all submit feedback, vote on ideas, and keep track of their status.

An idea management portal also goes beyond the collecting space and into the validation space by facilitating team prioritization and scoring.

Wrap-up

Creating good processes and systems for CS/Sales to communicate customer feedback to the product team leads to:

  • Better visibility into feedback across all product areas
  • A more complete picture of customer needs
  • Never losing information again
  • Being in tune with what users think

Without a strategy for handling the influx of customer feedback coming from customer-facing teams, PMs might be missing out on product gold. More importantly, it keeps product managers from the validating and experimenting space.

There’s no two sides to the discussion. Organizations either have an effective internal feedback process in place that they can trust and rely on—and win, or they don’t have one, and face a pile of unnecessary, preventable problems.

internal customer feedback

Source

Check out the rest of our guide to product ideas:

  1. What's idea management?
  2. How to extract product insights from customer feedback
  3. Best practices for collecting customer feedback using surveys

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