When I look back at my first weeks in a customer-facing function, I remember very clearly how excited I was about all the customer feedback that I received.
“I love that your solution does X and Y. You know what would be amazing? If it also did Z!”
What an incredible insight! Our paying customer told me things that they would find even better about our product. So I did what every new Customer Success Manager does.. I send my product manager an email.
“Hey there! Mathilda from Customer X just said that it would be amazing if we did Y!”
Little did I know that the product team gets these messages all. The. Time.
Handling customer requests so that they feel listened to (and your product manager doesn’t go crazy)
The challenge lies in the fact that we have to balance both our customers and our PM’s interest:
- The client (that hopefully loves our solution) feels that feature X would make them more successful
- The product manager that wants to build a client-centric solution, but at the same time has to balance requests and demands from pretty much everyone in and outside the company
There are 4 things that I do to achieve both these goals.
1. Be honest
Sure, it’s easier to say “That’s great Greg! I am sure we will be working on that soon.”
But it’s frustrating for your client. So when they have a suggestion and you know that it is far out of scope and not on the roadmap at all, tell them.
For some clients, this might trigger the idea that a custom solution might be a better fit for them. You can quickly disarm that by referring to the pricing and how much more expensive a custom solution would be.
It’s also important to figure out if it’s a need to have or a must have. And to challenge your clients on that. In my experience, most requests that seem very urgent must haves are actually just need to haves upon further digging.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t log the request. Make sure you always do that.
2. Logging feature requests
Which brings us to the next point on our list: Logging feature requests.
There are some great tools for that like Shipright. but a well-structured spreadsheet will do the trick in the beginning.
Try to group the features based on the different parts of your solution and the step in the customer journey your customer is in. A customer that is more experienced with your platform might, for example, solve a problem differently than a beginner.
Crucial for us as CSMs is to understand if NOT having that feature might be a renewal blocker. Can they live without it? Or will it lead to churn?
3. Set up a feature request task force
Feature requests, especially with many teams working on them, can become messy.
That’s why a regular feature request alignment meeting with the product manager is helpful. I like to use 30 minutes every month for that.
One thing that I’ve learnt is that it’s important to pick your battles. The PM has a lot of different priorities. Try to bring as much available data to the table as possible, for instance the ARR impact of a certain feature, and speak with one voice as a team.
4. Don’t avoid the topic
Even when there’s no news or update about the feature request, when you next talk to your customer – still update them on the steps you have taken. There’s no need to apologize. Just go back to the original reason they chose your solution and the success they’re trying to achieve. Just don’t try to hide it, your customer will notice.