Driving growth for SaaS companies is as much about keeping (and upselling) existing customers as it is attracting new ones. No matter how impressive your customer acquisition rate your SaaS company will struggle if you have a stubbornly high churn rate.
However, here’s the good news: if you manage customer feedback effectively you should be able to improve all your key metrics, including churn.
Here are our 4 suggestions on how to manage customer feedback for your SaaS. We include examples from successful SaaS companies across a wide-range of markets.
Don’t let customer feedback float away across different channels
1. Capture feature requests and suggestions for your SaaS in one place
Any growing SaaS company will have plenty of feedback – emails to customer support, quick feedback thrown out on social media, comments on message boards, ideas pitched to sales reps, and so on. So one of your main problems is how to handle this cross-channel feedback in the first place.
Patrick Hathaway, co-founder of award-winning SEO tool Sitebulb, experienced this very problem:
After we launched, we had a lot of feedback coming in from various different channels. We were looking for a way to consolidate and organize this feedback. We wanted to track which features were getting frequently requested, and which ones were just being asked for by a couple of users.
The best way to tackle this type of problem is to organise feedback in one place. The free option is to manually process all this feedback using something like a spreadsheet or Trello. This can work well, but it’s time intensive and requires you to keep processing feedback and allocating upvotes, otherwise you’ll get behind and ideas will be lost.
If time is something you don’t have - probably the case for most growing SaaS companies – then there are plenty of customer feedback tools that can help. These range from fairly inexpensive (Feature Upvote is $39 a month/feedback board and ProductBoard is $99 for a team) to premium (UserVoice is about $500+ a month). They differ substantially, but all of them should help you with the basic issue: collecting feedback in one place without having to do it yourself.
Feature Upvote makes it easy for you to collect suggestions and ideas on a feedback board
In terms of how they differ, UserVoice, for example, gives you an in-app widget, a sidebar for your customer support team and a public-facing web portal that all funnel feedback to one place – the private admin console, where you can analyse your data. They also have a roadmap section.
Productboard, in contrast, is focused on helping you manage key product management tasks, of which processing feedback is one. Their software encompasses feedback collection, prioritisation, roadmapping and launch activities.
A product feedback tool like Feature Upvote is simpler. They provide you with one or more feedback boards with built in voting functionality. These boards are usually visible to customers, who can see what feedback has come in and how it’s being handled. They don’t help with roadmapping.
What about bugs?
You can try and manage bug reports with customer feedback tools, but it might be easier to keep these separate. Bug reports and feature requests require different approaches. Bugs need fixing so are well suited to software geared around execution. We use Jira for bug reports and project management. Feature requests, in contrast, need prioritising and assessing. They are better suited to tools that can deal with these needs.
2. Make your feedback visible
Making feedback visible to your customers can initially sound intimidating. You might worry about spam or about negative feedback being visible to would-be customers. However, most feedback software should have sufficient anti-spam precautions to prevent this being a problem. Neat moderation options should also help you keep feedback portals looking healthy and helpful.
In terms of negative comments, making feedback visible can also actually help. Instead of a frustrated customer sounding off because they don’t feel anyone cares, you’re making it clear that you will seriously consider their feedback and respond to it. This is usually enough to diffuse most situations and to turn a potentially tricky encounter into something actually quite positive.
Which feedback should you make visible?
You can either choose to make just your customer feedback visible, through some kind of online feedback board. Or you can make your feedback and roadmap visible, as companies like Buffer do.
Buffer make their roadmap public
We’re a big fan of making at least your customer feedback visible. This is partly because it reduces feedback. Customers tend to ask you the same question as the previous 100 customers because they simply don’t know it’s been asked before. However, if you have a feedback board then customers can upvote an existing suggestion rather than take up time as a support ticket.
Making feedback visible can also show that you support values such as transparency and a customer-centric culture (rather than just talking about supporting these!).
Donorfy is an award-winning fundraising CRM for the charity sector. They have a public feedback board.
One of our values as a company is to ‘Build it Together’, which means that we always ask for and consider feedback and suggestions from our clients and implementation partners.
Don’t be afraid of feedback! It’s really valuable to know what your customers and stakeholders are thinking, and can help to steer you in the right direction.
Feedback management can be a way to boost customer satisfaction, create a sense of community around your product and get an important steer on product development.
3. Build a culture of continuous product discovery
Continuous product discovery means you surface insightful product ideas all the time. Don’t just limit feedback management to your beta stage, and then let it drop down in terms of priority.
If you have an early-stage SaaS company then feedback is like gold dust. It helps you work out the most useful direction for your product, as well as who will use your product.
Feedback at this stage can be okay to manage. There is less of it, simply because you have fewer users. You can afford to be a bit manual in your processes. However, many companies prefer to create a structured feedback process even at beta stage. This is simpler for you and simpler for your users as well.
As soon as your SaaS company begins to scale you can’t get away with being so hands on-and reactive. Feedback is flooding in and takes time to process. This was our experience when we were scaling a product called Poker Copilot (now sold).
So as the product user base grew, so too did the number of feature requests. These came though support, from user research conversations and from social media. And we were beginning to struggle with them.
Steve McLeod, founder
So managing feedback effectively is key to time management for your hard-pressed team, as well as important for discovering unmet customer need.
Although it’s important that all customers can quickly and easily give you feedback, you might want to be a bit more proactive about certain types of feedback as your company matures. We reach out to ‘power users’ for 20 minute customer interviews so we can understand why our product works so well for them. This way we have a better idea of how we can attract more high-value customers.
We also opportunistically reach out to customers using our product in unusual ways. It’s always interesting to hear why our product works in a use case we didn’t anticipate.
We always ask for feedback from churned customers. We find it really helpful to see why people leave.
Sometimes this can just be a limitation of your product – that a minority of people will use it for short-term projects only. Sometimes a customer tried out your product and they just never got buy-in from their team (can you do something about this?). Sometimes, of course, a customer experiences a major disappointment with your product and intends to move to a competitor instead (is this happening often?).
Can you get feedback from your churned customers?
Feedback from your team
Another important avenue for feedback is from your team. Systems integrator Convergint use 7 feedback boards to crowdsource suggestions on their internal tools.
Bethany Taylor, business architect at Convergint, says:
The ability to collect internal feedback is fantastic, particularly being able to say ‘here’s an idea’ and give everyone the opportunity to vote for it, collaborate on it and and watch that conversation grow over time.
Overall, by embedding a feedback culture throughout your company, you close the divide between your company and your customers and align your entire team around what your customers need.
4. Use your feedback to improve your SaaS product
In very broad terms, you take feedback from customers (and your team), plus your own ideas, scope these out in terms of feasibility and business case, then come up with a product roadmap.
However, exactly how you use your feedback will depend on what questions you need that feedback to answer.
For example, do you want to see whether a particular customer suggestion will benefit a key market, how many accounts will be affected by a new feature, or how much revenue it might generate?
Or do you simply want to see which suggestions and ideas have the most traction among your customers using a voting system?
Your answers will determine your next steps with feedback, as well as your choice of feedback software.
Overall, the idea of feedback management is to spot patterns that point to underlying problems (and opportunities) in terms of your product.
Key to success is making sure customer ideas and suggestions are clearly integrated into your product development process. In this article, Michael Nguyen, Head of Customer Journey at Asana, explains exactly how they build their product roadmap, from initially listening to customers through to prioritisation, execution and then closing the feedback loop by updating customers on progress.
Although customer feedback can seem overwhelming (and even frustrating at times) it is a proven way to surface great ideas and build better SaaS products.
Product development moves fast, but customer preferences move faster: 60% say direct customer feedback was the source of their best product and feature ideas, but most say they don’t conduct enough user research on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Alpha Product Management Insights Report 2020
Just in case…
If you’re a product manager looking for a simple and quick way to collect and prioritise customer or team feedback then check us out at Feature Upvote. We provide feedback boards with built in voting functionality to companies, universities and organisations around the world.