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Dockwa and Feature Upvote

Dockwa is a marina management platform that helps marinas manage all of their transactions with boaters, and helps boaters find places to stay with their boats. It was founded in 2014, and their umbrella company, Wanderlust, also bought Marinas.com in 2017 – a directory of marinas complete with reviews and amenities info. With a mission to get more folks enjoying the great outdoors, they also have a campground and RV product in development.

Feedback gathering was a mess

Their VP of Product Development, Jeremy Crane, joined the business in 2018 and at that point they didn’t have a feature tracking tool.

“The process of feedback gathering wasn’t great. Just an Excel spreadsheet, and a bunch of conversations. It was a mess! Plus it was really the loudest, squeakiest wheel that made things happen. Whoever came back the most, and whoever was most comfortable yelling about how bad the problem was got the most attention.”

At that point he introduced Receptive, which was then acquired by Pendo. But it turned out to not be the best solution for their needs.

“It’s a fairly sophisticated tool that attempts to go beyond simple vote counting and uses an algorithm to decide on the most important thing for you to work on. If you just want to use the tool as one input in a larger strategy it’s actually quite hard to understand which items are most voted on. For our particular way of working, we prefer to have the raw counts and make our decisions about level of importance in the broader sense.”

Dockwa searched for a simpler product

Searching for a simpler product led the Wanderlust team to Feature Upvote. They wanted to get back to a purely vote-based system. Jeremy explained, “I can run a list and I can see what’s popular. It’s very simple. It doesn’t try to do lots of fancy stuff that just gets in your way.”

And the team were on board too:

“Everyone was of the same perspective. It’s much easier to use, it’s faster, it’s simpler.”

And this is one of our favourite pieces of feedback:

“You know those tools where you have to go in and get data and you almost have to psych yourself up. A little part of you dies every time you have to go and log in. I never feel like that with Feature Upvote. Throughout the day I’m constantly opening it – I have the tab there pretty much all the time and I can jump over to read something quick, and then jump back out of it.”

Why Dockwa uses proxy voting

What’s interesting about the way this team uses Feature Upvote, is that they’re not exposing the boards directly to customers – not yet, at least. It’s only their team who are adding and upvoting features, but they’re still keeping track of which customers asked for which features.

Jeremy told us:

“We’ve settled on using it as an internal tool. I think we could expose the boaters to the boards and they might take the opportunity to give us feedback. And it might be valuable stuff.

“But on the marina side it’s a completely different story. They are not, for the most part, a tech-savvy group, and they’ve had bad experiences with bad software in the past. They don’t tend to be proactive about feedback. When they run into a problem, they don’t tell us about it unless we ask.

“We use the proxy voting a lot, because our support organization, our customer success organization and our sales organization are talking to the marina customers all the time. We meet with 100s of marinas a week – so we’re having constant conversations and so we can much better filter that information and use the proxy voting. Those are things that would never actually make it to our board otherwise.”

Will they ever let customers loose on their boards?

“In the next year, I would hope that we would add a feedback board link on Marinas.com. And perhaps on the boaters’ side of Dockwa – because the boaters tend to be more tech savvy. But the proxy voting works really well for us.

“We wouldn’t have chosen a tool that didn’t specifically allow proxy voting. Adding the customer’s name obviously gives us the opportunity to follow up with that customer. For me from a product perspective, I have a really rich pool of customers to go back to. When we’re ready to attack a feature or functionality, we can go back to the customer and dig deeper so we really understand where we’re going with it, and the right way to attack it.

It also gives us a mechanism to notify customers when the feature’s available. If it was internal alone, without the proxy voting, I think it would be significantly less valuable. We’re a small team, we’ve got 35 people on the team. Any one thing would only get 35 votes. We need that mechanism to be able to say, ‘This is actually important to customers,’ as opposed to just our internal teams.”

Migrating from Pendo

And how was it migrating over from Pendo?

“That was probably one of the biggest selling points – you went above and beyond to help us import our data in a nice, clean way. You spent a lot of time making sure our data would map right – it felt very white glove-ish.”

So you’d recommend Feature Upvote?

“Yes! It’s just the most straightforward, simple tool for understanding feature requests. And capturing votes, especially from the internal use case perspective – though obviously it can also be used externally if you want to. The fact that it enables you to do both is great.”

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