You and your team are building a product with a vision. You have a problem that needs solving, and the combination of your features and user experience are the elements that will create a product that ultimately solves the problem at hand for not only yourself, but for others as well. And that last part–”for others as well”–is where the true challenge lies. There is a delicate balance between trusting your product vision and listening to user feedback, and mastering this middle ground is the key to your company’s success.
This is a guest post written by Nifty, a remote collaboration hub for managing projects.
Assessing Feedback Based on Vision
There’s a famous phrase in the world of sports amongst coaches:
If you listen to the fans, you’re going to end up sitting with them
In other words, if you do everything other people tell you to, you’ll be out of a job. To relate this to a product and business, following every little bit of feedback and advice that users give you will result in an amalgamation of ideas, use cases, and preferences that will leave prospective customers confused and overwhelmed.
It is imperative that you have a vision for your product. This vision can change and adapt, but to know the problem you wish to solve, who you’re solving it for, and how your method of solving it differentiates and defines you from competition are the integral aspects to your product and company’s identity. In this way, all feedback you receive must be viewed through the lens of your vision to ensure you push meaningful updates to your product rather than creating confusion and technical debt through a bloat of unnecessary experiences.
Feedback can be viewed through 3 questions:
- Who is it from?
- How does it fit?
- How else can it be solved?
Identifying Feedback Sources
Your product is likely to have multiple buyer personas, each of which may derive value from a different feature or experience that you offer. Understanding how your product is easing pain for the different segments of your user base will add context to the feedback you receive from them.
Here are some ways you may consider segmenting your users:
- Type of company they work for (collect during user onboarding)
- Role in the organisation (collected during user onboarding)
- Feature engagement within your platform (product analytics)
- Amount of sessions / depth of engagements (product analytics)
- Degree of advocacy (engagement with social or referral programs)
Few product updates you make, especially once you’ve made progress into your roadmap, will be used by your entire customer base. But every feature you release should have its intended segment(s) in mind.
Understanding the perspective of received feedback through the above lenses will define how a new feature will service other current and future customers who have overlapping buyer personas. Your intimate knowledge of these personas will also help you communicate the value of any feature additions you release.
Aligning Feedback With Vision
No matter the source this feedback comes from, it’s important to know how this feedback aligns with your product’s vision and scope. Your users are likely to have many pain points, and your product needn’t solve all of them.
Your product serves to solve a problem with a simple, meaningful experience. You may have extra “bells and whistles”, or features that don’t directly solve the problem, but lend to the experience. There are many examples of failed attempts of expanding a product’s scope with features users don’t value in the experience (have you ever sent anyone money through Facebook? Remember the Google social network Google+?).
While tech giants can afford to take sweeping product risks, forays into tangential parts of your core product experience creates technical debt and can ultimately sink a product if it’s in a fragile phase.
One way to proactively avoid this is to survey your user base regarding an array of potential features you might include. Asking them to rank the features of the order of relevance to them will not only unearth the winning feature, but will also help you better understand what order these potential features are ranked based on the segments of your user base.
Equally important in this decision is the size of this user segment. If there’s a heavily requested feature from a narrow segment of your buyer and customer profiles / personas, it likely shouldn’t be prioritized over a broader, more heavily requested feature–unless your vision seeks to pivot to explicitly serve more of that persona going forward.
Equally important to knowing what your product is and does is also knowing what it is not to ensure you can keep your team focused on the core mission of your product. We’re about to see an interesting example of this unfold as Slack prepares to launch more features that will bring it closer into the social media realm at a time where work/life balance already feels compromised for many work from home employees. A success here will bring Slack closer to the heart as a tool that shares experiences more immersively with employees. A failure could jade Slack users who simply want a tool to message their coworkers from 9 to 5.
Incorporating the Feedback
The feedback for your product may not result in feature additions or changes, rather product education. Perhaps your product already has the tools at its disposal to address the feedback you’ve received. The new point of emphasis is how to better onboard and educate users to ensure they’re using your product to the fullest to solve as many of their pains as possible.
Similarly, perhaps extending the powers of one of your features would open up its ability to solve many more use cases. This can be a desirable course as it may be far easier to implement and educate your user base on the changes as it already piggybacks the feature that they know how to use.
It’s always easier to build out than it is to cut back when it comes to features, so taking baby steps when broadening your product’s scope to gauge the adoption of the direction is prudent, cost effective, and risk mitigating.
If you decide to incorporate the feedback as part of a product expansion, this should start by clearly identifying the value of the feature your targeted segment is looking to derive. Focus on the problem at hand rather than their proposed solutions, as the goal is to identify an overarching problem amongst this segment.
Engaging with users in this segment over help tickets, feature request follow-ups, and customer calls allows you to better understand their current journey in your product and where they hope that journey to continue. You’ll probably find that many of your customers can point to another solution in the market that executes their desired feature well–which can be a great jumping point for inspiration–so long as you bear in mind that it is your job to roll out solutions rather than features. A feature in another tool may have inherently different context than it does in yours, meaning you will need a different approach in solving it.
Receiving feedback on your product is a blessing as it indicates that you have a product worth being passionate about. It’s important to listen to those who use your product as they’ll inevitably see it from an outside perspective that you’ll be otherwise unable to access as your immersion in your product is unmatched.
Your users will give you “aha moments” of product clarity that send you down the right road at the right time. They’ll also lead you down many other roads that could leave your product stranded and strange. Your vision and knowledge of your product’s space is the key force that can differentiate between these types of feedback.
About the author
Samuel Goldstein is a member of the marketing team at Nifty and is passionate about all things product and growth. In his spare time, he loves playing sports and doing anything outdoors.
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