Why Support is Integral when Building a Product Roadmap
Sep 02, 2020 ● 5 min read
We are in an age of transparency. Everyone from Buffer to Zappos is sharing information about their company: where it’s going, what they’re doing now, and even the salaries they pay their employees. So, it should come as no surprise that public product roadmaps and product futures, in general, are becoming more commonplace. If you don’t already have a product roadmap or are just in the beginning stages of building one, it’s the best time to think about what you and your company are hoping to gain from it.
Product roadmaps, after all, should be a way that your whole company can tell it’s a collective story to your users and give them a good picture into why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made in the past and will make in the future. People remember stories 63% of the time, whereas they’ll remember a singular data point delivered in a blog post 5% of the time after the fact—it’s in your best interest to compel customers with what you’re telling them.
Unfortunately, though, you can’t tell a story without having all of the pieces. A good product roadmap involves all of the teams in the decision-making process and gives employees from teams like support and customer success a seat at the table. Giving your customer-facing teams an opportunity to speak up for themselves and the people that they represent is in your best interest because it gives you an excellent insight into what customers want, and gives your product team a bridge to your customer base. But, customer support is only usually involved in product development 58% of the time, despite having the most knowledge and insight into customer behaviors and needs. Here’s why your company should change that:
Support Directly Interfaces with Customers
Support directly interfaces with customers and has their thumbs on the pulse of what people are emailing in about most frequently. Given that, doesn’t it make sense to ask them about how customers are feeling? After all, they spend all day talking to and listening to the customer, as well as fielding requests. They probably have some feelings about what should be prioritized especially in terms of your product. You wouldn’t go on vacation and when trying to find the best restaurant to eat in, ask the carpenter building the tables for the restaurants for advice rather than a restauranteur that’s eaten in them, right? It’s the same with building your product. Your customer support people are the only real voice of the customer that you have. It’s important to let them be heard.
Feeling unappreciated is the number one reason customers switch away from products and services, according to New Voice Media. When customers submit a feature request only to have it disappear into a void, never to be seen again, they feel unappreciated and frustrated. Reaching out and asking for a feature is a sign that they really care about your product—enough to reach out and provide you constructive insight on it. Give your support team the opportunity to share those insights with you and your product roadmap will be all the better for it. This can be made easy with the help of client portal software. The client portal offers customers all the information and resources right at their fingertips. Thus the customers can gain access to information on their own without having to wait for a support agent.
Support sees the impact of product change most
When you make a change to your product that causes problems or that people don’t like, your support team bears most of the burden. For example, when Spotify changed their privacy policies to better support customized playlists for users back in 2015, there was a big enough backlash that even their CEO had to step in. But not before numerous tweets and emails from around 25 million users. While this feature is now accepted by anyone using Spotify, at the moment it was a big change—the support people who were responsible for talking to all of their customers likely would have known that this would be a pain point for the customer base. Had they been a part of the decision making process they could have at least made documentation or an announcement that better reflected the sensibilities of the user base.
Because support team members are the ones that feel the most pain when a product changes, it’s important to give them a seat at the product table to make them feel more appreciated and valued. It can build resentment when large changes get pushed out to the public without the support team being consulted first because even if nothing can be changed about the product being released, the methodology behind the release and preparation on the support team’s part can be imperative. For example, a support team needs time to:
- Write up new documentation on the product
- Update existing documentation with new screenshots if any user interface has changed
- Create saved replies to make for a quicker response on social media and in the email inbox
- Educate team members on the new feature or product so that they can answer things correctly
- Test and use the new feature or product so they can find any last-minute bugs.
Bringing at least one member of the support team on to your product roadmap team helps to give them the time they need to accomplish the above points and gives you the invaluable insights of someone who talks to customers day-in-and-day-out.
Support can communicate better if they’re involved
Support can’t help customers with what they don’t know about. So, if you’re making changes to the product without telling your customer-facing teams, the likelihood of them running into trouble in customer interaction is much higher. Being given the wrong information during a support inquiry is one of the most frustrating experiences that a customer can have. In fact, according to Gartner, 96% of customers who have a high-effort experience say they are unlikely to use the same service in the future.
You can avoid some of that strife by keeping your teams in the loop from the get-go. Let them know when you’re thinking about changing something and then communicate throughout the process to have a better longer-term strategy for assisting customers.
Imagine, for example, a support team member receiving an email about a feature that they didn’t know existed and telling the customer that they had to dig a little deeper and would get right back to them. Then, upon talking to your team, they realize this is part of the product now and isn’t actually a bug. They have to email the customer back and let them know that, not only is it not a bug, but it’s actually an official part of the product (that they didn’t know about). This is embarrassing for your team member, but also loses the trust of your customer. They end up thinking to themselves “How can I trust this company if their support team isn’t even aware of actual product features?”
Using a help desk management software, your support team can build trust with your customers by giving them the best experience by looping the team in early. By doing so, you also save them embarrassment and needing to backpedal through the interaction, and subsequently help maintain a solid CSAT rating for your company. Wins all around.
While it may seem like you are doing them a favor by looping in support every time you make a product change, your support team’s knowledge for customer preferences may also help you to fine-tune your release to be just right for what your customers are looking for. You get a great product release, and your customers get a great support experience that helps to maintain and build trust. Having support be involved in the building and maintenance of your product roadmap is integral for any company that cares about their customers and the customer experience.