Recap: James Scott on The VoC-Informed Product Roadmap

6 min read

Recap: James Scott on The VoC-Informed Product Roadmap

Aug 30, 2020 4:02:00 PM

“Surprises are great for birthdays, but not when you’re running a SaaS business.”

It’s no surprise that 63% of CX professionals use customer feedback to prioritize investment in better products, services and customer experiences. But the path from customer feedback to product roadmap and back is not as straightforward. James Scott, VP of Customer Success at Shootproof, says that the customer voice is a critical element of a winning product roadmap, and he has a wealth of experience to support this.He started his customer experience career over 15 years ago in London and has since enjoyed working across several different business models. 

Voice of Customer Philosophy

James has a five-part philosophy around VoC which he has used to inform the strategy at Shootproof:

1. Customers Have Most of the Answers.

They don't have all of them, but they have a lot of them. In his consulting career prior to ShootProof, James was consistently surprised and disappointed by the number of clients whose VoC efforts began and ended with NPS surveys. If you never look beyond survey scores, it’s very easy to miss less obvious aspects of your customer experience that can ultimately make or break your customer relationships. 

2. Transparency With Customers Fuels Trust. 

Being transparent with customers about what happens to their feedback once they have taken the time to share it, is a great way to set expectations. This builds trust and relationship equity. 

3. Trust Builds Better Collaboration.

Being transparent about the feedback evaluation process makes customers more inclined to continue to share their feedback. Even if you can’t always make their asks a reality, they understand your logic and know that you value their perspective. 

4. Collaboration Builds Better Solutions. 

When you work with customers to understand what they want and need, they see you as a partner rather than a vendor. This engagement leads to reduced customer churn, fewer repeat issues raised to Support, and customer-centric decisions.

5. Surprises Are Only Great for Birthdays. 

The more information we give customers about what we are planning to do with our products, the more effectively they can make plans for their business. You don't ever want a customer to be surprised by a feature after they’ve spent months building a workaround in its absence. 

Operationalizing The VoC Philosophy 

An ad-hoc approach to VoC is neither efficient nor repeatable. To create a scalable and operationalized VoC strategy, you must automate what you can, so you can focus on decision-making, action and maintaining healthy communication with customers about their feedback. 

It is essential to create a process surrounding an active listening cadence that doesn’t stop at surveys. Otherwise, you’ll be left with information instead of insight, and won’t know anything that your competitors don’t already know. 

Solicit & Ingest: Use a Combination of Listening Posts To Turn “What” into “Why”. 

The first step in representing your customer voice in your product roadmap is engaging deeply with all relevant listening posts. The listening posts that you represent in your VoC strategy should be consistent with how and where customers interact with your product on a regular basis — your business model and the channels you use to communicate with customers will determine which ones have the greatest quantity and quality of data, for the most accurate reflection of your customer experience. No matter what mix of listening posts works best for your business, it’s important to automate as much as you can, so that your teams can focus on the important steps that come next. 

With a highly fragmented customer base >50k strong, automation is a critical component of ShootProof’s VoC strategy. With month-to-month billing and no contracts or annual plans, keeping close tabs on what’s driving customer experience quality is key to maintaining and deepening their customer relationships at scale. However, a high-touch approach to >50k customer relationships is simply not feasible. In combination with product usage data, ShootProof listens across surveys, community discussion, support tickets, and their ideation portal, where customers can propose product ideas. 

James emphasized the importance of looking beyond the “what” to the “why”, as you synthesize data across your listening posts. “Rather than building features, your team should be trying to solve business issues.”

A diverse set of listening posts should give you enough context to answer the following kinds of questions: 

  • What is challenging about how it works right now?
  • What are they trying to solve? 
  • What does the customer expect the impact of this change to be? 
  • How will fixing this problem help the customer, other customers like them, and their customers? 

Digest & Decide: Drive Customer-Centric Decisions.

It is essential to filter out noise and identify the themes that will most reliably add value to your customer experience. 

When bringing feedback to meetings with the Product team, representing the themes you’ve identified in your customer’s voice carries a lot of weight. While some of the most powerful CX improvements can come from instinct, they will undoubtedly be taken most seriously when supported by hard data and customer verbatims — a combination of both is your best bet for mobilizing action. Standalone quantitative data can lack important context about your customers’ “why”, whereas standalone verbatims can be easy to dismiss as anecdotal. 

Here is how James' team at Shootproof handles the decision-making process: 

  • James' team distributes a Monthly Customer Pulse Report to the whole organization. The report helps other teams understand the customer voice, and includes everything from verbatim comments and top-voted ideas from the ideation portal.
  • Support and Product teams collaborate on issue prioritization on a weekly basis. A Support Team Lead and a Product Manager work together to identify the most impactful tweaks, bugs or requests to prioritize. From here, the Product team aims to tackle two to four priorities in each sprint.

Share & Act: Close The Loop With Customers. 

Once you’ve decided which customer voice themes Product will address, it’s important to close the loop with customers. If your customers have taken the time to tell you how to be the best partner you can be, you owe it to them to let them know whether you’ll execute their request, and if not, why not. 

Here’s how ShootProof does it:

  • Especially for ideation portal contributors, ShootProof thanks them, tells them what changes they've made based on their requests, and what they've planned for the future. Customers feel validated by this communication, and it's visible in the community, where about 10% of their most active customers spend time.

  • A roadmap update is shared with the whole customer base via email every quarter.
  • Customers get new feature surveys to close the loop with the Product team. They want to understand how the feature feels after customers have used it: did it solve their pain as intended?

Join us for the next Signal VoC Event! 

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Mary Cleary

Written by Mary Cleary