How To Handle Feature Requests - The Ultimate Guide for SaaS Companies

  • By Pietro Saccomani

Just like any business model out there, the SaaS model needs to be increasingly customer-focused. Since the market moves super quickly and it’s highly competitive, understanding your customers is critical if you want a strategic advantage in the market.

To do that, you need to fulfill your customers’ feature requests, among other things. But what do you do when someone reaches out with a request and how do you handle them at all?

Here’s a handy guide.

Put all your feature requests in one place

Your customers will get in touch with you using multiple channels. Emails, social media, phone, website chat, forum, or some other channel. As a result, feature requests will come in from a variety of places, which makes managing them quite complex.

To solve this issue, you need to put all of your feature requests and feedback into one general repository. We suggest using a FeedBear feedback board! You can use it to pool all of your requests in one place so you have a birds’ eye view of what your customers are asking from you. 

feature requests in a feedback board

This way, you don’t have to search in 10 different places every time you need to decide on what feature to build next. It will also help your customer support team and make your customers feel appreciated and heard while engaging them with your brand and product.

If you want to learn how to achieve all that, read on.

Let your customers vote

When choosing which features to prioritize, you can go by your gut feeling. But why do that when you can have a number to guide you?

One of the biggest benefits of having all your feature requests in one place is the ability for customers to vote on them. They can choose whichever ones they need the most in their life and you’ll immediately see what gets the popular vote.

On the flip side, it’s a meaningful way for the user to make their voice count and put weight behind their statements. Best of all, the numbers speak for themselves and you can see a general opinion really quickly.

You can combine this with other aspects of feature prioritization, such as the impact on your overall business and revenue and how much time and money it will take to build that feature.

The main idea is - you need a broader view of things to make the right decisions. The more information you have, the better you can combine it with your own experience and gut feeling. That’s how you make the right decisions.

Don’t be afraid to say no

Your customers are people just like you are. And as people, sometimes can have a rather limited perspective. To a customer, all other customers of the same business will appear to have the same problems and priorities - which is of course, not true. This is precisely why a feedback tool is invaluable - you can get a number of different perspectives and make a decision based on common sense and logic.

how to say no

For example, if a customer comes up asking for an integration with help desk software and you barely cobbled together an MVP with two developers, you know you can’t make that feature happen. Other times, a feature request might be great but it comes in at the wrong time. When you have to prioritize and balance many different needs, revenue goals and other objectives, you sometimes really have to put your foot down and give a firm “no”.

The worst thing that you can do is keep a customer waiting with false promises. Be honest about what you can and cannot do and you’ll get more respect. You’ll retain more customers by being upfront and open than you will by making false promises you cannot keep.

Let the customers know what’s about to happen

If you’re using a good feedback tool, you can let your customers know in advance that each request is logged, categorized and discussed and that there is a good chance it will go live. It also helps if you have examples of past requests that you fulfilled.

This will make them much more likely to submit a valuable, detailed feature request. If they have no idea what happens once they send it in, the chances of them writing something meaningful decrease significantly.

If they’re sending in requests through other channels such as email, let them know how the process will go and what they can expect. Transparency builds trust and trust prevents churn.

The biggest advantage is that as a company, you’re sending a signal that you’re actively listening and keeping the customers up to date with your latest features and changes.

Let your customers discuss and comment

Votes are only a part of the overall story. Being able to see why customers want to see a certain feature go live is equally important. Traditionally, you couldn’t see what your customers thought about a potential feature until you built it.

discussing a feature

Feedback tools such as FeedBear allow your customers to discuss a feature request as it sits on your feedback board. For example, someone is suggesting a new integration with Trello and you add it as a suggestion on your feedback board. Now your customers and your team can both discuss the integration where everyone can see the conversation.

That way, you get to see their interaction in real-time and they’ll tell you their use cases for the feature they want to be built. Moreover, you encourage participation and you dig deeper into actual customer problems. You can use these discussions to test different feature ideas or come up with new solutions to solve a problem your customers have.

What’s even better, FeedBear allows your internal team to comment as well. There is nothing like a reply from a product or marketing manager to show your customers that you really care about them.

If you’ve used forums for feedback before, think of this feature as a forum but more interactive. Replies are there and sorted according to topics so you don’t have to use any clunky search feature to find what you’re looking for.

Tag and prioritize

Not every feature request will be equally important and relevant. Not every request will hold the same significance to your business. Adding a new background color should not hold the same weight as adding a new integration.

So why have those two requests in one and the same place?

When you have your requests in one place, you should tag them according to your preferences. Perhaps it’s by the difficulty of development, or something else. The bottom line is, you should have a system where requests are tagged, sorted, and then easily prioritized.

Speaking of prioritization, this is arguably the most difficult part about handling feature requests, regardless of who your customers are. We have a separate piece on prioritization that you can read here. However, the one major takeaway is that the more quantitative and measurable your feedback is, the easier you’ll prioritize. In other words, stick to numbers, rather than your gut feeling when making decisions.

Discuss internally

Once the customers have cast their vote and you can see what they want you to build and how, it’s time to talk to another group that matters - your own team.

While customers’ feedback is crucial, they can only see things from one perspective - their own. On the flip side, your customer support, sales, and product teams have a more encompassing view since they’re in touch with your entire audience.

The good news is, you can easily involve each of them and allow them to discuss new features using FeedBear. You can close your feedback board for your internal team only or you can make it public so that both the customers and the employees have access.

Your team’s opinions are crucial, especially in the prioritization process. Only your developers and product managers know if a feature is really going to pay off given the time and money it takes to build it.

Create a roadmap

You now have a list of features that you want to build. Congrats! Half of the battle is won.

Now comes the hard part - customers have to wait until you get the work done. In the world of SaaS, a customer can leave you and go for a competitor in a matter of minutes, let alone months that it takes to build features.

So, to keep everyone happy, consider the idea of creating a roadmap. A roadmap is a board with all of your planned features and their current status. It can help your existing customers see what’s going on with their requests, on the one hand.

On the other hand, a great public roadmap allows potential customers to see what you’re cooking up for the future. You may not have that superb feature just yet, but if you’re ready to deliver it in 2 months, this can be the deciding point to win them over and they’ll choose you over a competitor.

When you use great feedback software such as FeedBear, you can automatically create roadmaps based on feature requests. This makes the process effortless and even more importantly, it keeps everyone involved informed about the progress.

When it comes to roadmaps, the best practice is to underpromise and overdeliver. There are lots of things you cannot predict, internally and externally and it’s better to be cautious with promises. Most successful companies are pretty general in their estimates for feature deliveries. For example, instead of saying that a feature will be done in December, they’ll write “Q4”, giving themselves a 3-month timeframe should things go wrong.

Your roadmap is your outlet into the world. Both existing and potential customers will check it out to see what you’re up to. With this in mind, keep it up to date at all times. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that your customer support won’t be getting emails asking you when a feature will be shipped and in general, they will get fewer product-related questions. As a result, they’ll be happier in their role and do a better job of making other customers happy.

Moreover, you’re letting customers find out about upcoming features on their own. It may not sound like a big deal, but the truth is - you’re showing your customers that there is a process in place for feature requests and that you actually incorporate their feedback and listen to it.

Follow up with everyone involved in the process

Ideally, when a feature goes live, you would notify everyone who uses your product about the change. You can actually do this quite easily with FeedBear’s Changelog feature and notify your entire customer base that you built something new that they should also see.

But even more importantly, you should notify the exact people who requested the feature. Also, think of everyone else who commented and helped you out to build it exactly as planned.

You can do this with FeedBear, of course. Everyone who requested a feature, voted on it or left a comment, or interacted in any way with a request will get a notification once a feature goes live. That way, you don’t have to go through a tedious manual process and you can dedicate your time elsewhere.

There is a good chance that someone who requested a feature and had it built by you is a customer that is going to stay with you. What’s more, they are likely to become your biggest brand advocate.

Wrapping up

Before you start pulling your hair and worrying about how to build that next feature, you need to understand that even if you have the best product in the world, the requests will keep on coming. When you use a systematic approach to feature requests (such as the one above), everyone will be happier. Your customers will have new and better features and your team will handle customers more easily.

If you’re wondering how you can do the same, try out FeedBear today! You can give it a spin for free for 14 days but you’ll love it from day one - take our word on that!

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