How Product and Customer Success Teams Build Stronger Roadmaps Together

See why introducing customer success teams to product roadmaps has proved beneficial at these 3 NYC companies.

Written by Tyler Holmes
Published on Aug. 18, 2022
How Product and Customer Success Teams Build Stronger Roadmaps Together
Brand Studio Logo

“The customer is always right.”

It’s an idiom we’ve heard time and time again, popularized by retail moguls like John Marshall, often in context of a customer having a poor user experience and seeking reconciliation for their troubles. But more accurately, it’s important to understand that the customer isn’t always right. A customer can inaccurately use a product or service, misunderstand end expectations or even simply not be the proper target demographic for a product’s latest features.

However, this also doesn’t mean that the customer is in the wrong, or that blame should be shifted when a company has slipped and missed the mark in delivery. It comes down to analyzing customer satisfaction data, and knowing how to adapt the user experience for the most mutually beneficial outcome. But how can companies cohesively unite collected customer feedback and necessary product tweaks when product experts typically don’t have access to customer-facing relationships? Enter customer success teams.

“It’s important to understand that product and customer success are all working towards the same goal,” said Meisha Brown, senior customer support manager at lottery platform Jackpocket. “Everybody wants a good experience for the user. It’s just about what roads are we going to take to get there — so having patience and understanding that there’s a level of process and organization at play will help you.”

This approach to fine-tuning the product roadmaps has encouraged product and CS team leads at Jackpocket to meet multiple times a month to discuss key updates and give customer success employees the opportunity to raise any red flags that have been reported by customer feedback reports. By creating cohesion between teams and allowing product suggestions to be prioritized in real time, companies also prove that they value transparency and flexibility with their customers, which translates into increased loyalty and satisfaction.

Built In NYC sat down with leaders at Jackpocket, customer success platform Catalyst Software and AI smart buildings company Prescriptive Data to learn more about the ways they’re incorporating customer success teams into product roadmap development and the benefits that have resulted due to their unique experiences.

“Plus, who doesn’t love it when a feature they influenced is released?” said Aaron Brondum, vice president of customer success at Prescriptive Data. “Customers that feel like they’re part of the team continue to be happy and helpful.”

 

Sandhya Aretz
Manager, Customer Success • Catalyst Software

 

Describe the process your team uses for funneling customer requests to the product team.

A truly customer-obsessed company has solving a customer’s problem rooted in its DNA. As any product continues to evolve, it is vital to match the company’s direction and vision with that of the customer’s needs. At Catalyst, we log all feature requests in our own platform. We then leverage connector tools to route this information to the product team for insight, and the broader company for further visibility. When actually logging the feature request, the template we use has a section to specifically capture the “what,” “when” and “why.” This additional context is critical, and leads to identifying beta candidates when new features are being developed by our product team.

Outside of the formal process to log customer requests, internally we use our own product and are essentially treated as another customer. With this firsthand experience of using our own tool, the lines of communication are always kept very open between product and customer success teams for research and feedback. 

 

From your perspective, what are the main challenges that arise when customer success teams take greater ownership over the product roadmap, and how do you navigate them?

Customer success professionals always have to find the fine line between advocating on behalf of customers to internal teams, and managing expectations externally around how that vision aligns with customers’ own ideals. When customer success is in a position to influence the product roadmap, the perspective stems from the customer’s use case and their ideal outcome, rooted in the deep relationships built with customers.

With strong advocacy for customers comes the risk of bias: Each CSM champions their customers, but doesn’t always have the opportunity to pull the pieces of the puzzle together to take stock of the broader picture. It’s possible that what feels like a major emerging trend might be due to a smaller sample size, recency bias or more feeling than fact. To navigate and avoid a skewed view, it’s important to collaborate with the product team for cohesion, check for bias and align with the company’s product vision.

As any product continues to evolve, it is vital to match the company’s direction and vision with that of the customer’s needs.”

 

What tips would you offer to a customer success manager or leader looking for greater influence over the product roadmap?

Use data to inform your decisions. As you make a formal process of collecting feature requests from customers to share with your product team, you’ll start seeing patterns of where customers are needing more functionality from the product. Where the risk of recency bias or smaller sample size mentioned earlier can arise when your opinions are based on your own book of business, sticking to the facts can serve as a helpful checks-and-balances system.

On top of just seeing the quantifiable breadth of a specific feature request, you can start including factors like contract value, customer health and renewal date to start building business cases for determining roadmap items. Using these metrics to measure the impact specific features or direction of the roadmap may have on the business tells a much stronger story, and therefore can influence change.

 

 

Jackpocket employees working in the office.
JACKPOCKET

 

Meisha Brown
Senior Customer Support Manager • Jackpocket

 

Describe the process your team uses for funneling customer requests to the product team.

It starts internally with the customer success team. The entire team meets four times a week for at least 30 minutes. We’ll raise anything that is worth funneling to the product team based off of customer inquiries. Next comes gathering information like number of requests around the same question or number of views on a support article. We use Zendesk reporting tools like tags based on keywords to get a tally for making our case to the product.

The product team and the CS leads meet every few weeks. Product will give us updates on the product roadmap, and then it’s our turn to raise any fixes or improvements we think should be prioritized based on what we’re seeing from customer feedback. A recent example was an app feature that showed a player’s lifetime lottery winnings since becoming a Jackpocket app user. Many people loved it, but a portion of users were confused by how the feature was presented and thought we were showing them how many credits they had left to spend in their account. It was a constant battle between offering value to the user and confusing them. We pushed product to remove that feature until it could be redesigned, which in the long run will make a better experience overall for our users.

 

From your perspective, what are the main challenges that arise when customer success teams take greater ownership over the product roadmap, and how do you navigate them?

The number one challenge is understanding that even if the CS team feels strongly about something that needs to be fixed, changed or updated, sometimes it just doesn’t get prioritized on the roadmap over things that are more important. But it still affects the CS team directly and how we communicate with users.

We have to come up with creative ways for providing customers with a complete solution, even though we know we can’t implement a change right away in the product, and we know it’s going to take some time in order for that change to happen. 

I always play the grandma effect. I say to myself, “If this was your grandma and she was going through this experience, how would you want her to feel?” So, it’s all about getting better at communicating to the customer that we’re aware of the issue, we’re doing everything we can to fix it and figuring out how we can still make them happy, even though we know a change isn’t happening right away.

I say to myself, ‘If this was your grandma and she was going through this experience, how would you want her to feel?’”

 

What tips would you offer to a customer success manager or leader looking for greater influence over the product roadmap?

Metrics and evidence are your best friends. This could be the volume of tickets around a certain issue, the number of views a particular help center article receives or spikes in inquiries around a certain topic. Because the number one question I’ll get is “How many people were complaining about this?” I can’t report something without having the information to back it up. 

Communicate with your team. Create spaces where they can raise what they’ve noticed. I’m constantly asking the team for feedback — what ways we can improve, what they think and if they were in the customer's shoes, how would they want us to solve the issue? Feedback from the people who are actually working directly with your customers is important because they’re the first in line. And then being able to bundle it all up in a nice package to send to product works best.

 

 

Aaron Brondum
VP, Customer Success • Prescriptive Data, Inc.

 

Describe the process your team uses for funneling customer requests to the product team.

At Prescriptive Data, we use our customer support and CRM platform to track all of our interactions with customers. When product requests come in, we capture them in the platform to share and track with our product team. This ensures that every piece of feedback we receive is managed and utilized as we continue to improve and enhance our Nantum OS solution.

 

From your perspective, what are the main challenges that arise when customer success teams take greater ownership over the product roadmap, and how do you navigate them?

Our customer success team works closely with the product team. This includes capturing product requests we get and when the product team solicits customer feedback. Some challenges can be when CS and product are not aligned on customers’ needs or if customers are overburdened with too many asks. Customers can get confused or frustrated when multiple people are making requests of them from the same company.

By using the CS team to manage and maintain customer interactions, we at Prescriptive Data are able to avoid any stress on the customer while still optimizing our product to their needs. The CS and product teams meet every two weeks to review customer requests, to coordinate customer feedback sessions and to help prioritize the roadmap.

Have a formalized system to capture all customer product requests and have a documented process about the right ways for CS and product to interact.”

 

What tips would you offer to a customer success manager or leader looking for greater influence over the product roadmap?

If you’re looking to have more influence over the product roadmap, it starts with process. Have a formalized system to capture all customer product requests and have a documented process about the right ways for CS and product to interact. I’d recommend having regularly scheduled working sessions with product to make sure customer requests are being considered. These sessions are also helpful in getting the latest product roadmap to share with customers.

Be sure you’re leveraging customer product feedback sessions to elevate and appreciate your customer. It’s important to let the customer know the company values their opinion and that they play a key role in what features are on the roadmap. The customer’s insight is always special because of who they are and how they use the product.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

Hiring Now