How valuable is Customer Success’s input in creating a solid product roadmap?! In the past, companies relied solely on the product management team to build and drive roadmaps. The product team was in charge of communicating with customers and stakeholders, integrating all the feedback collected, creating the roadmap, and presenting it to executives and owners. It was a one-team show.
In the modern world, where customer experience and engagement play a huge role in determining the success of any initiative, having your Customer Success teams collaborate with your product team is essential.
Because Customer Success spends the majority of its time and resources engaging with customers and understanding their needs, it makes sense that Customer Success would have a significant influence on the product roadmap.
For this article, CSM Practice interviewed Emily Garza, AVP of Customer Success at Fastly, on how Customer Success can work with product teams to create customer-centric product roadmaps that not only boost retention but also realize new revenue-making opportunities.
Shifting the Product Roadmap Ownership to Customer Success
What is a product roadmap? A product roadmap is a visual plan that details initiatives for the short and long term in chronological order. It is used as a guide to steer an idea towards creating a service or product that fulfills the request of either the customer, the development team, or high-level executives. In the short term, a product roadmap helps ensure that all teams are aligned with the strategy and meet deadlines. In the long term, it enables teams to identify areas to prioritize.
As Customer Success enables organizations to become more customer-aware, their impact on the product roadmap is huge. Garza shares that, in the past, product teams would often get pulled out to talk or present to customers. With Customer Success in the product roadmap creation workflow, companies now have a better sense of customer needs, allowing product teams to focus on developing and enhancing products.
3-Phase Customer Success Product Roadmap Strategy
Fastly adopts a three-phase strategy to ensure that product teams are working closely with Customer Success to deliver customer satisfaction, reduce churn, and increase retention.
Phase 1: Customer-Feature Impact Analysis
- Create a Workbook to assess customer needs
- Document customer needs
- Assess impact
- Add related Customer Support Case
- Assign priority
Track customer details (including revenue tiers and list of requests) in one spreadsheet before considering the possibility of adopting a chargeable product or introducing a new feature. Determine if customers would be willing to pay for enhancements to gauge the true level of Customer Success impact on their business. The Customer Success manager then connects with industry-focused managers to look at trends and use cases.
Close this phase by assigning levels of priority. For example, if a case is ignored, would it lead to churn? Or if a case is resolved, would the customer be more open to paying for enhanced services?
Phase 2: Inter-Department Collaboration
- Meeting with Product Managers
- Connecting the CS and Product Teams
- Gathering Inter-Department Feedbacks
- Stack Ranking Feedbacks
- Validating with Customers
Set individual meetings with product managers at least once a month and present insights compiled from customers and team meetings to discuss the functions that customers are looking for. It’s more effective if the feedback is consolidated from other departments, as well, such as customer support, engineering, and sales.
Ranking feedback helps streamline the process for the product team and gives them a deeper understanding of customer needs. This collaborative environment doesn’t just address current customer requirements but opens up opportunities to create new services and features. Then, the next step would be to validate with customers: are these planned features also something that they would need?
Garza points out that it does not make sense to charge for every single new product feature, but in order for a company to create a product or service that customers are willing to pay extra for, two things need to be considered:
- What is compelling in the market?
- What are the other companies charging for that your company could as well?
Phase 3: Scaling Feedback Loop
- Product team assessment
- Prioritizing tasks to avoid churn and risks
Having reliable product management software, like ProductBoard, helps to automate and make the process more efficient for Customer Success and product team collaboration. This allows both departments (and other relevant teams) to access important information for any purpose.
The benefits of a product management system include:
- A centralized customer information repository for all teams
- Reduced reliance and waiting times on human responses to customer queries
- Valuable data, or “truths,” are more accessible
Customer Success x Product Team Roadmap Collaboration
Overall, the Customer Success team has the strongest pulse on what customers want. They have a better grasp of what’s being asked, what’s coming, and what types of projects customers are looking to do over the next six to 12 months. Funneling insights from the Customer Success team to the product team is valuable in producing a stellar customer experience. In the same vein, Customer Success should also understand what the product team needs and cares about, and what structure they work in. With that said, it is critical to invest in strengthening this relationship.
How Can CSM Practice Help?
At CSM Practice, we accelerate SaaS companies’ profitable growth through customer retention and expansion selling strategies. Whether you’re looking to introduce a new Customer Success team into your product-driven operations or are seeking to implement a more collaborative approach between Customer Success and Product Development teams, we can help you create a customized management strategy that best fits your objectives.
CSM Practices specializes in the technology and services industries, with a strong portfolio of small-business to enterprise-level solutions that achieve successful, scalable, and sustainable results. CSM Practice offers a customer-centric approach to help you develop a winning plan for your customers’ long-term success.