When it comes down to it, each employee at your company is working towards the same overarching goal: to serve your customers. However, because the roles they play in reaching that goal are extremely different, it’s easy for individual teams to feel disconnected from one another.
This isn’t ideal.
Though the job responsibilities of each team are different, they’re ultimately connected. And if they have the chance to communicate, they can help each other perform their work more efficiently.
That’s especially true of product teams and customer support teams.
So if you aren’t yet enabling collaboration between these two teams, keep reading to learn about the impact it could have on your product—and, as a result, on your company’s overall success.
Why Take an Integrated Approach to Development and Support?
Even though integrating product development and product support efforts can be extremely beneficial, many businesses are yet to do so. In fact, some companies still make the mistake of viewing their support teams as nothing more than an unavoidable expense.
They know that they need support in order to keep retention numbers high, but don’t really see it as an investment, or a factor in any other company goals.
If this is the approach that your company takes, you’re unlikely to gain any valuable insight from your support team. If you train your agents only in providing basic answers and information, they won’t have a lot to contribute to the company as a whole.
So if that’s how your team functions, it’s time to reframe how you view support. Encourage agents to go beyond simply providing resolutions. Teach them to engage with each customer.
Asking a few questions can turn each support interaction into a valuable source of insight for your company.
In fact, 58% of product teams1 say that their customer support teams have an influence on their product roadmap and 61% rate customer interviews as the most valuable kind of product insight.
So, for companies that do consider customer input when developing and improving products, that input is extremely useful—even more than usability tests, surveys, and customer advisory boards.
And with the right approach to support, you don’t even need to create a formal interview process. Each of your agents can collect helpful feedback throughout the course of their daily workdays and provide a steady flow of insight for your product team.
4 Things Your Product Team can Learn from Customer Support
Product teams have a lot to gain by speaking with their customer support counterparts.
But if you aren’t sure where to begin in your efforts to open a line of communication, these are four helpful pieces of information that your customer support team should relay to your product team.
1. Which Features Users Struggle With
Many of the inquiries that your support team handles are about issues that customers have when they use your products.
For issues that relate to bugs or other malfunctions, your support team likely already has a system in place for alerting developers who can fix these problems.
But when the lines of communication are open between these two teams, your product team can gain far more insight into the issues customers face.
For example, if your support team receives inquiries from customers who can’t find a specific button or feature, they might opt to use screenshots or detailed written instructions to help those customers locate what they’re looking for.
This approach can work, and hard-to-find buttons aren’t technically a bug that you need to fix. In fact, for every customer that reaches out because they’re struggling, there are likely dozens more that find those same buttons without any difficulty.
But that doesn’t mean that their placement couldn’t be improved.
Even minor updates that improve the user experience can have a major impact on your product’s usability and value. And keep in mind that these minor updates add up over time.
When your support and product teams work together, you can be sure that your developers are aware of all of the issues your customers run into — even if they’re not “serious” enough to prevent customers from using your product altogether.
2. Which Features Users Love
Although many customers only reach out when they run into issues, your support team doesn’t only need to collect feedback on the features that cause problems.
They can also collect feedback on the ones that are working well and providing value to your customers.
Of course, if you’re not yet in the habit of soliciting feedback from support interactions, you might have a tendency to think that no news is good news. If customers aren’t having issues with a feature, then it must be working, right?
Maybe. But is “functional” really the goal you’re aiming for? That’s a pretty low bar.
Instead, your goal should be to offer a product that provides real value to your users, exceeds their expectations, and stands out from the products that your competitors have created.
And if your product team only revises features when they’re broken or difficult to use, you’re unlikely to reach those goals. Fortunately, your support team can help them take a more proactive approach by learning which features your users love.
This is particularly valuable if your team focuses on why users love those features and the benefits they bring.
After all, without feedback, your developers have no way of knowing which initiatives and launches are hits with your customers.
But with this kind of insight, they can focus their efforts on the kinds of updates and additions that mean the most to your customers and create a product that’s increasingly tailored to their needs.
3. Which New Features Users Want
Determining what kinds of features you should add and which improvements you should make to a product isn’t always a straightforward process. That’s why many companies spend thousands of dollars on research and development every year.
But what many of those companies overlook is that they already have access to an extremely valuable source of information: their existing customers.
If your product team struggles to come up with new ideas, you may be surprised by how many of your customers have answers for you when you ask them what kinds of features they’d like to see or what kinds of changes would improve their experience with your product.
As a result, adding this simple question to the end of each support interaction can yield a ton of helpful insight.
Plus, if you offer a support community for your users, many of these users are likely making requests and suggestions already.
And if your community is relatively large, you can do what Gainsight2 does and let users “upvote” other users’ suggestions.
In the screenshot above, for example, 12 users clicked the “Me Too,” button. This indicates that they’d also like to have the feature that the original poster suggested.
This makes it easy for the company to see which requests are the most popular among their users so that they can prioritize accordingly.
4. How Customers Really Use Your Product
Because your product team doesn’t interact directly with customers, they generally make their decisions based on how they think those customers use your product.
But their assumptions aren’t always correct. As a result, there’s often a disconnect between the hypothetical uses that new features are created for and the way that customers really use your product.
For example, let’s say that your product is a small business accounting platform. Your product team might assume that most of your users primarily utilize it to keep track of their finances and compile monthly reports.
As a result, they’d likely focus their efforts on improving the reporting interface and features.
But if most of your users are really interested in your product for its ability to send and manage invoices, they won’t care about those improvements.
Your support team can eliminate this disconnect by sharing insight from their customer interactions. This way, your developers can focus on improving your product in a way that’s in line with your customers’ needs and goals.
Establishing lines of communication between different departments of a company can have a positive impact on each one’s ability to reach their goals and serve customers.
And though there are many teams that can benefit from collaboration, product teams, and support teams are one of the most valuable matches for any company.
As some of the only people who engage with customers on a regular basis, your support agents can provide a ton of helpful insight for your product team.
They can give feedback on existing features (both positive and negative) and let developers know what kinds of improvements and additions your users want.
Plus, they can give developers a better idea of how customers actually use your product. That way, if it isn’t in line with the uses they imagined, they can adjust accordingly.
Essentially, opening the lines of communication between these teams gives the people working on your product input from the people who really use it. And that’s invaluable for any company looking to take a customer-focused approach to development.
Main illustration done by Vinodhkumar Neelakandan
1 – https://community.uservoice.com/blog/infographic-customer-powered-product-decisions/
2 – https://www.gainsight.com/blog/work-product-team/