How To Get Product Feedback

Do You Like My Hat from Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman

This is a pattern that works for early access to a software project or for making a big decision (deprecating a feature for instance). As a product manager you’re going to treat your own requirement as a project to bring to resolution.

First, why get feedback? You had data to drive your decision before right? Well sure, but in enterprises things can change while you were off with engineering doing the work. Also, you can be certain that leadership will want to know that you’ve talked to the most important customers and gotten some buy off. They’re not wrong to want that, either. This isn’t the article for how to get the feedback you need though, that’s here.

We’re looking at the technique instead. Gather your tools! A spreadsheet, a calendar, and your communication tool of choice (Slack, email, etc… in the old days, this was a telephone, ew).

Spreadsheet time. You need three sections: in, maybe, and out. You need columns for name, contact, sales, tech, next step, and notes. The rows will be customers. Fill in the Maybe section with your pool of candidates, and then move them to In or Out as you make decisions.

The pool is your top customers from the following sources: revenue, support tickets, and your gut. You should have a couple dozen candidates. Fill in the people, and start contacting your sales and tech reps. You can write one message and send it to all of them, but don’t just broadcast, give them a private channel for candid conversations. They will warn you if it’s a bad idea to raise this now. For all you know, that the customer has been touched with lots of access requests, or tripped over critical bugs. They might just be going through internal drama and have no time for this. Never touch the customer without going through their sales team.

When you’ve got your in list settled, you can start the process of getting your feedback. Maybe it’s a survey, or a meeting, or a demo, or white glove synchronous acceptance testing with the customer… you need to build a flow chart of what you want to have happen, what feedback to get, and work that process. Again, another set of posts. For this task of getting the feedback, the important part is to not get distracted.

Calendar time: give yourself a fifteen to thirty minute block in every day and put the link to the spreadsheet in there. Spend that time pushing reality forward by contacting people, and then updating your tracker. As long as you’re at it, set yourself a date when you’ll report on your decision, pick the venue, and put in a few hours to write that report. Don’t forget to schedule time in that venue too… maybe it’s just an internal call, but they’re going to have an agenda and backlog too.

Then you just work the process, present the feedback, and humbly accept the kudos for being such an organized and competent person.

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