How to Use Customer Success Input for Product Roadmapping

Fostering open collaboration between teams leads to stronger customer adoption. Here's how.

Written by Mike Redd
Published on Feb. 25, 2022
How to Use Customer Success Input for Product Roadmapping
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Customer success and product teams are closest to day-to-day customer needs in most B2B SaaS businesses. So how can these teams best align to incorporate customer success insights into their product roadmaps?

Recently, I had the privilege of moderating a panel of expert product and customer success leaders from high-growth companies. Our discussion leaders included:

Together, we explored some of their best practices for how teams can work cross-functionally to deliver the highest value to their customers.

3 Keys to Better Collaboration Between Customer Success and Product Teams

  1. Cross-functional beta testing between teams
  2. A partnership mindset
  3. Clear, open communication channels


How Can Customer Success Teams Provide Product Input?

In their daily interactions, customer success teams hear different types of product ideas that are unique to each customer segment. Power users tend to give feedback on their everyday user experiences, while executive decision makers and budget holders want more higher-level information — like analytics and revenue impact.

Here’s Craig’s take: “Product teams are usually accountable for, ‘What’s next? What’s new?’ Meanwhile, the customer success teams are getting beat up on the UX details.”

We asked our community attendees how often their customer success and product teams work together to get input for product roadmaps. More than half said they collaborate all the time, a quarter said they get together monthly, and the rest said these exchanges happen quarterly or less.

One way to bridge that gap and bring value to both teams? Beta testing.

When Quala releases new features, Jonathan said the customer success team is an integral part of beta testing those features to ensure that they are valuable — before opening them up to all customers. Over at Toast, Craig leverages his regional success managers in a similar way. Since they are closest with customers, their validation is key.

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The Key to Better Collaboration

When it comes to cross-functional collaboration, all our speakers agreed that developing an in-depth understanding of how the other team works is central to success.

Both teams should think of each other as partners when rolling out new features. Their values should be aligned, and each function needs to understand the other’s work in order to have a stronger relationship and a better product.

When Brendon’s product team at Crayon rolled out a new process, he saw it as an important learning opportunity for the customer success team: “I had them read a book about it. Then they understood how the product team wanted to deploy beta features, where they were taking feedback and what types of feedback points were built into the process. It really helped us align with them.”

Once customer success teams have established this core understanding, they should bring product teams into their customer conversations. As much as product managers would like to talk to customers, the reality is that they’re often too busy developing and shipping new features. This is where customer success teams can help – by filling in the quantitative data with qualitative human stories and real use cases.

Here’s Brendon again: “Talking to customers gives life to the data. And customers also love being part of that process. They become even more committed to the product. In the best cases, the customer success manager will do an intro and be on a couple of the calls. But then the product manager will further develop that relationship.”

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How Customer Success Teams Can Advocate for Product Work

“Feature requests are a fool’s errand,” Craig told us.

Product teams are uniquely equipped to solve problems, not just process feature requests. So instead of submitting a to-do list, customer success teams should bring a problem and ask for a solution — because too many feature requests in a queue drown just each other out.

Instead, customer success teams should think in terms of themes. Take a look back at the past month and tease out the top three things that customers said. What are the common threads, the big problems or opportunities? Then bring these to the product team.

“When we discuss trends and themes, those conversations are much more fruitful,” Brendon said. “The product team often designs and builds something slightly different than we would have suggested, but it solves the problem in a thoughtful way.”

The ideal scenario is one where the customer success team can access all these customer data points in one place, so they can focus on the bigger picture: what it all means and how to take action on those insights.


Avoid This Pitfall

Wherever your teams are working, communication is key — especially when it comes to rolling out new features.

Our speakers agreed: Customer success teams always want a heads up when something new is about to launch. Most importantly, they want a solid understanding of the value of that feature so they can explain to customers how and why they should use it. When this alignment happens internally, customer adoption tends to be stronger, too.

Want more? Catch the full video session here.

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