Product feature requests are a type of user feedback: specific ideas that users send your company to inform you of how they’d like to experience your product. Alongside tracking your user metrics with an analytics tool like June, gathering qualitative feedback like product feature requests is the key to improving your overall user experience.
Managing feature requests effectively allows you to keep track of these key ideas and prioritize product updates and releases to optimize UX and therefore drive user retention and growth. At June, everything we do embodies our people-first approach. Actioning the software feature requests made by our users allows us to make them a priority in our product roadmap.
With that said, we’ve put together this 5-step guide with actionable tips on how to manage feature requests to grow your business. We’ll cover feature request management in detail:
- How to get actionable feature requests
- Consolidating and categorizing feature requests
- Prioritizing feature requests using product analytics
- Making decisions on feature requests
- Communicating feature requests
- Actioning feature requests and tracking their success
But, firstly, let’s identify the main types of feature requests and where they come from:
Different Types of Feature Request
Feature requests are your users’ ideas for improvements to your product, online tool or software, and they can range from quick fixes to whole new functions:
- Bug reports or UX pain points: user feedback that your product has crashed, is misbehaving, or generally isn’t working as they expect it to.
- Feature improvement: suggestions for improvements to an existing feature that works but could be made a bit better from the user’s perspective. For example, this could consist of requests to make a button bigger on your app or to re-word the copy on a certain page.
- New feature: ideas for entirely new functions to be built into your product, like requests for a new integration with an external platform.
Where Do Product Feature Requests Come From?
Depending on the type of feature request, the feedback could come from different sources. Understanding how users send feature requests and getting the most out of this feedback is key to feature request management. Here are some examples of collecting direct feedback for feature requests.
- Customer service team & via email, live chat, social media messages: feature requests and other user feedback will often be shared directly with your customer service team. This is particularly the case for reactive feature requests like bug reports: when users have a problem, they want to get it fixed as soon as possible.
2. Form submission: shorter than surveys, forms are usually built into your product allowing users to send quick feedback informing you of problems.
3. Surveys: surveying your users directly on how you can improve your product is a key way to collect feature requests.
How To Get Actionable Feature Requests From Your User Feedback
To collect quality data on feature requests and maintain a people-over-process approach, you need to be proactive in getting user feedback. This means asking the right questions at the right time and in the right way to get honest, useful feature requests. Find out what your users want and need to avoid being one of the 21% of products that fail to meet customer needs.
Rob Fitzpatrick’s book The Mom Test looks at how to talk to your users to get honest feedback, built on the premise that the wrong phrasing will invite your mom (and anyone else you ask) to lie about your product. Our best practices to pass the “Mom test” are:
- Craft non-leading, open-ended questions to understand how and why people use your product: don’t talk about your ideas for features - instead, ask about their life and focus on specifics in the past (“what did you last use *** for?”) instead of generic questions or opinions about the future (“would you use the product if…?”).
Proactively prioritize feature requests by asking users “How critical is this feature request for you?”. Ensure you listen to their tone and emotion in answering to gauge their true feeling about the feedback.
These questions should be used in the forms and surveys you send out, as well as by your customer service and social media teams in interactions with users.
- Talk less, listen more, and look at what they’re not saying: the way you collect user feedback is key. As well as recording written feature requests from the sources mentioned above, hold focus groups with face-to-face meetings to see how users react to your product and use session recordings to assess how users actually use your product and to flag any bugs in real-time.
- Back up user feedback with analytics: collect qualitative data on how your product is being used with June. By connecting your Segment account and using our product insights templates, you can generate instant reports on adoption, retention, conversion and more, as well performing feature audits to analyze which of your current features are most used. Triangulate these insights with your feature request feedback to determine how important these requests are.
June can also be used to facilitate collecting software feature requests. With our Users & Companies Slipping Away reports, you can flag customers at risk of churning and contact them to ask for feedback and feature requests. Equally, you can use the data from our Top Feature Users report to reach out to the customers who use a particular function more than others and ask why they like it, especially if others have requested changes to it.
Why Do SaaS Companies Need to Listen to Feature Requests?
To answer this accurately, you must first understand things from a user’s perspective. Otherwise, you risk being apathetic and respond to them in the wrong way.
Customers do not intend to bother you when they make a feature request. Instead, they share parts of your product they are unsatisfied with and would love to see improvement. This is why feature requests serve more as feedback than a complaint and why SaaS companies get a lot of it.
Also, when a customer makes a product feature request, it is an indication that they use and trust your product. So, ultimately, feature requests help you understand users' expectations and strengthen their bond with your company. You can use feature request software to manage frequent suggestions.
Product Feature Request Management: Expectations vs. Reality
When customers make a product feature request, they expect you to provide an update based on their suggestions, and look forward to seeing you implement their recommendations. This amounts to the expectation, but the reality is entirely different.
In reality, not every feature request made by users will get executed. With an ever growing product backlog, some will get applied, others will be rejected outrightly, while some will get modified to fit the goals of the product.
You should always have in mind as a product manager or team member that most feature requests are based on a user’s personal preferences. While this might seem self-centered, the customer making the demand is sincere and wants the best out of your product.
However, they are not overly concerned about how their request will affect the vision or goal of your product. So, what should you do as a product manager?
- First, define the product goal, including what it is meant to achieve or do. Ensure the implemented requests align with the product vision. Also, always put the product’s objective first even if the feature request is very tempting, and only entertain such suggestions if they align with the product goals. When you’ve narrowed down feature requests that align with your product goals, prioritize requests that are relevant to most of your users. For this, you can use June to identify features that users love to use and can be improved.
How To Manage Product Feature Requests: 5 Step Guide
1. Consolidate & Categorize Feature Requests
Capture feedback from multiple channels in one place. No matter where the feature requests come from and which team member deals with them, they should be entered into one tool so you can keep track of them.
It’s easy to organize feedback on product feature requests even as a startup or small business with few resources. Free project and product management software like Trello allow you to collect and visualize all of your feedback in one place. Alternatively, you can manage feature requests within a spreadsheet.
Break down feature requests into sub-requests if necessary. Some feature requests require multiple, differently-localized solutions. The granularity you give to a feedback statement has a huge impact on its solutions.
Take, for example, Spotify’s addition of both an “Add to playlist” and “Add to queue” function. As June co-founder Enzo Avigo Tweets: “Both allow you to add a song to a list, one with any theme, the second to consume right now. The playlist approach solved both use cases but the team decided the 2nd problem deserved a specific solution.”
Increased granularity of feature requests allows more in-depth analysis of what users want and facilitates the people-over-process approach that will drive growth.
Categorize software feature requests to facilitate prioritization:
- Classify the software feature requests according to which part of your product they relate to
- Flag whether they are bug reports based on customer problems, feature improvements to improve the quality of the product or new feature requests - whether from users or our own team
- Note the number of upvotes/how many times the feature request has been made
- You could also identify which user or company made the request and the status of the request
2. Prioritize Feature Requests Using Product Analytics
With your product feature requests categorized and classified in one place, you’ll start to note patterns and popular requests with multiple upvotes. Using the insight you already gathered on how important each feature request is to your users, you can start prioritizing the feedback based on their needs and on your actual product usage metrics:
- How many people use that feature and how frequently they use it: use our Feature Audit to visualize how many people are using each feature of your product and with what frequency. If multiple feature requests are being made for a little-used function (bottom-left section of below graph), you’ve got a good chance of increasing adoption by making that improvement.
- How satisfied users are with the feature currently: use our Feature & User Retention reports to identify when users stop using certain functions to back up urgent product feature requests. Compare this to overall user retention rates to assess whether actioning particular feature requests could prevent churn. If your company has reached product-market fit, monitoring user retention allows you to ensure your early customers don’t leave as your product evolves.
- How important the feature request is in the workflow and to users: use the above data to address features that are driving churn; refer to your user feedback to identify critical changes, or reach out to users again to get more insight
Ensure you have a balanced product roadmap. A product roadmap is basically a timeline of what you are planning to build next. As Intercom co-founder Des Traynor highlights in the video below, feature request management is a critical and ongoing part of the product roadmap.
Make sure your feature request priorities list include a balance of the below categories of product improvements:
- Feature requests from users and ideas from the team
- Iteration of every product and feature release
- Improving quality by identifying and fixing bugs and common UX problems
- Features for the future: you are likely to run into problems while your company grows so your product will need to adapt to help your company scale
Create a prioritization board with the data you have gathered. We like the MoSCoW method (or anything that simple):
3. Make Decisions On Feature Requests With Team & Stakeholders
Align the MoSCoW priorities with your team’s and stakeholders’ priorities and their assessment of the end-user’s priorities. Discuss the top and mid priority feature requests (Must have, Should have) together to identify what, when and how you’ll move forward with them based on:
- Necessary resources: what do you need to action the feature request?
- Any obstacles preventing the feature request: ask yourselves why hasn’t it been built until now
- Preparation: what needs doing in order to build or fix the feature request?
- Timeline: consider the amount of time required to action each feature request and align this with your company calendar to ensure they’re deliverable
4. Respond To Feature Requests & Publish Product Roadmap
Remember throughout the entire feature management process how critical communication with your users is. After they’ve given their feedback, let them know you value their input, show you’re taking action and encourage future feature requests.
In that vein, having made decisions on the actions you are taking, keep your users informed on the progress of their feature requests by sending updates via email and social media posts, and publishing your product roadmap and/or changelog.
We share our newest features and product updates on our changelog to keep users up to date on their feature requests
5. Action Feature Requests & Track Results
Shipping a new feature is by no means the end of its development process. Once you’ve actioned your feature requests - whether by fixing a bug, building a new function, or improving an existing one - it’s vital to iterate and continue leveraging your user feedback and product analytics to track the impact on your business growth.
⭐️ Best practice: define your criteria for success before actioning your product feature requests. This could be metrics like increased feature adoption or a boost in retention, and it could also be positive qualitative feedback from your users.
Use June to assess feature adoption: analyze how many (more, hopefully) users are using the feature you’ve fixed, improved, or built on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Continue tracking feature and user retention to see if your actions have driven an improvement.
Coming soon, our Fake Door feature will be an invaluable tool for testing whether users actually want certain feature requests before you invest time and money on them. The Fake Door experiment is a minimum viable product where you communicate the existence of a certain feature to your users without developing anything, and see if they choose to try and access it.
All of our reports include helpful insights to put your user data in context and allow you to take further action if necessary.
5 Best Practices for Feature Request Management
Below, we share practical ways for managing feature requests.
1. Create a System for Receiving and Managing Requests
Build a system to simplify receiving and managing software feature requests from users. If there is no system in place, it would be hard to receive feedback from customers after using your product.
There are several project management software you can use to simplify the process. A product management tool makes it easy to collect and analyze feature requests in one place. As a result, you can track, prioritize, and update the data.
Additionally, use June’s feature audit template to analyze your current product to see the features being used.
2. Keep Users Engaged
A company could ask for a feature request by putting out a notice that reads: new feature submission, submit here! But what happens after users respond? How do you keep them engaged?
The first step to keeping customers engaged is showing them that you considered their suggestion and if accepted, you will take steps to develop the feature requested. Also, let them know whether you will be launching the new feature very soon.
Customer engagement builds trust and helps users follow the product’s journey. The following are ways you can keep users engaged:
- Send regular email updates,
- Capitalize on feedback at the various product development stages,
- Release mockups and design ideas, and
- Create a platform where you can inform users of the product’s progress.
3. Respond to Requests Personally, Promptly, and Honestly
When customers make feature requests, they want you to address their pain points. Therefore, it becomes frustrating to ignore them or respond with an auto-generated email. So, instead of sending generic responses, use personalized replies.
Also, respond quickly and honestly. If you have no intention of considering a request, let the user know immediately. For instance, you could send an email, stating:
“We are grateful for your interest in our product and appreciate you taking the time to make this feature request. However, we regret to inform you that we cannot implement your suggestion at this time as it does not align with our product goals.”
While the customer might be disappointed, they will appreciate your direct and candid response.
4. Discuss Software Feature Requests With Colleagues and Other Customers
As a product manager, it is your job to choose what gets developed and what doesn’t. However, it is essential to get the views of your colleagues and customers. If you believe a specific feature would be beneficial, find out if others think the same.
So, after receiving a feature request from a user, conduct a poll asking your teammates and other customers if you should develop the feature. If many of them love the suggestion, it will yield positive results. But if very few are for it, it will likely fail and should be discarded.
5. Update Concerned Customers on Feature Development
Finally, if a customer made a feature request you developed, update them with the news. Send personalized messages to the user, thanking them for the suggestion and being a part of the development. Again, this makes them feel special and builds brand loyalty. Also, even if the developed feature is not precisely the customer’s suggestion, give them an update and let them know what part of their request you adopted.
Prioritize Feature Requests Using June’s Powerful Analytics
Feature request management may seem overwhelming when you’re faced with different pieces of user feedback coming from multiple channels.
However, by following our key takeaways for managing feature requests, you’ll soon be streamlining your product development process with ease and basing your actions on real user data:
- Collect all of your feature requests in one place and categorize them
- Assess product analytics and your product roadmap to define your feature request priorities
- Maintain communication with your users throughout product development
- Continue tracking your product analytics after releasing new feature requests to monitor their success
Get prioritizing your feature requests using product analytics from June. Start creating reports now for free, visualize your product metrics and get actionable insights on how to improve your product to back up your users’ feature requests.