No Feature Request Left Behind: A Case for Product Management SLAs

Product Management

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In this post, we outline the benefits of creating an internal service level agreement (SLA) governing response times for product ideas and requests. We find that product teams who are responsive generally earn more trust, even in cases when they say ‘no’ to stakeholder ideas or requests.

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If you’re like most product managers, you’re busy. Gathering requirements, meeting with customers, attending standups, scoping releases, answering questions from the sales team — there’s literally no end to a PM’s work.

With so much going on, things sometimes slip through the cracks. The items that are most commonly dropped are those deemed neither urgent nor important — a perfectly reasonable way to prioritize your time.

But here’s one situation where letting things slip by without responding is actually a big deal, and should be avoided at any cost: feature requests. Here’s why.

Failing to respond to ideas and requests sows seeds of distrust between Product Management and their stakeholders. Simply put: if you don’t respond, your stakeholders eventually conclude that (a) You don’t value their input, (b) You’re unorganized, or — worse yet — (c) You’re incompetent. Regardless of which perception takes hold, it’s not a good situation to be in…

Luckily, there are some easy solutions.

The Product team at one of our enterprise customers, for example, has implemented an internal service level agreement (SLA) governing response times for incoming product requests and ideas. Simply put: the Product team promised to respond to all requests within 5 business days. Here’s a quick runthrough of their use case:

Background

Product Management is at headquarters, while Field Sales and Support teams are distributed throughout the U.S. and Europe. Teams lacked a standardized process for capturing customer feedback, and submitting requests and ideas — this information was tracked variously in a CRM, a customer support portal, notes from meetings, spreadsheets and many, many emails. Per the company’s own admission, this state of affairs was costing their business a huge amount of revenue per year in lost opportunities.

Solution

Using Wizeline, the Product team had already created a single, central location to receive and review all inbound ideas and requests. This on its own made it far easier to ensure all ideas were responded to.

Second, the company’s Sales, Customer Success and Support teams were all given access to Product Tracker, our application for Salesforce. The app enabled these teams to quickly submit requests and other customer needs directly within Salesforce and without changing the way they worked.

Bonus for the Product team: they started seeing valuable customer information tied to each request, including customer name, revenue amount, nice-to-have vs. must-have designation, and more.

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Third, the teams benefited from some of the automation included in the Wizeline platform. For example: when changes are made to a request — it can be accepted as a new feature into the backlog, grouped with similar requests, dismissed, or commented on to ask for more information — Wizeline can notify the requester. Outcome: the Product team improved communication with less work.

Finally, all stakeholders who are submitting idea and requests at the company are able to log into Wizeline and view all their past requests, by status. Even after the Product team’s response, these individuals are able to stay informed relative to the information they’ve submitted.

Outcome

Results of the 5-day SLA have thus far been positive. The Sales and Customer Success teams feels more connected to the Product team, while the Product team is saving time and getting a more comprehensive view of what customers and prospects need.  

So there you have it. Even if you don’t use Wizeline, we hope you find this information helpful. If you’re thinking about setting up a similar response time SLA, consider the following tips:

  1. Make it easy for your teams to submit their ideas and feature requests via multiple channels
  2. Funnel this multi-channel information into in a single place
  3. Ideally, try to automate the communication back to each requester; at a minimum, be proactive about responding to people
  4. Run an experiment for one month, tracking top requester and acceptance rates, and see what your teams think

 

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Peter Moore Posted by Peter Moore on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

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Dec 12, 2017

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