Navigating the Ownership of Customer Feedback in Early Stage Startups

Early stage startups often grapple with a critical question: who holds the reins of customer feedback? Between conflicting priorities, from bug fixes to strategic roadmaps, the answer isn’t always clear. Let’s dive into the nuances below:

First, a Look at the Dispersed Landscape of Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is a valuable asset but it lacks centralization, and is often scattered across various platforms such as Slack, Trello, spreadsheets, and so on. This decentralized approach means teams need to determine who should be responsible for taking the lead and owning and acting on customer feedback.

While both customer success and product teams play pivotal roles in shaping the overall customer experience, defining clear ownership is essential. This not only establishes a streamlined process that closes the loop, but it helps transform customer input into actionable insights and, ultimately, improved products.

This can play out in two initial phases:

Phase One: Frontline Access with Customer Success

Since customer success teams are on the frontline, they’re closest to the customer and possess a deep understanding of their sentiments and challenges. Because these folks interact with customers daily, they’re a valuable channel for qualitative data and the initial feedback on product and user experience.

Phase Two: Data-Driven Decision Making with Product Teams

On the other side of the spectrum, product teams rely on a structured product feedback loop. They collect and analyze data, conduct user interviews, enhance features, and launch new products. However, relying solely on data points can lead to tunnel vision, which can get in the way of a genuine understanding of customer needs and interactions with the product.

This leads us to our solution…

Collaborative Ownership Between the Two Teams

The solution, in our opinion, lies in fostering collaboration between customer success and product teams. Rather than an exclusive ownership model, both entities work together to manage the overall customer feedback loop.

Customer Success: Collects, analyzes, and organizes customer feedback.
Product Teams: Analyzes and prioritizes customer feedback, delivering requested features.
Customer Success: Closes the loop by communicating progress to customers.
This collaborative approach ensures a comprehensive understanding of customer needs, prevents tunnel vision, and validates assumptions with real customer feedback.

Remember: transitioning from an ad hoc customer feedback process to a successful feedback loop doesn’t happen overnight. It requires the right people, processes, and technology. When both product and customer success teams are equipped with the tools to centralize and organize feedback, startups can support the overarching goal of creating the best possible experience for their customers.