Sometimes, it’s like your teams are on opposite sides of a six-foot-high cement wall. Information is trapped in their tools, no one seems to be communicating, and getting them to work together is more like a prison break than anything else. Imagine how this is affecting your product.
The solution? Implementing a product feedback loop. Done right, this can turn your product into a trendsetting powerhouse.
But what’s a product feedback loop? And what can it really do?
In this article, we’ll be focusing on:
- What a product feedback loop is
- How a product feedback loop can benefit your product
- Why you need to stay in the loop
What is a product feedback loop?
A product feedback loop is a process that sources feedback from teams across your organization and feeds it to your product team.
The exact way to achieve this can vary between organizations, but the goal is to bring teams closer together and improve internal communication, to accelerate and systematize the transmission of feedback — both internally and from customers — to the people who need it most.
Here are two ways you can apply the product feedback loop to your business right now:
- The monthly feedback session: The goal of this recurring session is to collect high-priority tickets from across the organization and turn them into actionable initiatives.
You can do this in a meeting or asynchronously through a ticketing tool. However you choose to do this, it’s important to give the product team a way to ask for clarification and other teams to contribute as much (or as little) as they need to.
- In-depth workshops: These happen as they need to. In some phases of your product’s lifecycle, they might happen every month or even every week.
In other phases, they’ll happen infrequently. Rather than gathering general feedback about every aspect of your product, you pick a specific topic and dive in. These topics can include your product’s friction points, underserved use cases, or new customer personas.
Now that you know what a product feedback loop is, let’s dive into some of the ways it can completely transform your product.
Why is a product feedback loop beneficial for your product?
#1: Customer-facing teams guide development efforts
One of the biggest impacts a product feedback loop can have on your product is streamlining the development process.
Software teams do a ton of research before they start working on a new feature or changing an aspect of the product. But often, a bulk of that research is already done if you just know where to look.
Customer-facing teams — think salespeople, customer success, and customer onboarding specialists — have an intimate understanding of who your customers are and what customer needs are.
They know the friction points that keep people from buying the product, the little UI elements that frustrate your customers, and even what gets them to upgrade to your priciest plan.
Traditionally, any input on these things is handled informally, through email, work management tools, or chat messages. This guarantees that game-changing input can slip through the cracks and get lost.
By having a defined product feedback loop, you can make sure all that valuable feedback gets communicated, tracked, and used.
#2: You can avoid costly mistakes
The Amazon Fire phone. Microsoft’s Zune. Apple’s hockey puck mouse. What do they all have in common? They were all expensive, resounding failures. Scores of developers, leaders, and researchers were convinced they were working on something that would change the world or, at the very least, capitalize on a market niche and make a ton of money. But they all failed.
Now, you might not be pumping millions of dollars into massive initiatives, but spending months of development time on a feature that ends up flopping means losing resources you can’t get back. You can’t always guarantee that everything you work on will succeed, but a product feedback loop eliminates one of the main contributors to these failed initiatives: echo chambers.
Echo chambers happen when all the opinions you encounter reinforce a specific theory. When brainstorming sessions, planning meetings, and more all happen within the same team, echo chambers are a lot more common.
By bringing in other perspectives — and making this part of your process — you can test the validity of your initiatives and theories. If that can avoid even one expensive failed project, isn’t it worth adding a meeting to your calendar?
#3: Product-market fit is guaranteed
Product-market fit might be the single most important characteristic of a successful product. That’s why so much of your resources go into research before the product work even starts.
If you’re an early-stage startup, a lot of that research comes from hard-earned work experience. If you’re a larger company, you’re probably lucky enough to have a product marketing team to handle that research.
But without getting people together across team boundaries, you’re not getting the full picture — and that makes it much more difficult to get product-market fit.
When you’re heads-down to finish building a product — or keep improving it — it’s tough to keep an eye on the broader market. Developers and product teams have enough to do without spending hours doing extensive research, and even then their research comes from a single perspective.
With a finished product, you get access to an invaluable resource: customer feedback. But unless you go out of your way to collect that feedback through user interviews and surveys, it lands in the lap of your customer-facing teams first.
If you’re not fostering communication between those teams and your product team, especially in the early stages of your product, it’ll be that much more difficult to really nail product-market fit. But as soon as that feedback loop exists, you get the information you need to adjust your approach accordingly.
Why staying in the loop is important
The product feedback loop isn’t standard. Too often, product teams and customer-facing teams are too distant from one another. They see what the other team’s doing, but don’t really have an impact on each other.
By implementing a product feedback loop, your developers will have a better idea of what they should be working on, you’ll avoid potentially expensive failures, and you’ll have an easier time finding product-market fit.