As long as you have a product, there will always be someone that wants more from it. They want new features, existing features to be updated, or even whole new products that link tenuously to the one that you’re currently making.
For example, an analytics platform like Segment likely hears requests for integrations fairly frequently, and maybe even build some themselves. That being said, not all feature requests are created equally.
Sometimes it’s easy to tell that a feature request is something that your company will oblige, but with others, it’s not so easy. What are some of the best ways to handle other feature requests that either don’t fit in your product roadmap, or might be possible, but aren’t in the immediate future?
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First, it’s important to understand why having the trust of your customers is so imperative to have a thriving company. Then, you can start to understand the best ways to cultivate that trust while still, potentially, delivering difficult news.
What Are Feature Requests?
Feature requests are often the most common email or request that support teams receive, primarily because there will always be people that want something more than you offer. The good thing is that these requests are pretty straightforward to respond to if your team has a process in place and how best to speak to and work with your customers.
As an add-on, to request for the features, customers might reach out through very common means such as chat, toll-free and/or via various social media channels. Handling such interactions using a mono-platform might get really frustrating. Instead, a simple customer service management software might just do the trick. For some seeming newbies, trying to opt for a support software with a ticketing system would be really helpful and would also ease out the entire communication process.
Although there are a few things that are important to remember when responding to a feature request within the support, though, that might help create an even better experience for the customer, while using such platforms.
Different Types of Feature Requests
All feature requests are not the same. They can be categorized under these 3 common categories.
- Feature upgrade or improvements: these kinds of feature requests are the ones in which the customer is not sure how to get the best results by using your product.
- Issues with existing features: these types of feature requests arise when the customer experiences issues with the product and is unsure of how to move forward.
- A new feature request: these are the ones in which the customer requests for a feature that is not a part of your product or service.
Quick Tips on handling Feature Requests From Customers
1. Treat them with respect
The first thing to remember when a customer reaches out with a feature request—no matter how tedious or abnormal it is—is that they care enough about the product to reach out about it, knowing that likely nothing will happen. It may be frustrating, especially if a customer is in a sour mood and responds to you unkindly, but they are actually your biggest product advocates, and they have to care deeply in order to take the time to reach out and talk to customer support about it.
After all, if they didn’t care, they could just move on and use something else—they don’t have to use their energy to reach out and explain their problems to you. Treat them with the appropriate amount of respect. Take what they have to say into consideration and take your time responding, no matter how outlandish the request. Be transparent and don’t waste their time.
2. Respond with candor and accuracy
While it can be really easy to just respond and tell the person that you’ll let your product team know about it, it’s a better experience for both the customer and you if you’re open and honest about what the actual truth behind the situation is. There will always be product requests that you know will never happen: for example, something that has been talked about internally and already agreed on as out of scope, or something so outlandish that it would be a one-off request.
For those, it is better to tell the customer that, while you appreciate their interest, it’s unlikely that the feature will ever make it to reality. Similarly, it’s best to respond to “maybe”s and “yes”s with the same amount of candor and tracking. Let customers know, if you can, when their feature request will be live, or when they can expect to see movement on it. This kind of honesty will go miles with your customer base, and ensure that they trust your brand and your company.
3. Gain customer trust
According to Inc.com, 73% of consumers consider transparency more important than price. In fact, 40% say they would switch from their preferred brand to one that offered more transparency. Brands create relationships with their consumers over social media and during their support interactions so much so that customers buy—and stay—with a company more for their message and personal alignment than any other reason.
Because of that, maintaining trust with your customers is one of the most important things you can do. Trust, and the loyalty that comes from it, are a primary measure in correlation with churn: there’s always another competitor that someone could go to if they don’t believe in your brand message or support team.
In fact, because of a large number of products available for purchase, creating loyalty and trust can be the difference between the sale and someone walking away. 30% of a customer’s loyalty is based on your interactions with them: you must be managing what you do and the customer’s expectation in this sink or swim battle. That’s where handling feature requests come in.
Email Templates for Responding to Feature Requests
Saying No to feature requests
Saying no can be the hardest thing to do. Many support agents are worried that they are going to disappoint their customers and lose money for their company just through being honest. However, being honest is better than misleading your customers and can often earn your loyalty rather than lose it. Here is an example of a great response that you can use to a customer asking for a feature that you are not going to create.
Thanks so much for emailing about this—that’s a great question. Right now, we do not have that feature available, though I could certainly see how it would be valuable for you, given the use case that you described. That being said, though, we aren’t planning on building this into our feature set at this point in time. I can understand how that might be frustrating for you, especially given how useful it would be for your current use case, but it doesn’t fit into our current product roadmap as it stands.
I’m going to pass along your thoughts and needs to our product team here just in the chance that this becomes something that we might build-out in the future. Please let me know if there are any other insights that you’d like me to provide.
I’m sorry that we can’t offer you this exact feature, but please let me know if there’s anything else that I can help with.
Saying Yes to feature requests
If it’s the opposite end of the spectrum and it’s actually a feature that you do have planned, this is the best thing that you can hope for in regards to writing a response. If someone reaches out about something that you know you have planned, you are able to tell them honestly when and how you are planning on implementing it. Here’s an example of what that would look like:
Thanks so much for emailing about this—that’s a great question! While we don’t have a feature like that currently, we are planning on adding something similar to that in the near future. I can’t speak to the exact timeline of when we will be releasing it, but I can tell you that it’s in the works and we’ll probably have it released within the next few months.
I’m going to make sure that we reach out to you as soon as this feature goes live. Is this the best email to send that notification to?
Thanks again for reaching out about this and sharing your perspective. Emails like this help keep our product fresh and new.
Saying Maybe to feature requests
Just as often as your team will have a hard line of whether you will be building or won’t be building a feature, your customer’s email will fall into a grey area in-between. With “maybe” it’s especially hard to sound candid and honest and not like you’re hedging your answer to the customer, so be mindful of acknowledging their request, aligning with them, and then assuring them that you will take some action, even if it’s not necessarily the only that they want. Here’s an example. You’ll note that it uses elements of both the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ responses, as well;
Thanks very much for emailing about this—that’s a great question. I can definitely see how that would be a useful feature for you, especially given how you are currently using the product. While we don’t have plans to build anything like that out currently, I agree that it would probably be very useful for our customers.
I’m going to pass along your request and insights to our product team so that they can consider this moving forward and weigh it against our current product roadmap. Could you let me know if you have any other insights you’d like for me to provide? In the meantime, I’ll be sure to reach out to you if anything changes about this or we start to work on it.
Thanks so much, again, for taking the time to write in and I’m sorry that I didn’t have better immediate news for you.
Things to Keep in Mind While Handing Feature Requests
Feature requests will pile up on you from time to time. The best way to handle this by knowing how to prioritize these feature requests. Firstly, look into the requests raised by your new customers. If you don’t tend to them immediately, it might result in high customer churn.
Next, identify customers that pay you most and are important for your long-term growth. Thirdly, understand the difficulty in resolving the feature request. While some might be solved within seconds, some might take time and might also require some complex change in coding.
Finally, keep track of the volume of times the same request is raised by different customers. This will help you take the issue to product teams.
Bonus tip: Lastly, if you tell a customer that you are going to get back to them when a feature gets built or something changes within the status of their feature request, you should. Many feature request tracking systems have this built-in, but even if you aren’t using a fancy tool you should find a way to let them know how it’s going. Some companies choose to do this with a public roadmap, some companies choose to do this with an automated tool that responds to all customers lists on a request. The ways to do this are endless–it’s just a matter of picking what’s best for your company.
Managing feature requests can be difficult. They have the potential to earn trust with the customer or lose it entirely. As long as you are candid with your responses, do what you say you are going to do, and treat your customers with respect, they will usually do the same to you.
Don’t make this easy opportunity for relationship building into something that causes detriment to your customer relationships! Respect and honor the fact that your customers care enough to reach out to you about how they think you could improve your product—that is how you get better, and they take the work out of having to reach out to customers to gain insights out of your hands.`