How We Use Customer Product Suggestions To Continually Improve Our Software
Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.’ That’s a quote we wholeheartedly agree with – it’s practically a motto here at accessplanit. You talk, we listen, and if Hemingway has no objections, I’d like to add another part to his quote: Take action.
We recently showcased some of the major new features that make our new training success platform one of the most powerful training management systems out there.
You can find out more about those right here:
Utilising customer feedback for an improved product
We’ve designed every aspect from the ground-up to suit the needs of today’s modern training organisations – so expect at-a-glance overviews, automatically scheduled reports and analytics, and a fully responsive training system you can access from the device of your choice. Many of these key features were created based directly on feedback from customers.
In fact, 50% of all new features were ideas and suggestions from training professionals just like you.
I’ve put that in bold because, frankly, I can’t emphasise this enough. The training success platform is a collaborative effort – and we couldn’t do it without our users.
As I’ve said before, you’re only as strong as the lessons you learn, which is why we’ve made suggesting ideas as simple as possible (just another way we work to make life easier). To do this all of our customers have access to a dedicated customer suggestion portal.
This is a customer platform; a space to suggest ideas and offer feedback so the system can be even further tailored to varying roles and organisations. That means, when you use the training success platform, you’re using a system that’s been refined based on what those in your industry really need.
Our customer suggestion process explained
Many have asked how we incorporate feedback into our work, so I thought it’s worth lifting the veil on this particular feature.
STATUS: Awaiting Review
Once an idea has been submitted to the suggestion portal, we give it the status of ‘Awaiting Review’.
We initially review all new submissions multiple times a month. In some cases, that review process can take a little longer as we have to involve other members of the team to assess the feasibility of a suggestion. Perhaps we even need to clarify a few details, or discuss the concept with the customer and what they’re trying to achieve.
Now let’s say this incredible, game-changing idea gets the nod – maybe it even gets us excited! We can completely see the potential of what’s been suggested, we really like it. So, we move on to the next step – measuring the idea against what other customers think.
STATUS: Gathering Customer Interest
Now it’s time to gather customer interest. After all, developing a new software feature takes time. So we put suggestions to a vote. Depending on the type of idea, we’ll use a certain number of votes as a guideline to evaluate how helpful the new feature might be. At this point, there’s no guarantee that the suggestion will be used (but if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?).
There’s a very good reason for this vote: We have over 1 million system users, so we want to develop features that are going to be useful for as many of them as possible, and that really add value to their day-to-day system usage.
STATUS: Will Not Implement
I know, the customer will no doubt be frustrated when their killer idea has been shot down – but we promise it’s not a case of malice. There are several good reasons why we will not implement a suggestion, or push it onto the back-burner.
Sometimes it’s simply because the idea conflicts with our overall vision of the system. For instance, a key theme when designing the training success platform is to keep things deliberately simple and easy to use for administrators. If an idea adds too much unnecessary complexity, then it’s a non-starter.
Another reason might be that it has little to no appeal to, or demand from, the vast majority of our customers – often this is because the suggestion is an edge case that’s specific to the individual company.
Finally, some suggestions may be highly complex to create, while offering low value. As I’ve said, developing new features takes time, but it also costs, so if the overheads outweigh the benefits, then we may have to turn down the idea.
It’s worth noting, too, that even the most popular requests can’t always be developed – although we always try our best to bring the project to all our customers. But if they’re intensely complex, requiring a whole raft of developers and lots of maintenance, or impact on other areas of the system, then we may have to say no.
Rejecting a suggestion isn’t something we like to do, and it’s certainly not something we take lightly. If this happens, I strongly urge customers to not take it personal, but instead to come back to us with fresh ideas.
It’s also important to note that, occasionally, bugs will be submitted via the suggestion portal. We’ll always reject these – since that’s not what the platform’s for – and offer an explanation. And then we’ll record any bugs found in the support system.
Brilliant – an awesome idea has been approved. This is when customers may take a moment to bask in the glow of glory, knowing that the system will soon be updated to make life easy for administrators.
At this stage, the suggestion has been approved and now features on our active roadmap – the one that, fingers crossed, leads to full development.
When can we expect to see it?
Well… We’ve always found sharing a hard delivery date isn’t ideal. There are far too many factors involved (technology and software development being more an art than a science), and setting expectations that are near-impossible to keep isn’t going to be a positive experience for anyone.
Basically, what I’m saying is, we don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. Having said that, where possible, we’ll always to give those using the portal an idea of where their suggestion fits into our schedule.
Our roadmap is broken down into three sections:
- Near-term development covers features planned for the next 3 months
- Mid-term development focuses on those planned for the next 6-9 months
- Long-term development is for features that are expected to take 9+ months
STATUS: Already Exists
Very occasionally, a feature idea is pitched to us that has already been released. Maybe a customer has approached the feature from a new angle, or simply missed it (it happens, like when you can’t find your car keys).
When this happens, we’ll mark the suggestion ‘Already Exists’. And then we pretend it never happened.
No, not really. Whenever we highlight a suggestion that is already part of the system, we’ll always get in touch with the customer and point them in the right direction, so they can start making use of the feature.
Congratulations! This is a triumph, and we’re making a note here: ‘Huge success’. The suggested feature has been developed and is now live on the system. Other training professionals are getting some real use out of it, and our customer has just helped to make the training success platform even better.
Outside of some great suggestions from training professionals, we’re also working on fixing bugs and developing exciting new features that we can’t wait to unveil.
We believe that collaborating with our customers makes the accessplanit experience better and better every day. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
To learn more about our how our training management software can grow your business download our brochure here.
Check out our most recent feature enhancements right here:
Originally published 31 Jan 2 , updated 06 Nov 2018.