The Ultimate Guide to Managing Feature Requests

November 16, 2022
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“When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better.”

-        ‘Being Human is Good’ by Kristin Smaby

Feature requests form a part of customer feedback through which they communicate what more you can do with the product. They can include suggestions to make an improvement to the product or even add a new feature altogether. 

Here, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to tell you everything about feature requests - collecting them, managing them, the feature request process, and much more.

Let’s dive right into it!

What are Feature Requests?

Simply put, feature requests are a form of product feedback that contains valuable information about product improvement.

As a product manager, you often come across feature requests from customers or internal teams. Generally, they come in the form of ideas for product improvement. But they can also be suggestions to modify the product.

Feature requests can be anything – from requests to improve your UI to integration requests or even requests for entirely new product functionalities.

As organizations grow, feature requests become a vital part of customer feedback.

Currently, it is one of the most important forms of customer communication that drives growth in business.

Feature requests can power up your product’s evolution. They can determine how the product evolves, creating an impact on the product-market fit and positioning.

Thus, managing feature requests with the right processes and systems is significant to ensure a positive direction for the business.

Coming to feature request examples, companies may choose templates to structure the customer feedback they receive. Here’s an example of what a feature request looks like.

 

Types of Feature Requests

A feature request either improves an existing functionality or introduces a new one.

There are three types of feature requests and categorizing the requests under these types can help you handle feature requests better.

1. Bug Reports

Bug reports are critical feature requests that need immediate attention as they may frustrate the customer and prevent them from using the product. If left unattended, they may lead to a high churn rate.

In fact, research says that 80% of businesses use at least one SaaS application regularly for business operations. So, if there is a bug in the software, it can create adverse impacts on the business.

Examples of bug reports could be apps/ websites crashing, slow loading time, and issues with browsing or downloads.

Managing this feature request type can be more critical than the rest. That’s because managers cannot apply the “one solution fits all strategy”.

When a customer lets you know about the bug, managers need to find out the cause and the solution. For instance, the reason behind a website crashing may be plugin issues, expired domain, code error, and others. Among these, the manager needs to find out the exact cause and fix it.

No matter how critical, bug reports are the most important type of feature request. They help in making the product a lot better and if resolved, they can retain customers too.

2. Feature Improvements

Feature requests for product improvement come as pieces of suggestion in the customer feedback.

In this type of feature request, customers share suggestions to make the existing product features better, either by modifying the existing workflows or by improving the product usability.

For example, customers may suggest that the icons and texts in your app are relatively small and they find it hard to read. Hence, they submit a feature improvement request to make the icons and texts slightly larger. Though a minor change, it can significantly improve the app’s visuals, making it more user-friendly and visually comfortable.

Feature improvement requests may come in the form of small suggestions, but they can impact the product in much bigger ways.

Also, there is a higher possibility that feature improvements may affect the product much more than adding a new feature. Plus, they can improve the customers’ daily experience with a product.

3. New Feature Requests

The final feature request type is the new feature request. At times, customers may ask you to add a new product functionality even though your product is working just fine. Such requests for an entirely new function are new feature requests. These requests are mostly received when customers seek more value from your product. Or, it may so happen that the customer has identified a new issue that your product is yet to resolve.

Let’s look at an example here.

Say you have launched an app where users can take notes, make to-do lists, and save their documents in an organized way. But users want easy access to their files on the app. So, they suggest you add a new feature where they can create shortcuts to the files on their home screen.

Adding this new feature to the app has the potential to affect the product’s launch positively. It can lead to more users downloading the app because of its ease of use.  

How Do Modern Businesses Collect Feature Requests?

Feature requests can come from multiple sources. To make the most out of the requests, it is super important to use the right methods of collecting them. That means, businesses must use easy approaches wherein users can easily drop in their feature requests.

Here are a few methods to collect feature requests that most contemporary businesses use.

In-app widget

Gathering feature requests through in-app widgets allow users to share their feedback instantly. This increases the possibility of receiving more user feedback because the chances of users exiting the feedback is reduced. Also, users are kind of ‘in the moment’ that can often lead to a well-thought and curated feature request.

Public-facing roadmap

A public roadmap enables you to share the progress on new feature developments. It lets users submit feature requests and other users can vote on them as well. One advantage of using public roadmaps is that users find it easy and convenient to leave their comments. They can share their suggestions, and ideas about specific product functionalities through comments.

Feedback Surveys

The good old feedback survey method cannot go wrong. You can easily use surveys to collect feature requests.

Be it app surveys, chat surveys, feedback buttons, or email with feedback links–any of these approaches work great in collecting feature requests. However, app and web surveys can collect requests instantly.

You can find an example of a mobile app survey below.

Customer-facing Internal teams

While interacting with customer-facing teams like the sales, and customer success teams, customers may mention feature requests in the form of pain points and suggestions. So, ensure having a system in place that can enable your team members to capture these feature requests directly from customers.

 

Spreadsheets

Often small to medium-sized organizations use Google spreadsheets and Forms to collect, organize, track and manage feature requests. This approach of collecting feature requests is free and pretty easy to use. Also, they help in getting detailed comments from customers.

However, spreadsheets are not very suitable if your customer base is large. It requires a lot of manual effort.

Here’s an example of a spreadsheet used for incoming feature requests.

Trello Boards

This is also a traditional method of collecting and managing feature requests. Often teams set up a public Trello board where customers can log in and comment on their feature requests. Also, they can vote for their favorite feature by commenting on the board.

Trello boards are easy to create and use. But summarizing the most popular feature requests from the board may be hard.

Besides, platforms like Zeda.io can help you collect and organize feature requests. Zeda.io’s features like an in-app widget, centralized dashboard, and live product roadmap, can help you collect and manage customer feature requests with ease.

How to Evaluate Customer Feature Requests

While you may receive several requests from customers, it is not always possible to build every feature request that comes in. 

Several factors (like development time, cost, risk, etc.) must be taken into account before you start working on the feature requests.

Also, you may receive feature requests that seem minor but when implemented they can lead to drastic positive results. That’s why tracking all the incoming requests is not enough. Each of these feature requests must go through an evaluation process. 

Hence, managing feature request evaluation is one of the most significant steps.

In case of new features, there are a few guidelines. If the feature request complies with the listed guidelines, it can be accepted.

  • The feature request must be clearly understood by the team and the product manager
  • It must not be duplicative. You must ensure that the new feature requested does not currently exist in the product
  • Adding the feature must not make the product difficult to use and it must not introduce bugs into the already existing functionalities.

If the new feature request meets the above criteria, then it will be assessed by the developers and managers. In this process, the developers establish:

  • Total development effort of the feature
  • Potential risk (like impact on subsystems, changes in the product functioning)
  • Total documentation effort
  • Testing approach
  • Level of product experience required for the development of the feature

Once you have completed the assessment, you can prioritize and schedule the new features. For instance, if the feature priority is low, it may be scheduled for the next minor release, or even remain unscheduled.

During this process, businesses may choose to keep the users updated. That means, if the feature is classified as a low priority and scheduled for the next release, it can be communicated to the users.

Rejecting a Feature Request

Unfortunately, not all feature requests can be accepted, and saying no to customers can be hard.

What you can do is be careful with your choice of words and reject the request with the right attitude.

Here’s how you can reject a feature request, politely.

Explain the reason for the rejection

When customers request a feature, they are already convinced that the feature is necessary for the product’s success. So, it is essential to them.

If you simply say no without explaining the reason, they won’t understand why you rejected the feature. Instead, they will feel you are not valuing their request. You know it is nothing personal. Therefore, share the real context behind the rejection of the feature request. 

Never build false hopes

Do not give customers the hope that you will build the feature someday if you are sure that you won’t.

Customers may interpret your ‘we’ll give it a thought in the future’ as ‘we promise to implement the request in the future’. It will upset them plus, they will not know what is happening.

So, communicate clearly and eliminate the chances of misunderstanding.

Offer an alternative

Find out what issue the customer is facing. If not their requested feature, find something else to fix their problem. Hence, instead of saying no and leaving it, offer alternatives.

Let’s take an example here. 

Suppose you launch a meditation app that has 10 different meditation music for users. Now, you receive a feature request to increase the number to 15. But you cannot accept the feature request.

In this case, first, tell the users why you cannot add more music to the app. Ask the users their issue with the app or the reason behind the feature request. Then, offer an alternative. 

Considering the scenario, you may provide an alternative offer of being able to download the music of their choice in the app. 

Handle Feature Requests with Zeda.io

After you are done with collecting, organizing, and assessing feature requests, what’s next?

Ideally, your shortlisted feature requests must be prioritized and added to the product roadmap.

Just ensure that you have a centralized place for collecting all your feature requests. Then, you can easily identify trends and the most popular feature requests. Plan your roadmap and include the requests that are a priority.

What’s best is that you can perform everything using a single feature request software. Zeda.io has everything you need to manage all your feature requests from start to end.

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