What is a feature request?

Feature requests are a form of product feedback you may frequently encounter as a SaaS product manager. They typically come in the form of ideas for product improvements shared with you by your end-users (or even internal team members). Feature requests can include anything from suggestions to modify and improve your UI to requests to integrate with other products your customers use, to asks for completely new functionality.

What are the different types of feature requests?

We can break feature requests into three core categories based on the users’ intentions when sharing them. First, they want to report a bug; second, they have suggestions they feel will help improve your existing product functionality, and finally, they have a new piece of functionality they’d like to see. Let’s break the types of requests down a bit, shall we?

Requesting a bug fix

Bug reports come about when end-users encounter something that is not working as expected or that is not working the way they believe it should be. According to recent research, more than 60% of B2B end-users use SaaS products daily to conduct business, and when there’s a bug of sorts, it can be detrimental for their business.

Product improvement suggestions

Product improvement requests are pieces of user feedback indicating ways you can make existing functionality better, either by improving the usability or revising existing workflows. Users generally share suggestions for product improvements because they feel that their feedback will be valuable to your business.

Requests for new features

Last but certainly not least, new feature requests. Though your product may be functioning seamlessly, users sometimes want an entirely new piece of functionality. These sorts of requests come about when end-users are seeking more value out of your product or have identified a new problem that your product is yet to solve.

How to manage feature requests

We know that feature requests are invaluable opportunities to discover how you can improve your product and better serve your users’ ever-evolving needs. Without an established process for capturing, reviewing, prioritizing, and following up on feature requests, your business can miss out on this valuable form of product input. Here are a few tips to help you start honing in on a repeatable feature request management process for your team.

  1. Identify a single, centralized place to capture and organize your feature requests
  2. Help internal teams within your organization understand how you use customer requests in the product development process (i.e., what types of requests are actionable? What information about the source of each request helps you understand its significance and potential impact?)
  3.  Explain how you intend to prioritize feature requests to internal teams
  4. Continuously communicate with internal stakeholders and your request-sharers regarding the status of requests they’ve made

How to prioritize feature requests

There are countless documented feature prioritization frameworks out there today. Determining which features to include and exclude on your product roadmap can take a little bit of research. You can’t act on every request you receive, but you can ask yourself the right questions about requests you receive to determine which to table for now, and which are worthy of further exploration. 

Let’s start with the basics.

  • Does the feature align with your business’ product vision? Don’t lose sight of your product vision; it should shape every decision you make moving forward, so stick to it!
  • Are users genuinely interested in the request? Are they your target users? This question is key to protecting yourself from building one-off features that don’t add value to your broader user base.
  • Will it improve my customers’ experience? When assessing the features you’re considering building make sure they’re alleviating your users’ challenges or giving them new functionality to make their lives easier. 
  • Is it trendy? Will this new feature stand the test of time and continually provide your users with unparalleled value? Or will it flop after a few months of use?
  • Will it help achieve your business goals? Seems simple enough, but it’s always grounding to assess your business goals.

You can quickly determine if the request is worth bringing further down the pipeline or not by using this basic assessment. It’s important to next determine the workability and feasibility of the request by asking the following, more tactical questions. Like what is the total development effort? Assessing if your team has the bandwidth and resources to act upon is a quick way to weed out feature requests that require a lot of effort for low impact. Similarly, this assessment can help you identify high impact but low effort asks from users.

How do you respond to a customer feature request?

Responding to your users’ inquiries, challenges, and requests helps your business foster long-lasting relationships with your users and it’s proven to make your users more inclined to continue sharing feedback with you. Here are a few best practices for feature request responses to get you started.

  • Acknowledge every feature request. All requests, big or small, deserve a thoughtful response. It’s also a great way to earn brownie points and build a lasting relationship with your customers.
  • Share how your feature request process works. If you have a documented feature request review process, share that with your users to help set expectations around what will become of their request, when they can expect to hear from you next, etc. 
  • Underpromise and overdeliver. Don’t promise your users you will build something that you don’t have any plans to build.
  • Learn to say “no”. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to functionality that does not align with your product vision, provide value to your target customers, or otherwise contribute to your product as a whole.

Popular feature request channels

Leveraging every feedback mechanism out there can become chaotic, but at the end of the day, the more platforms you provide for your users, the more feedback your team will receive. Understanding the variety of user feedback channels is important, so here are a few feedback channels we encourage you to try out. 

In-app feedback

In-app is the simplest and potentially highest-yielding feature request channel of them all. By providing feedback opportunities during an end user’s workflow is key to capturing real-time feedback instead of relying on them to share their feedback at a later time. 

Feedback from internal teams

Customer-facing teams talk with users more than any other department; whether it’s during critical issues, onboarding or training, or even at the prospect level. Typically, users are more comfortable sharing their woes, challenges, and requests with these teams since the relationship is already built. The next step is ensuring that your customer-facing teams have a rather simple way to share the feedback straight from their customer meetings so nothing falls through the cracks.

Customer advisory boards

Customer advisory boards are undeniably useful. Your users are the experts of your product so putting them “in a room” together can yield some incredibly valuable insights, especially when it’s a diverse group of professionals (not just executives or board members) and when you follow up with valuable insights and feedback.