March 20, 2020
5 min read
Steven Aanen

5 reasons why a CRM-like tool for Product Managers has become indispensable

Today’s successful SaaS products no longer win on strong sales or having more features. Instead, the business that builds the best overall product experience, wins. The key to building a great experience? Relationship with your users.

By the end of this year, user experience is expected to be the most important driver for digital products to win. Walker found that 86% of customers are already willing to pay more for a similar product offering a better experience. This shows that the trend of consumerization of business software is reaching an all-time high.

We can learn from brands like Apple and Disney, which have been longtime advocates of an outstanding experience across the customer journey, that the key to this is to deeply understand the needs of users.  The only way to get there is by either being the user or by being in close contact with the user.

To be in good relationship with users at scale, a system to facilitate that is essential. Here’s how it helps the Product Manager.

Today’s customer discovery builds on a system-of-record

The job of a product manager is becoming more and more data-driven. The time of making decisions based on gut feel or the loudest person in the room is over.

Analytics and tracking tools like Amplitude and Mixpanel have been helpful for years to get insights on how users behave in an application. However, to get a deep understanding of why users behave the way they do, it’s essential to get into a conversation with them.

This is where a system-of-record comes into place. Storing the key insights from those interactions with your users is essential for both later contact moments and to get an overview of what matters for all customers combined. A simple spreadsheet might be a simple way to get started, but it won’t get you there.

Tracking feedback is not only helpful for the product manager but also customer-facing teams. According to Gartner research, companies that track customer feedback spend 25% less on  customer retention  than those that don’t, while increasing chances to up-sell.

Product managers need to bridge the gap between business departments

The work of Product Managers is inherently one of aligning stakeholders in a company. With many opinions and limited resources, the PM has to decide where to focus on and how to execute a successful product strategy.

This means, that the most challenging tasks for a PM are:

1. To understand what actually drives customers, as opposed to internal voices
2. Effectively communicating their decisions and gain trust from stakeholders and customers

Narratives are the most powerful way to communicate product decisions

The most powerful way to approach these challenges is to listen to what customers say and to use these narratives to communicate your product decisions. A quote from an actual person using your product helps anyone in management, sales, support, design or development to feel the real pain and think about solutions for the end-user.

To get support for your decisions, you need to have a system to track what a user says, why it is important for her or him, and how it relates to what you want to prioritize.

Not all users are equal

When determining which product changes to work on, you can’t just count the total number of feature requests. Equally important is to understand which users struggle with an issue the most. Premium users have different needs than free ones, and big accounts usually get a different treatment than others depending on your company strategy.

This means user feedback needs to be combined with segmentation features of customers, such as their payment plan, company size, role, region, and other metrics. This is information that is traditionally stored in a CRM.

Digging into problems

When you’ve discovered a problem is important enough to work on, the next step is to get deep and get the context you need to build a solution. But which users should you recruit for interviews? A reference system with users and their feedback helps you find the folks that match your feature’s target audience and have given related feedback.

A reference system with users and their feedback helps you find the right users to interview

Photo by Daniel Korpai
Photo by Daniel Korpai

Close the loop

In conversations we had with people building products, we’ve heard numerous times that involving users in the process by sending regular updates on the progress around their request, even when it’s a no, is invaluable. When a request is being taken seriously, a user feels heard and starts to supply more and more feedback.

Making sure you know which users are interested in what helps to build a better relationship. These users will feel involved, give more feedback, and will be available to discuss mockups and ideas with you. While doing this at Shipright, we recently received an entire visual prototype with improvements for our app from a user who started to think along!

Alright, so which system can I use?

Most companies use CRM for sales. This system is centered around people and serves similar goals, but it might not be the tool you’re looking for.

The sales CRM (Salesforce, Hubspot) contains useful qualification data and the conversation history with your clients to track sales opportunities. It’s not designed, however, to quickly see the requests from a user in this system and other users who want the same.

The same problem occurs in support tools, such as Intercom or Zendesk. Although all conversations are searchable, these systems are not designed to track feedback, recruit users, let alone get an overview of which product improvements are important for specific segments of users.

What you want is a system that is centered around product improvements, and links these to the users or accounts for which they are relevant. This helps you to understand what is important for each customer segment, and how that changes over time. It also tracks the individual requests of a user, helping to build a relationship and maintain a personalized feedback loop.

The only system providing this, the “CRM for product people”, is your feedback management system.

This is why a professional feedback management system is essential for a modern SaaS business, and how it will help you build a relationship with your users at scale. It’s the key to building great user experience and achieving product-led growth.

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