How Product Managers can gather cutomer feedback & define requirements

There is a good discussion going on at the Ask A Good Product Manager blog run by Jeff Lash on the topic of how a Product Manager who doesn’t have direct access to customers can gather feedback to help define product requirements. Adam Bullied (of Write That Down blog) has a great, detailed post on this.

We agree with Adam’s points in his post about the importance of getting customer feedback. We are very strong believers in getting direct customer feedback, and using it to drive product requirements & feature enhancements. As a matter of fact, our own product roadmap for Accompa is >80% driven by direct feature requests from our customers.

Ways to Gather Customer Feedback

Boy with ‘Phone’This got us thinking about a related question:

What are some of the ways a Product Manager can gather direct customer feedback to ensure that her product roadmap is driven by customer needs rather than other (far less significant) factors?

Here are some ways that we’ve seen work well in our past experience at a number of software and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley.

  1. One-on-One Customer Calls: Talking with a customer directly (or meeting with them in person) is one of the best ways to get detailed customer feedback. Of course, this is also the most time consuming – you may only be able to use this for “VIP” customers, such as large accounts.
  2. Usability Testing: This is another very time-consuming method – but one of our favorites. In this method, you observe customers using your product to perform various tasks – and ask them questions, including what they’d like to see added. If your product is web-based – you can do this using tools such as WebEx or GoToMeeting.
  3. Focus Groups: In this method, you get a group of customers together – in person, or over phone/web conference call. Then you discuss how they use your product currently, what they like/dislike, as well as their future needs.
  4. Email Surveys: One of the least time-consuming methods. You can create a customer survey using a web-based survey tool such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang and invite customers to participate using email. Make sure to keep the surveys small (we recommend no more than 10 questions) to ensure you get good response rate and “real” responses.
  5. Webinars: You can conduct periodic webinars (again using tools like WebEx or GoToMeeting) for customers as well as prospects – and you can question the attendees at the end to understand their needs better.
  6. Customer Support Database: If your company uses a CRM system to keep track of customer support requests, that can contain a wealth of information about the issues customers are facing and how you can improve your product to address those issues.
  7. Online Forums: Last, but certainly not least – online forums (whether maintained by your company, or an unrelated third-party) and other social media can contain a trove of customer feedback and needs. This is especially true for B2C products.


In summary – we believe it is very important to get direct customer feedback in as many ways, and using as many tools, as possible. This will help ensure that your product roadmap is driven based on actual customer requests – rather than other (usually, far less important) factors such as the latest cool technology, sales team pain points, support team pain points, etc.

Editor’s Note:
Interested in an affordable, enterprise-quality software to help you manage requirements in a better way? Check out FREE 30-Day trial of Accompa or Sign Up for a Demo.

FREE Goodies! Yum…

Like This Post? Get More by Email
Get new posts like this delivered right to your inbox - for FREE...

(We value your privacy)
FREE White Paper
7 Tips for Better Requirements Management. Based on a survey of over 100 companies...
Get it now »
Requirements Tool for Your Team
Want to improve the way your team manages requirements? Accompa can help. Check out product tour -or- request FREE trial »