Building & growth

Harnessing insights from customer support

Written By

Anna Burgess Yang

Graphic illustration of laptop with icons for support chat, group of people, and chart scaling | Harnessing business insights from customer support | Mercury
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Banking engineered for startupsExplore MercuryMercury is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by Choice Financial Group and Evolve Bank & Trust®; Members FDIC.
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Product teams often rely heavily on market research to guide product direction. Yet, sometimes, the best insights are at your fingertips — if you can tap into the data.

Customer feedback accumulates within your customer support department through tickets and interactions with your support staff. The key to unlocking it is twofold: gathering it systematically and acting on the information.

“Getting customer feedback will save you time and money,” says Ana Wiechers, VP of Customer Experience at Mercury. “And it’ll help build a better product, one that your customers are asking for.”

Ana’s expertise with customer feedback runs deep. Before joining Mercury, she worked at Zendesk for nine years, working on everything from building customer trust to handling escalation management — and building a best-in-class support function in the process. We sat down with Ana and asked her to share her best tips for using insights from customer support to bolster product development.

Gather insights early

Once a company has reached multiple products or a complex set of features, it’s hard to go back and sift through customer feedback. For that reason,  Ana recommends that startups should start collecting customer support insights as early as possible.

Customer support reps can use labels or tags within a ticketing system to identify insights. That way, product teams can pull reports to find tickets related to certain products or features. You might even be able to automate this through text analysis of the customer’s stated issue. “Tagging works really well in the moment,” Ana points out. “Whereas if you try and retroactively go back and have any amount of volume, then you have to do keyword searching. It’s a lot harder.”

There are two sides to evaluating product feedback. The first is qualitative, based on the type of feedback the customer support team is hearing. Some ticketing systems even identify a “customer sentiment,” measuring the customer’s opinion (positive or negative) based on their written responses in a ticket.

The second is quantitative, and Ana cautions that sometimes product teams overthink this. Quantity isn’t necessarily the answer when tracking all tickets related to a certain feature. “You have to think really critically, asking if the feedback fits the strategic direction that the product is going,” she says. “Otherwise, you’ll waste cycles, and it’ll feel like you can never make the customers happy.”

Foster relationships between the customer support and product teams

One of the best suggestions from Ana was to get product and customer support teams working together. A perfect opportunity is during a product launch.

“Your CS teams often have the most customer touchpoints,” Ana says. “They can see where customers ‘fall down’ in one way, shape, or form. Whether customers can’t find something in the product or an error they run into frequently. You have visibility into how CS is troubleshooting issues.”

That means product teams have to arm the customer support team with good background information before a product launch so they can have the necessary context about the new product or feature. Ana suggests adding a tag, like “New Feature Launch,” to simplify tracking issues in your ticketing system.

Ana also recommends fostering strong relationships between the product and CS team. “If you build up that muscle with the support team, you can get ahead of things that might get in a customer’s way, like something that’s hard to use or unclear,” she says. Those conversations should be ongoing so the two teams maintain an open dialogue around each product or feature launch.

At Zendesk, Ana saw these relationships scale really well. New product managers were added as the company grew, but so were new CS reps. The company continued to build relationships between the two teams. “As the team grows, it’s just being really intentional about cultivating that,” she says. “CS and product feel that they’re mutually responsible for the feedback that’s coming in.”

Keep customers front-and-center

Even with a solid strategy for collecting and implementing customer feedback, product teams can still get things wrong — and the best product teams are open to that feedback and can act on it.

Ana believes it’s “a gift” to have customers point out that a product or feature didn’t quite meet the mark. “That shows that you’ve got engaged customers,” she says. “You’ve got people who care and a product that matters to your customers.” Of course, customer complaints have to be taken in context since customers rarely reach out with positive feedback.

Everyone in the organization should have a goal of making the product better or more useful. That means incorporating customer feedback, even when the feedback isn’t difficult to hear.

Close the feedback loop

With all the insights you collect from your customer support team, it’s crucial to communicate with your customers along the way.

Sometimes, customers make a request, and the answer is “no.” Between the product and customer support teams, someone should let the customer know. At least they know they were heard and their feedback didn’t wind up in a black hole of feature requests.

Customers should also be informed when their feature requests are implemented. Customer-facing roadmaps can help build trust, as well as following up when a request is included in a product release.

The dialogue about features will strengthen relationships between customer support and the product teams. Even if a customer support rep advocates on behalf of the customer, the answer may be “no” because it doesn’t align with the product roadmap. Still, there’s a benefit to these conversations.

“It’s such a powerful emotion for CS agents to feel heard,” says Ana. “To know that when they go to advocate for something, that it’s taken into account. That advocacy will absolutely make its way back to customers.”

Written by

Anna Burgess Yang is a former product manager turned content marketer and journalist. As a niche writer, she focuses on fintech and product-led content. She is also obsessed with tools and automation.

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