10 Tips to Improve Your Feature Request Responses

Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper · 7 min read

Feature requests don’t need to be a sore spot for your customers or your CSAT—you just need to help everyone feel heard.

Imagine this scene: a customer reaches out with a feature request. One of your team members kindly but firmly responds, letting them know that it’s not currently a function of your product. When you see their CSAT response, it’s negative, and the comment is about the product rather than the service provided.

Ugh. Why would they do that?

According to a whitepaper by TFM&A Insights, 64% of customers give feedback because they want to express their opinion—they just want to feel heard! Your real opportunity as a support team is to listen to them before they get to the stage of filling out a survey.

While most customer support people are already pretty good listeners, that doesn’t mean your customers feel like they are being heard. We’ve determined the top ten best ways to improve your responses to feature requests so that your customers feel heard and leave you good CSAT scores to boot.

Let them know what you’re going to do with it

People don’t just reach out with feature requests for the good of their health. Research by InMoment found that consumers “want brands to let them know how they plan to use their feedback, whether or not it was helpful, and what changes it inspired.”

So, when they reach out, give them that information. If you aren’t going to take action on a customer’s insights, let them know how you’re going to track the request, which team will review it, and any information you can provide about any plans around their idea. For example:

That makes a lot of sense! I’m going to talk to our team about this internally and let them know that this is important for you. We’re already talking about this in internal meetings, so your additional context will be super helpful!

Be grateful and express it to them

“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. Your customer service organization should be designed to efficiently communicate those issues.” – Kristin Smaby’s “Being Human is Good Business”

You should be starting and ending every email you write by thanking your customers—especially if they take the time to help you improve your product. We know it’s tiring to hear the same features requests repeatedly, but for your customer, this is their first time. Treat it with the respect and gratitude that it deserves.

Keep it personal, even if using a saved reply

There’s little that stings worse than taking the time to write up a thoughtful, intentional feature request and receiving an obviously-canned saved reply. Templates are great! We all use them. They’re the best way to ensure that you have all of the information needed in response to a customer.

But you need to take the time when writing up your saved replies to indicate the best opportunities for personalization. For example:

Hey there [customer name]

Thanks for reaching out—that’s a great question. [Align with the customer about the value of their request.] Right now, we don’t offer that as a feature. I’ll track this with our team internally, so please let me know if you have any additional context that you’d like to add! If you’re interested in how we typically handle feature requests, you can read a bit more about that here: [link].

[Include your usual sign-off here!]

Personalization doesn’t need to be big and expansive. Even something as small as a signature greeting and a few interspersed sentences can make a difference.

Give updates rather than making promises

It’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver to your customers, rather than the other way around. Think about it: if your boss promised you that you would get a raise in the next three months, you would spend the next three months wondering when and if it would happen. At the end of three months, if it still hadn’t happened, you’d lose trust, right? The same goes for your customers.

Instead of saying something like:

“I agree that that would be helpful. We’re working on this and should have this done in the next two weeks!”

Try saying something like:

“I agree that that would be helpful! We are working on this and should have it done soon. We’ll reach out when we’ve finished!”

Consider creating a public roadmap and feature request system

When you create a public place where people can keep track of your roadmap and request features, you take the burden off your support team. Beyond that, you put control back in the hands of the customer. Instead of waiting for your support team to respond to them, they’re able to answer their questions immediately.

Take, for instance, this public roadmap from Buffer.

feature requestsCustomers can comment, view, and read notes about features that Buffer is working on, and even some of the functionality requests that they are investigating.

Imagine how much more enjoyable the experience is when your team can share a living, breathing product roadmap document after receiving a feature request for it?

Acknowledge that you get it

Acknowledging your customers is one of the best things that you can do as a support person. Heck, maybe even in life in general. Your customer is putting themselves out there by asking for something that might not exist.

Stay away from phrases like:

  • That’s a bad idea.
  • That’s never going to happen.
  • We hear this all the time!

Take the time to let them know that it’s valid for them to care about this feature!

Here’s what that might look like if you modified the personalization example from above:

Thanks for reaching out—that’s a great question. I can see how you would want something like that. It would make the process of adding a user so much easier! Right now, we don’t offer that as a feature. I’ll track this with our team internally, so please let me know if you have any additional context that you’d like to add! If you’re interested in how we typically handle feature requests, you can read a bit more about that here: [link].

Try to give a bit more than “I can see why you’d like that!” The more detail you can add, the more alignment your customer will feel.

Understand what they are asking for

Have you ever tried “The Five Whys” method for problem-solving? It looks a little something like this:

feature requestsInstead of resolving the immediate issue (the feature request), try to get to the reasoning behind the feature request.

When trying to respond to a feature request, The 5 Whys can be a method for mining useful data from your feature requests and the most exact way to help get your customers the best answer to their inquiries. You might even begin to uncover that what you thought they were asking about is possible with a different part of your product.

Here are some great phrases to try:feature requests

If it’s a “no,” tell them that

Don’t lead your customers on. If you know that you’re never going to build the feature that they’re asking for, tell them that. In the long run, it’s a better experience for them to know now that it’s never coming than waiting for and expecting it. Sometimes the best way to address this is with a workaround, but if you’re feeling genuinely customer-committed, you can advise a competitor or other tool that tackles what they’re trying to do.

However, you decide to handle it, be as honest as you can. Here’s an example:

Thanks for reaching out. Other customers have also expressed their interest in this, too, and I understand why! That said, we aren’t planning on building this feature, at least not soon.

We have limited development resources until Q4, but we plan to revisit backlogged feature requests as soon as we’ve worked through our current plan. With that in mind, please let us know if there’s anything else you’re interested in or any other information you want to provide to lend additional context.


Let them know when you build it

For a lot of people, surprises are pretty fun. Especially surprises that let you know that someone was thinking about you. That’s what follow-up emails are for your customers: a fun surprise in their inbox to let them know that you heard them back when they reached out and that you’re still thinking about them now.

Email customers to let them know when you’ve built the features they’ve requested. Even if it’s years later, this level of follow-up and attention to detail will feel good.

Prioritize them appropriately

It’s all good to tell your customers that you’re going to do something with their feedback, but do you have processes to make those changes? If you don’t have an appropriate method to organize your customer feedback, nothing will ever get done.

Think about the impact the feature will have on users. Are you trying to solve issues for existing users, or encourage more new users to buy? Does the feature match up with the current strategy your company has in place?

There are a few different ways that companies choose to prioritize their feedback:

  • Where is the customer in their lifecycle? Some teams prioritize customers that are just in the first days after sign-up. The thinking is that your newest customers are most likely to churn.
  • How valuable is the customer that is asking for the feature? Some choose to prioritize the customers that have paid them the most. That’s doubly true if the customer’s segment plays a vital role in the company’s long-term growth.
  • How difficult is the improvement to implement? Some requests, especially small bugs, may be a quick and easy fix. If a small project provides a ton of value to customers, it may be worth it.
  • How many customers have asked for the feature? If your team tracks the number of times each feature’s requested, you can make a more straightforward case to your product team.

Make sure you categorize your feedback in an organized way to impact your target customers.

Listen to your customers

There isn’t a person alive that doesn’t want to feel connected. When your customers reach out to provide you insights on what could make your product every stickier for them, you need to appreciate them.

Talk to your customers like you would talk to a friend: be respectful, honest, and as transparent as you can be. You wouldn’t string along a friend; don’t do it to your customers, either. Take the time to understand where they are coming from and give them an informed response that sets expectations for the future.

Listen to your customers, and they’ll continue to be a source of insight and learning for you. Feature requests don’t need to be a sore spot for your customers or your CSAT—you just need to help everyone feel heard.

How did you like this blog?


Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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