Maximizing the value of customer feedback for product teams
How can you empower customers and product teams with insights that matter?
Atlassian sells team collaboration software, including Jira, Confluence and Trello. Thousands of our users seek help every month, providing feedback, both publicly and privately.
With over 30 years of experience in CX and EX, I understand the importance of listening to customers. But listening is only half the job.
I’ve always seen feedback as gift, and personally, I’m a frequent feedback giver. If you want to see change you need to let people know.
Feedback is a two-way relationship
When customers share feedback, they expect something in return. For the most part, they don’t expect a company to solve for every single request, but they expect more than nothing in response. But nothing is what many companies give. Customers are left feeling like they’re shouting into a void.
Atlassian relies on user word of mouth and viral products, instead of traditional enterprise sales, and we have a close relationship with our community of users.
Our users are seriously passionate and vocal when it comes to Atlassian products. There’s no shortage of feedback or suggestions about how to improve experience.
Our product development teams often became overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of the feedback coming in. They wanted to do the right thing, but didn't know how to engage with feedback effectively at scale.
This left users frustrated by the lack of response, which in turn impacted our user experience and overall product satisfaction scores.
Dealing with data overload!
I joined Atlassian in May 2020, to work on a customer feedback ecosystem initiative. This was to address the feedback overload and make sure customers felt heard.
The challenge we were tasked to solve was how to harness and respond to the estimated 60,000 pieces of customer feedback received every month.
Atlassian's customers are super engaged, and we’ve fostered a culture of conversation. We've launched a community to provide a platform where their strongest customer advocates could work with them to support others at scale.
We encouraged our product teams to reach out for customer input and feedback. And we'd established a customer listening program that allowed us to keep our finger on the pulse of what customers value.
But many of these channels where being analyzed in isolation.
And some legacy feedback collectors were leading customer feedback into a dead end. Our customers deserved better, and our teams were missing out on valuable insight.
We wanted to ensure that ALL product teams were leveraging ALL customer feedback to make informed business decisions when prioritising roadmaps.
There was a lot of data to collate and process - it was one big challenge!
It was time to build a system that showed users Atlassian cares
To continue to grow, we need to give our customers and users products that deliver real value, and ensure that every interaction with Atlassian is effective and empowering.
Most importantly, we wanted to show customers that Atlassian teams care about them and their needs.
Research showed that customers didn't believe Atlassian was listening to them.
Atlassian didn’t consistently close the loop on feedback. This led to frustration and undermined trust in Atlassian’s ability and commitment to deliver quality products, risking growth and retention.
Product teams have always used feedback to provide directional signals when making decisions, but they were overwhelmed by the relentless growth of feedback volume. It made this process difficult to manage in an efficient and balanced way.
At the same time, customer-facing teams found it hard to have visibility on what product teams were sharing with customers.
The leaky customer feedback ecosystem was the result of gradual evolution over the years as Atlassian and its products and services scaled.
Where once it was possible to close most of the feedback loops with customers, the scale became so enormous that we were failing to manage customer expectations. There simply wasn't the ability to respond to customer feedback and make sure they knew we cared.
The CARE framework
The CARE framework was developed to establish a robust, sustainable processes for closing the loop with customers when they share feedback, making sure they feel heard and valued.
The four facets of CARE are:
Let's look at each in more detail.
CARE starts with how Atlassian collects feedback.
We designed and delivered a seamless and integrated experience for customers when they share their feedback with Atlassian across multiple channels.
We developed a public-facing policy to manage customer expectations. This means outlining the process that feedback goes through, and explaining how we will communicate any developments back to customers.
We analyzed and sorted our feedback data using Thematic. Thematic transforms the raw data to enable bulk processing, using AI. It has a scalable system for theming using NLP (Natural Language Processing) and machine learning.
We then refined the themes to make them more relevant to our product teams and support systems.
We paired the themed feedback with other customer data to provide context, to add meaning to the data and help tell a story.
The transparency and flexibility of Thematic makes it easy to process large quantities of data, quickly and effectively, to get to the customer stories and identify and understand important issues.
Through an API, we transferred and consolidated the analyzed data into our BI dashboard, purpose built for our teams to directly access the feedback relevant to them.
Teams can search, filter, and analyze customer feedback through dimensions like keyword, product, channel, component, domain, theme, sentiment, date, and then drill right down to the raw feedback.
They can also identify where the feedback is coming from. This allows them to consider the current and potential future value of the customers requesting a particular feature or enhancement.
Customers share feedback because, ultimately, they want something solved.
We can’t possibly resolve ALL customer issues, but we can share how we approach prioritization of customer feedback to influence product roadmaps.
When we conducted their research, the message that came through loud and clear was:
We don’t expect you to fix everything, but let us know what you are fixing and how you go about prioritizing your roadmap.
Actionable insights are the highly treasured output of all the work that goes into collecting, preparing and analyzing our data. If Atlassian doesn't routinely address the needs and pain points of customers, we risk losing credibility.
Without processes to enable teams to prioritize and act on the feedback that is collected and analyzed, we limit our ability improve customer experience.
Engaging Product teams through this process, we contributed to supporting Atlassian's culture of customer-centricity. This means there are no discussions, decisions, or designs without considering the customer's voice, or first asking:
- How will this impact the customer?
- What value will it deliver for the customer?
- How will this help the customer?
Using feedback to identify key pain points, we identified opportunities for deeper research, inspiring proactive outreach like the creation of a survey or plans for further investigation.
We helped make product teams more accountable by mapping customer priorities to related initiatives to make sure teams were developing solutions to address customer needs first.
Empowering means creating content to provide customers and other teams with a shared understanding of what product teams are working on and why.
Closing the loop doesn’t mean Atlassian acts on or delivers on every piece of feedback that comes through. But it does mean we provide a clear response.
Sometimes this means letting the customer know that what they are requesting will not be done. This is essential to building trust and reassuring customers that we're listening.
We leveraged Atlassian's community champions - customers who love and advocate for our products - so they had the knowledge to support and empower others at scale. We shared feedback insights across the organization, to enable customer-facing teams to share accountability for improving the customer experience across departments.
And we leveraged marketing automation to enable ongoing communication with customers at scale, sharing relevant links to Atlassian's roadmap where issues shared through customer feedback are being addressed.
We chose Thematic as our partner to help us address feedback at scale.
Choosing the right partner was important. We underwent a rigorous selection process, considering 36 vendors and demoing 9.
While price was a consideration, it was most important to find a reliable partner we could trust with our data and integrate into our process.
We needed a partner that has great technology now, as well as constantly innovating.
Since implementing Thematic we’ve discovered the AI does a better job of analyzing feedback than we initially expected. What really helps is that you can easily validate and refine the analysis.
Thematic's AI learns really fast, which means that over time, it does better than a human can. This is because the AI does it consistently and there's no bias creeping in from different people doing the analysis.
It’s both Atlassian and Thematic’s mission to maximise the value of every piece of customer feedback.
Also, it’s not set and forget, so you can provide input and guidance at any time. We let the AI do the mass processing, or the grunt work, and our team spend more time on the review and refinement.
Since selecting Thematic, I have moved on to manage a project to launch our employee listening program, where we process ER data confidentially using de-identified data extracts.
We engage our teams monthly to understand how macro and micro factors are impacting team wellbeing and effectiveness. Thematic allows us to do this quickly and accurately, so we can take action immediately and responsibly, when it matters. Not retrospectively.
I’ve had a long career in CX and, and, as a customer, I have high expectations.
The thing I love most about working with Thematic is that they go the extra mile to be supportive and responsive. Every request is considered and our feedback is clearly … valued. They help us to deliver a scalable feedback loop with OUR customers.
This post is based on Jae's presentation at the Customer 360 Symposium, where she shared what Atlassian has learned about maximising the value of customer feedback for product teams and their users.