How to influence the product roadmap in customer support

Interview with Shannon Johnson, Director of Customer Support at Sprout Social
Interview with Shannon Johnson, Director of Customer Support at Sprout Social
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In today's episode of the Support Insights Podcast we talk to Shannon Johnson, Director of Customer Support at Sprout Social, about how Shannon's background in product operations gives her a unique perspective when it comes to sharing customer support insights with product teams.

Having started her career in customer support, Shannon's combined experience of product operations, support and a passion for tech, mean she has gained a really unique view of customers and the technology and processes that they need. 

Shannon explains how she attributes customer-centric requests to financial leverages to influence the product roadmap and the thought processes of product and engineering leaders.

We'll also touch on the concept of using proactive support to increase revenue opportunities, retention and the overall success and growth of a support team and therefore the growth of the business.

Watch the full episode or read the highlights below 👇

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How critical do you think customer service insights are to creating successful roadmaps in product?

I'm a little biassed, but I think that they are absolutely mission critical to the development of a product and then also to the growth of a company and retention of your customers.

In technology, I think we focus a lot on revenue streams and how to increase more revenue generating things from a product and engineering perspective, but I feel like when we do that, we lose focus on what keeps our customer with us and like keeps our customers buzzing about our business, buzzing about our service, buzzing about our products.

So I really think that the customer's feedback is absolutely critical to business success.

How does your perspective from both product operations and customer support influence your reporting approach in your current role?

I try to approach things with as much data backed evidence as possible. I also know that one of the ways to influence the product roadmap or influence the minds of product and engineering leaders is to really tie those requests or those priorities that I'm pushing to cost or financial leverages.

For example, if we're spending X amount of time supporting this specific part of the product, that equates to X, Y, Z dollars over the course of a year.

That really speaks the language of product and engineering, so I really focus a lot on our ability to quantify our effort. And then be able to also quantify the impact that any feature requests or changes on the back end would make to our overall business.

It's making sure that you’re talking about the things that other people care about.

What would your ideal customer-centric relationship between product and support look like?

I think that step one is just mutual respect. The way that I try to approach it initially in any role that I'm in or any company that I'm in, is building trust and an understanding of each other.

I think trust and empathy, all of that, it has to exist. It's the foundation for a good relationship.

Beyond that, there's a lot of process and cadence that I like to implement in which we are providing feedback in a meaningful way regularly.

Right now we do monthly reporting to product about customer sentiment, customer issues, quantifying all of those things that we were just talking about from a data perspective.

The other thing is, it's a cross-functional partnership for me too.
It's working with my peers in other departments such as sales and customer success, customer marketing, and really trying to come together about priorities because I think that helps the relationship with product as well.

When we are working individually, we're solving the same problems but in different ways, and if we work together, then we can have more of a partnership approach with product as well.

In an ideal state, we're all doing similar motions.
We're aligning on our voice, our messaging, our best practices, and creating that centralised and unified customer experience.

Music: Savour The Moment by Shane Ivers -

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