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New Feature Suggestion Tool

WORK[etc] gets better because of user suggestions and feature request. We know that first hand – a lot of recent improvements to the product have come about specifically from suggestions and requests. We read every email, we capture every suggestion, collate, debate and implement.

Yet, I find it astonishing some companies not only disregard or even ignore customer input, they wear it as some sort of badge to be proud of. With software innovation moving at breakneck speed, it must surely be a perilous strategy to gloss over what your users are thinking (and feeling).

Being Stubborn Won’t Get You Anywhere

One of the main perpetrators is 37Signals – and much has already been written about their product management strategies.

They have specifically set out to appeal to the concept of simplicity in their software. That’s their angle; intuitive and easy to use applications. They hammer this in time after time through marketing, communications and PR.

I’m happy to see they’ve been successful with their angle, but will surely come at some cost. Because of the fact that they want to continue working from this angle, they have cut their products short when it comes to features. If you look at Basecamp or Highrise for example, these products fall short in terms of what many people consider basic (necessary) CRM or project management features. Because of this, users are always making new feature requests, which are promptly ignored.

But it gets worse. If 37Signals is to be believed, they just hit the delete button on requests!
“Yup, read them and throw them away. The ones that are really important will keep bubbling up.”
http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/getting_real_forget_feature_requests.php

What’s painful about reading this is the obvious inference to ignoring a huge amount of the customers and letting only the ‘’important’’ ones pile up. Why bother even suggesting an idea if you already know it is going to be discarded…

And what annoys me even more is that 37Signals is being held up as the poster child of the Web X.0/SaaS industry. How many young, start up companies read this as Gospel, from an obviously successful company, and take it to mean they should do the same?

Dell is a great example of a company that does listen; they have revolutionized the concept of customer input with their feedback website IdeaStorm. This website has received amazing feedback from the industry and has helped bring an open approach to how Dell receives customer input.

Any long term WORK[etc] customer will tell you that we do listen. We collect, collate, build a case, prioritise and implement. But as we have grown this has caused some headaches, most notably the volume of ideas we know receive.

That’s why we’re introducing a new feature suggestion tool. This tool will work in a similar way to Dell’s IdeaStorm, and will help make helping us help you much easier.

The problem: we love hearing everyone’s ideas. However this can get difficult when receiving tons of different new suggestions every day. We want everyone’s voice to be heard, and managing these new ideas has become so time consuming we could hire a full time person just to manage this.

The solution: Our new feature suggestion tool will allow the community to act as a whole when it comes to input. Upon submitting a new request, other users can vote for this idea, effectively putting it higher up on the priority list. The more votes and discussion there is around a certain idea, the faster it is likely to be implemented.

How to Use the New Feature Suggestion Tool:
While this tool will vastly improve how feature suggestion works, there are still a few things users can do to help make sure ideas are given the credit they deserve, and also help make it more effective as a whole:

  • Check first for duplicates or similar ideas. Supporting a similar idea means that the combined ideas are likely to gain more traction (and overall more votes!).
  • If possible, take a screen shot of what you are describing and write notes on that image. This is a foolproof way of clearly illustrating your suggestion.
  • Provide a use-case. A good way of doing this is to just use bullet points to work through the steps or actions that make up how your suggestion would work.
  • Tag your idea. At the bottom of the suggestion text field, is a tool that lets you select which tools your suggestion relates to. When suggestions are properly categorized, we can quickly identify all suggestions when working on other ideas for improvement across a tool.
  • Put the effort into describing your idea and we’ll put the effort into making it happen.

We’ll also keep track of all the ideas that get implemented by marking them as completed within the forums.

That’s it, it’s pretty simple stuff. We’re excited to hear your ideas and want you to know we value your feedback, so please vote if you like ideas!

Check out the new Feature Suggestion forum.

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