**This is a guest post from Drew Sheridan, an attorney at Axiom, where he focuses on commercial transactions particularly in the software space. Drew has a broad range of experience in tech law, including time at You42 and Mailchimp.
Every modern SaaS company collects and measures customer feedback in some way. They utilize surveys, forums, chatbots, event tracking, and a variety of other tools (including Userfeed) to gauge the customer experience, collect product feedback, and continuously iterate.
But collecting product feedback, product suggestions, and product requests from customers with new software applications can be tricky because: (1) intellectual property is involved; and (2) the parties may have different expectations. The best way to ensure that everybody is on the same page is to address product feedback in your Terms and Conditions, educate your users on the feedback products that you use, and communicate honestly and directly with your customers.
New SaaS tools like Userfeed make it easier than ever to collect product requests and build new products from customer feedback; however, the parties may not spell out all of the gritty details regarding ownership, timing, privacy, and payment of these new products and features — leaving a lot to be assumed. For example:
Does your customer think that they will get the new feature for free?
Does your customer think that you’re using their idea to build a new feature just for them?
Does your customer think that you’re contractually obligated to build their request?
Does your customer think that their posted idea is confidential information?
Does your customer expect a royalty when using their idea?
Does your customer think that they own anything you build from their idea?
The answers to these questions may seem obvious to you but these disputes happen.
So a quick way to create a meeting of the minds here is to address feedback rights in your Terms and Conditions by including a Feedback License or Feedback Waiver. Also, feel free to scan the Terms of other SaaS companies that you admire to see how they communicate their feedback rights. Shout out to a few of my favorites:
Certain areas of this Website are public-facing and allow you to interact with others (e.g., the Calendly blog and the idea portal) (together, “Forums”). These Forums may permit you to submit feedback, information, data, text, software, messages, or other materials (each, a “Submission”). We love hearing from our users! It’s incredibly helpful and helps us to make a better Calendly for all. If you choose to submit ideas, comments, or feedback, either directly to us or via a Forum, you agree that we can use them without any restrictions or compensation to you.
(k) Suggestions: You hereby grant to Zapier a royalty-free, worldwide, transferable, sublicenseable, irrevocable, perpetual license to use or incorporate into the Site, the Service and/or other Zapier offerings any suggestions, enhancement requests, recommendations or other feedback provided by you to Zapier that is related to the Site and/or the Service.
Customer grants FullStory a royalty-free, worldwide, transferable, sub-licensable, irrevocable, perpetual license to use or incorporate into its software or services, any suggestions, enhancement requests, recommendations or other feedback provided by Customer, including its Users, relating to FullStory’s software, services or business operations. This Agreement is not a sale and except as set forth in this Agreement, does not give Customer any rights of ownership in, or related to, the Services, any FullStory software or the Intellectual Property Rights owned by FullStory.
Lastly, think of ways to educate your customers on how you collect product feedback. Here are a few suggestions:
- Send an email explaining how customers can give product feedback and what a customer can expect after giving feedback;
- Create a knowledge base on your product feedback strategy and the tools that you use;
- Make sure that your feedback tools have clear directions or a tutorial; and
- Link to you Terms and Conditions in your application or website.
Customer feedback is critical for any SaaS company, it can help you design your next killer feature, but using another’s idea to develop products can be contentious. This is especially true where the idea-giver and idea-receiver have different expectations (and particularly where the idea-giver is angry and ignorant of intellectual property law). Nobody wants to waste time and resources on customer confusion or intellectual property disputes, so ensure that everybody is on the same page by addressing feedback in your Terms and Conditions, educating your users on your feedback products, and communicating honestly and directly with your customers. If there isn’t a meeting of the minds when collecting product feedback, you’re opening yourself up to preventable headaches and avoidable risk.