I was talking to a customer yesterday about product prioritization strategies and they asked me how we prioritized internally. I told them that we followed a similar form of RICE, which we originally took from Intercom’s internal product team. This kickstarted a conversation about how Intercom operates internally in a number of other use cases, so I wanted to share a few that we’ve found especially useful at Userfeed: RICE (product prioritization), Job Stories (for gathering feedback), and CARE (for user onboarding).
RICE: A framework for product prioritization
One of the most difficult challenges in a growing SaaS company is building the right things. Building the wrong things can cost you time/money, kill new revenue growth, increase churn, and hurt internal morale. We had such a hard time with this at our startup, that we started building our own product to solve it (Userfeed).
It wasn’t until we changed our product prioritization framework and our development cycle process (work cycles), that we started seeing improvement in this part of our business. We decided to follow a framework used at Intercom called RICE, which stands for:
- Reach: How many customers will this new feature impact over some period of time (e.g. per quarter)?
- Impact: What will the impact be on an individual person (e.g. how much will this feature increase conversion rate when a customer uses it)? Score 0 to 3.
- Confidence: Level of confidence about these estimates (as a percentage).
- Effort: Total amount of time that a feature will require to ship. Effort is estimated as a number of “person-months,” which is the work that one person can do in a month (0.5 for anything well under a month).
When you’ve added all the inputs you can come up with a weighted score for each feature:
We’ve added a couple other inputs to our internal framework at Userfeed including upvotes in Userfeed (which is a component of Reach/Impact), number of companies associated with upvotes (upvotes can be deceiving if a big company gets all their users to upvote something they want), as well as total revenue associated with users who have upvoted. All of this data is available via Intercom with one click in Userfeed (we plan to pull this data into Userfeed at some point).
Currently we do some of this in a spreadsheet (blah😢), but we’re in progress with a new product within Userfeed that will productize this process using Intercom data, Userfeed data, and subjective inputs from your team (e.g. Effort).
Job Stories: a framework for gathering feedback
Most companies understand that staying close to the customer and constantly gathering feedback is necessary to building a successful SaaS business. However, gathering feature requests is not enough. You need to understand why a user needs a feature. This is why it’s important to have:
- A framework for gathering feedback
- An understanding of the right questions to ask to get to the why
- Tools that give your product team context around user feedback
Intercom developed a framework, called job stories, that we believe is the best way to uncover the why:
[ When _____ ] [ I want to _____ ] [So I can _____ ]
By gathering feedback in this way you discover the situation, the motivation, and the outcome or goal. Shoot, that’s better than the “why.”
At Userfeed, we’ve built this into our process and our product. When anyone submits feedback, we recommend job stories as a way to describe the feedback:
Intercom is an amazing tool for engaging with customers and we use this as an opportunity to dig deep with questions to find out when they’re running into a challenge, what their motivation is for wanting something improved/added, and what their desired outcome would be.
Now that you’ve received all this great feedback, you need to push it to the product team, otherwise nothing can get prioritized and solutions may not give users the outcomes they desire. This is where tagging in Intercom comes into play. We simply tag the conversation (with all the rich job story details) with the corresponding Userfeed feature, and now our product team is a click away from customer conversational context (aka job stories)!
CARE: a framework for user onboarding
Whether you’re self-service SaaS or high-touch sales/CS, your onboarding process is crucial to converting trials and reducing churn. It’s so easy to think of onboarding as this thing you can build out once, then you’re good to go. Similar to your product, you should always be iterating on your onboarding process. As I write this, I’m feeling anxious about our own onboarding. It can be so much better, and so can yours!
Intercom’s product is design well improve this process for your business, and like any great product, it’s best utilized alongside a strong framework. At Intercom, they practice CARE:
- Convert trials to paid customers
- Activate newly paying customers
- Retain paying customers
- Expand their usage
At Userfeed, we’ve added a some things to enhance our onboarding process. I’ve discussed this many times before, but one of the most effective strategies to growing and retaining your customer base is to make them a part of the product development process. Customers aren’t just buying the value you provide them now, but also what they believe you’ll provide them in the future. No customer wants to implement a product, then have to change it in 6 months.
Show examples of how you’ve engaged with customers on their feedback (and engage with them on theirs), how you manage that feedback (don’t just say you’ll let the product team know), and proof that that has led to new solutions (we share the completed features on our roadmap).
I can’t stress how effective this is for potential customers to see, and how important it is that you actively do this with your users.
In short, these strategies are great baselines to improve your product prioritization process, how you gather feedback, and how you onboard your users. There are other methodologies out there that may work just as well for you. The important thing is that you implement some kind of framework that works well for your team, and that you don’t neglect these areas of your business. Your product reflects your internal processes, so make sure they’re good ones!