5 Best Practices to Manage Product Feature Requests

feature requests

Products are developed keeping customers’ requirements in mind. A clear understanding of what your customers want is important to build products with the most impactful features.

Effective tracking and managing feature requests helps businesses cater to customers’ requirements. An organized feature request management system helps businesses use product feature requests to make informed product decisions. 

As the product becomes more successful, the amount of feedback you receive and the level of contact with customers is going to increase eventually. Customer feedback could range from “product too complex” to “include integration features” to “Can you make it more colorful”.

Feature requests are specific ideas that a customer sends to the company asking them to add something that they feel will make the product better. Only when all the customer feature requests are tracked and managed well, can businesses turn them into product features. This blog explores what feature requests are, the need for feature request workflow, and effective ways of managing feature requests. 

What are Feature Requests?

What is a feature request? A feature request is basically an idea a customer sends your way to make you understand how he is using your product, and what he expects from your product for a better user experience. Customer feature requests are like communication channels between the product owner and the end user.

End users can show you a real-life picture of how your end users are making use of your product. A feature request could be in the form of a comment, message, or a simple ask from a user to implement a specific feature into your product. These requests can be used to decide how to iterate an existing product. 

Feature requests are not merely requests for improving/changing products, they are also a channel that the user chooses to reach out to the developer. For effective communication, the feature request must –

  • State clearly what the feature is
  • Describe how it might work
  • Explain what problem the feature would solve
  • Describe a scenario that shows the proposed feature at work

Feature requests are a great way to get the entire community involved in your product and give them a sense of ownership. It is a great way to use feature requests to give you the right direction, but they could be a nightmare when not tracked and managed properly. Feature request management is not only about managing volumes of feature requests, it is also about differentiating between good and bad requests.

You need a solid plan to manage product feature requests and differentiate between good and bad feature requests. A feature request could be as simple as a bug that needs to be fixed, or as complex as a new feature to be added to improve the usability of the product.

Sometimes users just want one feature to be added, and other times they might want the entire product to be changed; irrespective of the nature and scope of the feature request, the template remains the same. 

Managing feature requests helps –

  • Keep track of product ideas
  • Prioritize product features
  • Improve user experience 
  • Retain and grow your user base

Feature requests show a real-life picture of how your end users are using your product.

What are the Types of Feature Requests?

Feature requests are among the most challenging elements in software development, they are much more than just simple suggestions. They reflect the user’s needs, wants, desires, and overall level of satisfaction with the product. The main challenge arises when you have to sift through large volumes of requests to locate the ones that are worthwhile.

While choosing requests, you must consider the ones that will benefit the majority of users instead of just a few. The cost, complexity, and time of implementing the feature request must also be considered while making the choice.

Some of the main types of feature requests are mentioned below –

1. Proposing a bug fix

End users file bug reports when they encounter something that is not functioning as expected or the way they feel it should. With several B2B end-users making use of SaaS applications for conducting business operations, even a small bug or technical snag can prove disastrous for the business. 

2. Requests for new capabilities

End users can also submit fresh feature requests. Even when the product is running smoothly, users may submit a request for adding a new feature/s. End-users make these requests when they want more value from the product, or when they encounter a problem that the product has not yet solved. 

3. Suggestions for product improvement

Product improvement suggestions are given in the form of feedback from end-users. User feedback that shows methods for improving existing capability, either by boosting usability or by changing existing workflows, is referred to as product improvement requests. These suggestions are typically offered because they believe their input will be beneficial for the company. Suggestions for something that can make a current feature better are given in the form of product improvement requests. 

4. Totally new feature requirements

Users may request totally new features in the product. When the current features offered by the product do not satisfy the user’s requirements, users may ask for totally new features. Sometimes, users may request totally new features when their business requirements also change. 

5. Improved functionality features

Based on the user’s experience while using the product, they can make suggestions on improving the functionality of the product. User experience can be significantly improved by altering the features offered by the product as per the suggestions they provide. 

A feature request workflow helps track and manage user requests so that useful suggestions are implemented to ensure that customer service can be top-notch. Product teams, startups and SaaS companies, and customer success teams, typically use product feature requests. A feature request form provides a platform for customers to share feedback and be heard. 

5 Effective Ways of Writing a Feature Request

Well-written feature requests are a blessing for the customer support team. Neatly written feature requests providing complete details on the requested feature helps the team comprehend the requirements and deliver the right product. A product feature request is best when it is brief, clear, and to the point.

The request is a great way of giving inputs to the products or services that you are using, sometimes they help build a better product. Incomplete or incorrect feature requests are of no use to the user as well as to the company providing the product.

Here are a few tips that will help in creating effective feature requests. 

  1. Do a double-check to ensure that the feature request is not a bug report or a how-to query. A bug report focuses more on the issue with the product, rather than areas of improvement. A how-to query on the other hand is more like an instruction manual that guides the user on using the product. 
  2. Avoid using boilerplate content in the feature request, because it is distracting and makes it tough to go through the content. In some cases, such irrelevant content takes the focus away from the feature requested. 
  3. Ask for a feature that is simple to understand. The language for communicating the feature request is also very important. The usage of grammatically correct sentences and easy-to-understand sentences makes it easy to understand the requirement. Spending ample time to think over the request and frame the content is well worth the effort. 
  4. Be thorough in presenting the content, but leave out unnecessary details. It is likely that you overlook content because you already know it so well, but the subject matter expert attending to the request may not be aware of it.
  5. It is important to describe the user’s business purpose and the barriers that are preventing them from achieving it. Rather than focusing on the means to achieve the objective, it is important to focus on the business purpose of the request. 

In order that the feature requests are not a headache for the software development teams, it is important to structure and prioritize the request. Evaluation of the customer feature request must be done based on the value addition it brings to the product.

Prioritizing your feature requests helps determine the order in which the development team will work on the product roadmap. Given the fixed time and budget availability, it is critical to prioritize the features that the team will work on so that resources are optimally utilized. 

Efficient Ways of Tracking Feature Requests

It is going to be a challenge to track and manage feature requests, particularly in a situation where you have to manage dozens of incoherent, unstructured, and disorganized feature requests every week. Customer feature requests that do not conform to a standard framework are difficult to track and manage. They are likely to get lost in the shuffle and the users will never hear from you.

The end result would be that you would be building a product with features that are not of any use to them. Having a standard template for creating feature requests streamlines the feature request workflow and enables easy tracking of feature requests. 

A feature request template provides a framework for the users to give feedback making it easy to track and manage requests. A feature request template strengthens the feedback loop and saves the team a lot of time and effort in sorting through, organizing, and acting on user feedback. It also helps long-term relationships with users, who know that you care about their feedback and are willing to accommodate their unique requirements. 

When a feature request is as per the template, it becomes easy for the user to provide relevant data and for the development team to understand the requirement. Tracking requests also becomes easy when a standard format is followed for providing data for the product request.

The must-have components of a feature request template are: 

1. Title

Every request feature must have a title, a good title could be a few words long or sometimes a full sentence. Having a clear title is useful in sorting out the feature request into one of the types mentioned in the above sections. The title will help you recognize at a glance what a feature request is all about. Poorly written titles or misleading titles can confuse the customer executives that handle these requests about the category of the request. 

2. Description

The description field is the space where users can expand their ideas. This is where they provide complete details on the problems they are facing or the product features that need to be changed or improved. Users can describe the issue they are facing, what device they use, and their idea for a potential solution. Descriptions can be elaborate and they must include detailed information on user expectations so that back-and-forth messaging can be avoided. 

3. Screenshots

Some users are really good at written communication, while others are not. Using screenshots to capture further information about their request is more effective to express the user’s requirements. A screenshot will show you precisely what they are expecting from your product, and which part of the product they are struggling with. 

4. Author

Getting in touch with the contributor long after they have left a suggestion is indispensable. Maintaining the communication channel helps clarify the user’s request and ensures that you are building the feature that they are expecting. When people add their names to the feature request, it makes them accountable and ensures that requests are not incorrect or incomplete. Knowing who requested for the feature helps identify the most active contributors so you can build relationships and turn them into ambassadors. 

5. Category

The category or tag field in the feature request helps identify the type of request. Using this field, you can group the feature request by topic, so that your moderators and development teams can easily find what is relevant to them. Differentiating between different types of requests is easy with category tags. Ideally, you can add a drop-down in the feature request template, where users can choose the type of request they are submitting. The types in the drop-down could be – feature requests, change requests, bug reports, and improvement ideas.

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Best Ways to Manage Feature Requests

There are several ways to manage a product management feature request. The measure of how successfully you manage feature requests is measured by the response time for these requests. Feature request management enables the software development or the customer support team to track and manage feature requests efficiently and ensure that they respond to users in a timely and satisfactory manner.

There are 3 must-have features of a feature request management system – 

Keep the process transparent

Maintaining transparency in feature request management makes users feel like they are part of the product development process, and are not mere onlookers. Responses to users should not stop at just thanking them for their involvement/contribution, it should also let them know the next steps. 

Update statuses proactively

Letting users know the status of what you are working on, the progress of tasks, and how their contribution is impacting the product roadmap, make your board look alive and lets users know that you care about their feedback. 

Learn to say NO 

Product managers might have to decline a fair share of requests during their tenure. Rather than choosing to ignore such requests, it is a better idea to say “No” and explain why not. 

Here are the 7 Best in Product Feature Requests Management

1. Centralize everything

A well-organized feature request workflow puts everything in its place. Using a dedicated workflow management software like Cflow is a great way to organize the request management workflow. Cflow centralizes the entire product planning process, so you can take each feature request, add it to your product idea portal, and connect any relevant suggestions that you may have. 

2. Create a system for receiving and managing feature requests

A well-organized system to receive and manage features ensures that customers feel more comfortable logging in with feature requests. 

3. Respond promptly and personally

Letting customers know that their requests are valued and also giving an honest response is important. 

4. Categorize and prioritize

Managing a large volume of requests becomes easy when you categorize and prioritize them. 

5. Discuss requests with colleagues

Gauging the opinion of the project team is essential before working on the request.

6. Communicate with customers

Staying in touch with the customer even after the initial response to their request is important.

7. Make the product road map public

Creating a public roadmap for your customers ensures that they are fully aware of the direction your product is heading.

Key Takeaways

Leveraging customer feedback is made possible with an efficient feature request management system. Automating the feature request workflow with a powerful workflow automation solution like Cflow enables organizations to respond to customer feature requests in a timely and satisfactory manner. If you would like to explore Cflow further, all you need to do is sign up for the free trial. 

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