In the earliest days of building Great Question, we shipped products at breakneck speed. New features were released daily, customer requests were handled in hours, and a relatively small product surface area made it easy to keep track of everything.
Oh, how they were simpler times.
As we’ve developed, our product has become very broad— - it’s a vital part of our product strategy to build an all-in-one customer research tool.
There are three ways we work on continuous product improvement, above and beyond our regular product release cycles:
All of this is not to say we don’t work on customer needs or bugs at other times, and we absolutely do, but we also carve our dedicated time away from the demands of the product roadmap and long-term product vision to keep the trains running on time.
Papercuts is a meeting we run every week that aims to solve those minor annoying issues that otherwise might not get prioritized in our regular product roadmap.
It includes things like:
Papercuts could easily be ignored or possibly cleaned up whenever that piece of the product is next reviewed, but they quickly add up. If left alone for too long, the entire product starts to feel buggy, ill-thought-out, or out of date.
The papercuts session is run by Product Design Lead Sean Langton, who brought the concept with him from his previous team at Instawork. He takes submissions into a Linear project throughout the week and prioritizes the most critical issues working with support, sales, and success folks.
The meeting itself runs over an hour and a half, typically on a Wednesday around lunchtime, and is attended by everyone and anyone with the capacity. Usually, that will be our designers, 3-4 engineers, and often customer success + support folks.
Everyone will pick up a few tickets at the start of the meeting and then work through them one by one, calling out where they need extra help (like copywriting) or feedback on their solution.
In the end, we get to celebrate the fact we’ve made the product better in some small way.
We’ve done papercuts sessions for 18 months now, basically, since the day we started the company, and I firmly believe this is why we get such positive feedback on the beautiful product design + user experience.
Once a quarter, we run a “Customer Love Week”. This is for our time to solve issues that might only affect 1 or 2 folks, which might not get addressed with the rest of the product roadmap.
These items are typically more oversized than a papercut and could include bugs, missing functionality, or other quality of life items. Sometimes there are more extensive features here so long as they can be performed in a week and don’t de-rail the product roadmap. It’s a delicate balance.
Having these weeks at the end of the quarter helps to bookend the work we’ve done to deliver brand new functionality on the roadmap and acknowledges that not everything we work on can be net new - you have to keep the existing customers + product in shape too.
We’ve been doing Customer Love Weeks for six months now, and customer response has been awesome. I wish we’d started to do these earlier.
The Summer of Love is a new concept for us. We dedicate the month of July every year to customer-centric improvements. We dedicate 1/12th of our annual capacity on top of our quarterly sessions. Often, these items are too big to be done in a week but don’t necessarily make it into the product backlog. Technical + UX debt is a big part of this.
We solicit customer feedback to help us establish priorities and troll our ticketing system for long-standing bugs.
In particular, the Summer of Love focuses on:
This year some of the items delivered in the Summer of Love include:
Striking the balance between net new functionality, improving existing products, and eliminating technical debt is an eternal struggle. Putting in place systems to prioritize this work promptly has made it much easier to keep debt to a minimum while delivering value for all customers. We hope you’ll find it helpful and thank all of our customers for constantly providing feedback, we would be nowhere without you.
Ned is the co-founder and CEO of Great Question. He has been a technology entrepreneur for over a decade and after three successful exits, he’s founded his biggest passion project to date, focused on customer research. With Great Question he helps product, design and research teams better understand their customers and build something people want.