Get Your Customer To Do Your R&D: Integrating CX And Product Teams

Product development — especially in software — used to be a top-down process, with the development team deciding on what functionality, features or interfaces would be most useful, and then the sales and marketing team convincing customers that it would make their lives easier.

Today, with the majority of consumer and business software being delivered over the web — much of it via the SaaS model, both the upgrade cycle and customer feedback cycle have shortened significantly. The proliferation of channels for customers to offer feedback — from in-program ratings and comments to social media posts, service desks, and community forums gives developers a wealth of input to inform their product roadmap. Cloud computing means that changes or upgrades can be rolled out quickly, tested with a subset of users, and adapted almost in real time.

The result is an ecosystem where SaaS and software companies can essentially rely on their customer base to provide much of the research, suggestions, and testing they need to ever more accurately match their product or service offerings to real-world needs — all that’s required is a robust strategy for gathering, sharing and implementing the necessary insights.

In this 5-minute read, we’ll explore:

  • Why CX data is so important for product development
  • Strategies to improve collaboration between CX and Product
  • The advantages of distributed teams to the development process
  • Why building a customer-centric R&D culture is crucial
  • Practical steps to encourage customer input into product design

Understanding the value of customer data to product teams

The integration of customer feedback data into product development is not just a nice-to-have — it’s what makes the difference between a product that captivates users and becomes indispensable to their work, versus one that fails to meet their needs or lacks key features.

It’s not only a question of what features customers want — although that’s a significant aspect of ensuring market fit. Developing a successful software product also requires attention to the customer experience – from the initial perception, through the engagement process, to the long-term relationship. As highlighted in a recent Hotjar article, a well-crafted CX strategy in SaaS is not just about solving current user problems, it’s about continually enhancing the user journey — providing users with compelling reasons to stay engaged with the product.

Creating and maintaining a product that aligns precisely with the needs of its users therefore requires communication and collaboration between CX teams, representing the voice of the customer, and product development teams, who can put that feedback into practice.

Breaking down silos: effective CX and product team integration

Integrating CX and product teams effectively is crucial in transforming customer feedback into tangible product improvements — and this often means breaking down silos within organizations. Different teams typically operate with distinct goals and perspectives, which can lead to a lack of alignment in terms of objectives. To overcome this, it’s vital to foster a culture where focusing on the customer is prioritized ahead of focusing on the product.

As CX expert Annette Franz put it in an article for CXJourney, “I’ve lost count of how many startups have reached out to me for help with finding customers for their products. Instead, they should be solving problems – and finding products – for their customers!” The point is that without a customer, there’s no use for a product. The better that product and CX teams can integrate their efforts to ensure that the product roadmap is guided by customer needs, expectations, and use cases, the more successful the resulting product will be.

On a practical level, establishing cross-functional teams or appointing liaisons between CX and product teams can facilitate this collaboration. These teams or individuals should have a deep understanding of both customer experiences and product intricacies, acting as bridges that translate customer insights into actionable product development strategies.

Adopting collaborative tools and platforms can also enhance the integration process — ensuring customer feedback and insights are readily accessible to all relevant stakeholders, and fostering a more inclusive and informed decision-making process. Regular meetings and workshops that bring together CX and product teams can also help maintain alignment, ensuring that feedback is continuously and effectively integrated into the product development lifecycle.

Distributed teams: how outsourcing can aid integration

In a world where remote work and distributed teams are increasingly common, having an outsourced team with robust technology and experience in remote collaboration can enhance knowledge sharing and integration efficiency. This approach can be particularly beneficial for companies looking to scale rapidly without sacrificing the input of customer insights into their product development processes.

Outsourcing doesn’t have to mean relinquishing control or creating additional silos. When executed effectively it creates a partnership where outsourced teams act as a fully integrated extension of the business. These specialized teams can contribute a wealth of experience in customer interaction and feedback analysis. Their expertise in integrating feedback into product strategies can streamline the process, ensuring a seamless flow of insights between CX and product development teams.

On a practical level, incorporating outsourced teams can also help to address challenges such as working with customers across multiple time zones, providing 24/7 support, and offering multilingual contact options — which can be difficult to address in-house, especially for smaller companies. Adding this capability has the additional benefit of opening up opportunities for constructive feedback from a more diverse range of users.

Working towards a customer-centric R&D culture

Cultivating a customer-centric culture is a key starting point for SaaS and software companies aiming to integrate CX with product development effectively. This culture shift requires R&D and product teams to proactively seek customer input rather than passively receive it. The aim should be to transform customer feedback from a one-way “push” of information into a dynamic “pull,” where product teams actively solicit user insights to guide their work.

To facilitate this cultural shift, organizations can provide training and resources to help product and research teams understand and appreciate the value of customer feedback. Product strategist Lorenzo Princi, writing on LinkedIn, gives examples of innovative methods to facilitate knowledge sharing across teams, including “cross-team workshops, lightning talks, development show and tells, social-media groups, knowledge base documentation, and learning management systems”

Maintaining a customer-centric mindset also involves embedding CX expertise directly within product teams or creating roles specifically dedicated to acting as liaisons between CX and development functions. This helps to ensure that customer feedback is not an afterthought but an integral part of the product development process — from ideation to release.

Practical steps for SaaS and software companies

For SaaS and software companies looking to integrate the “voice of the customer” into their product strategy, there are several key steps they can take to streamline the process and encourage users to engage with it.

Make feedback easy: Customers are unlikely to follow a complex or time-consuming process just to offer feedback on a particular interface or feature of a product. However if there is a clear interface, for example, a “report a problem” link on key screens, or a prompt to offer context if a user encounters an error, users are more likely to interact.

Build a client community: Creating a message board or forum where users of a particular product can ask questions and offer advice not only adds a self-service dimension to customer support but also builds a repository of invaluable customer feedback over time, and provides a channel for developers to interact directly with the user base.

Reward involvement: Showing appreciation by rewarding users who have made significant feedback contributions is an effective way to incentivize future involvement. This could take the form of a free upgrade to a higher-tier subscription, activation of additional features, or early access to new version upgrades.

Publicize contributions: It’s also important to publicly acknowledge the contributions that user feedback has made to the product — perhaps thanking individual users for their input in the release notes or via social media. This approach can also help attract other users to engage in the feedback process.

Essentially, the more convenient, rewarding, and engaging the feedback process is, the more users will be motivated to contribute to it, widening the pool of customer knowledge that developers can draw on for future product improvements.


Integrating customer feedback into the product development process is a fundamental necessity in today’s competitive landscape. Fostering a customer-centric culture, breaking down silos between CX and product teams, and taking practical steps to enhance the end-to-end customer experience, leads to products that are not only technologically innovative but also closely aligned with user needs and preferences.

To transition successfully to an integrated, customer-centric development model, working with an expert partner like SourceCX can add significant value — both in terms of guiding the process, and offering practical support with technology, remote team building, and engagement strategy.

In an era where the customer’s voice is more powerful than ever, harnessing that first-hand knowledge to inform the design and development of products and services is not just smart business sense — it’s essential for SaaS and software companies to thrive and succeed.