How we custom-built a feedback tool to better record your feature suggestions

By Mathew Patterson on 15th July 2014

When you talk to our support crew at Campaign Monitor, you’re talking to real people who listen. Apart from helping you with any issues you have, one of our most important jobs is collecting all your suggestions, requests, and bug reports and making them accessible to the rest of the team.

That’s because our marketing, design, and engineering teams use that information (along with their own plans) to prioritise and plan their work. So the more information they have to work with, and the easier it is to get to, the stronger your voice becomes as a customer.

In the past, our process has been to log in to JIRA (the issue tracking software we use) and either create a new issue or add a comment and increment a counter on an existing issue.

It seemed to work well, but slowly we uncovered a mystery. Suggestions wouldn’t have as many votes as we’d expect (based on the volume of tickets we were answering), or we’d have multiple JIRA issues about the same bug instead of a single point of record.

JIRA and the mystery of the missing feature requests

What was going on? Were there little gremlins eating feature suggestions? After some internal discussion, it turned out to be something much more mundane.

All the support team really needed to do most of the time was find the right issue, add a comment with the support ticket ID in it and increment the counter. However, an issue page in JIRA has about 11 million different pieces of text and form elements.

JIRA feature requests

This meant it was a little slow and painful to add votes, especially since it took time away from answering customers directly. As a result, many of the team had started collecting the votes on a piece of paper to add later.

Most of the time that worked, but occasionally we’d forget to add a vote, or honestly, it’d just get deprioritised in favour of helping customers individually.

Introducing Suggestion Tracker and the world of tomorrow

Now we understood the problem, we needed to find a better way to encourage the behaviour we wanted: Recording every piece of feedback and every instance of a bug against the right JIRA ticket.

It’s tempting to keep telling people “this is important, try harder” but as a design-led company we knew very well that the environment defines the action and the better solution is to make it easier to do the right thing. In this case, by reducing the friction so that adding votes and new requests was fast, easy and accurate.

That’s where Suggestion Tracker comes in.

Suggestion Tracker

Suggestion Tracker is our custom built front end to JIRA. Rather than having to go to JIRA, run a search, and then be faced with two pages worth of form fields, Suggestion Tracker is a single search box on a much shorter and cleaner screen. You can even search it directly from the address bar in Chrome using the Custom Search feature.

The results are presented in a much less complex form, and when you click on the right result a page pops up that allows a comment to be added and the vote incremented all at once.

Suggestion Tracker in the browser

The design work was done by Stig (then on our support team and now one of the wizards behind our Canvas email code), and the development by Terry on our engineering team.

More feedback than ever

Since the arrival of Suggestion Tracker our support team have been much more consistent about recording votes, and much better at picking the right JIRA issue to add to.

As a result, we’ve seen the number of feature suggestions recorded jump significantly. In the 3 months prior to implementing Suggestion Tracker, we were averaging around 280 suggestions recorded per month (both new suggestions and votes on existing ones). Since implementing Suggestion Tracker however, we’ve seen the average number of suggestions recorded per month jump to 385, a massive 37.5% increase.

Even though this is a great result and has helped us considerably, we’re always keen to improve. Recently we’ve added a little friendly competition to the mix; an internal leaderboard shows how many JIRA votes each support person has added during the week.

Suggestion Tracker Leaderboard

Looking forward, we’re exploring ways to provide a little more context to the votes as they go in. While Suggestion Tracker will always be clean and simple, our next improvements will likely be around categorizing the types of issues or automatically pulling in some customer information from our ticketing system for added context.

The little things count

Recording feedback seems like a small problem compared to big new features or major redesigns, but one of the great things about working at Campaign Monitor is how much thought, design and work goes into solving the small problems that can distract and delay you.

Working in a place where those annoyances and difficult processes are continually addressed leaves everybody feeling more effective and more able to spend their energy on the bigger challenges.

We’d love to hear from you on this too; are there small irritations that are slowing your progress? What have you done to address them?

10 Comments

  • Matthew Hall
    15th July

    I noticed support agents were saying my feature requests were logged and my vote added in a few recent support tickets which was a positive experience, and am really pleased to see an intelligent solution sitting behind the support ticket system that manages this. Well done Campaign Monitor - this is why we’ve stuck with you. Keep it up!

  • Mathew Patterson
    16th July

    Thanks Matthew, I’m glad to hear that it’s working for you as well as for us!

  • David @ Web Development Services
    18th July

    Very helpful and informative article.

  • Dominique Eav
    14th November

    Thanks for your article and analysis, it seems we’re currently experiencing the same problem with suggestions from our community (we’re an open-source software company).

    Would the source code for this tool be available by any chance?

  • Ros Hodgekiss
    15th November

    Hi Dominique, I don’t think we’ll be releasing the code at this stage, I’m sorry to say - it was quite the custom project for our Jira install. That said, you might want to check out a service like Uservoice, as we’ve heard pretty good things about their ability to track customer requests. Let us know how you go :)

  • Dominique Eav
    18th November

    @Ros: Too bad! Let us know if you change your mind :-)

  • Tom Noack
    11th February

    How do I get to the suggestion tracker?
    No ink in the article and no link under my login?!?
    Would you provide some feedback please

  • Paul West
    11th February

    Hi Tom! If you ever have any suggestions or comments, you can send a quick email to our support team and we can help :) The suggestion tracker itself, is an internal tool that we use to record those suggestions and comments. I’ve just responded to the email you sent in and recorded your suggestions in our tool. Thanks again!

  • Paul Cripps
    2nd July

    It would be fantastic if you could show suggestions to the logged in users, this would allow us to ‘vote’ on features.

    It would be really beneficial to see what people are suggesting and asking for, building an even greater tool :)

    There feature suggestions could also be related to help and forum posts. I often find issues I have on the help or forum, often they are a few years old and the trail often ends…. I feel it would be useful to vote up and related feature requests here too. 

    So, can you add a ‘public’ suggestion tracker to the suggestion tracker ;)

  • Vertex Computer Systems, Inc.
    17th July

    It such a very informative and helpful article for all users. Thanks for sharing your article and analysis, it looks that we are also experiencing the same problem. So this post will help us to understand about the main problem.

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