Imagine a busy salesperson signing into a customer relationship management application only to see a brand new, unfamiliar interface. They have a sales quota to meet every month, but instead of making progress, they now have to re-learn the most basic workflows.
Software applications are constantly changing with new features, bug fixes and other updates. While almost every change is designed to benefit users, humans are notoriously averse to change, making communication key to a successful rollout. The good news is that there are many ways to keep users on the same page when changing their workflows.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to communicate product changes to users, as well as some tools that can help streamline the process.Communication is key to ensure that users are on the same page when launching new updates to your application. Click To Tweet
In-App & Email Notices
In-app and email notifications are the two most common ways to communicate new features to users. Often, these are simple announcements that introduce users to the new feature, tell them about the benefits and provide insight into new workflows. They may also contain links to more information about the feature in a blog post or documentation.
Of course, these kinds of announcements aren’t very practical for bug fixes or smaller updates that only affect certain users. Release notes and status pages are two common alternatives for these smaller updates. Customer support can reach out to users that were affected by or requested the small changes and point them to the updates.
Automated Release Notes makes it easy to generate release notes from Jira issues and automatically provide targeted in-app notifications, email alerts or status page updates. You can save an average of one hour per release with these automation tools while ensuring that every update is well-documented and communicated to the right users.
Most software businesses are familiar with new user onboarding, but the same techniques can be useful when introducing new features to existing users. Rather than covering the entire application, onboarding for a new feature focuses on a single workflow. The goal is to show existing users how to change their workflow to effectively use a new feature.
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A key benefit of onboarding sequences over in-app notifications and email announcements is that it forces users to pay attention. For example, onboarding sequences may present as a full screen modal that goes through changes or as an interactive step-by-step guide to a new workflow that forces users to go through it or opt out.
Onboarding sequences are best for major updates that affect critical workflows. For instance, a CRM tool that changes the way that a salesperson creates a new lead should consider an onboarding sequence to introduce users to the new workflow. By forcing them to view the sequence, there’s much less risk of a sudden surprise that’s disruptive to the user.
Support & Documentation
Customer support and documentation are two areas where customers will likely seek out information about new features if they didn’t see the original communication. Often, they may become frustrated by these changes and need help understanding the rationale behind the updates to see how it actually benefits them.
Customer support teams should prepare in advance for questions about new workflows following a feature launch. And again, they should be able to effectively communicate why the change was made and how the change benefits the user. The goal is to guide new users into effectively using the new workflows and minimize any potential disruption.
Documentation should also be updated alongside each release to reflect the updates. Pay especially close attention to critical workflows that have changed, since outdated documentation can become a huge source of frustration for users trying to help themselves understand what has changed without contacting customer support.
Public Product Roadmaps
Roadmaps are a common way to communicate product changes across an organization, but they typically don’t involve the most important stakeholders—users. Fortunately, public roadmaps are becoming an increasingly common way to engage users and collect insights more efficiently than possible with limited user testing and groups.
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Roadmap Portal for Jira Service Desk makes it easy to manage customer feedback in an organized and collaborative way. Using JSD to control access, authenticated customers can access a public roadmap, suggest new features and vote on existing features they like. It’s an easy way to keep an open line of communication without showing your hand to competitors.
When using public roadmaps, you can target announcements to users that expressed interest in a feature while ensuring that your team is working on the most in-demand features. Customers that don’t like a given feature can even be pointed toward the public roadmap to justify why the feature was developed in the first place and reinforce its value.
Other Ways to Communicate
In-app notifications, email announcements, onboarding sequences, roadmaps and the other tools we’ve discussed aren’t the only ways to communicate new features.
Some other ways to consider include:
- Blog Posts: Blog posts are a helpful way to explain updates in greater detail than possible through email announcements. In fact, a common approach is to write a blog post to explain major updates with full release notes at the end and link to the blog post from an email announcement that sticks to a high level.
- Social Media: Social media has become a part of everyday life for many people. While it’s not an ideal way to educate users, it’s an excellent way to promote new features to users. For example, quick videos can demonstrate the utility of new workflows and encourage users to try them out if they haven’t already.
- Webinars: Webinars are a great way to introduce large users to new features and updates—especially in the enterprise. For example, a large enterprise customer may use a webinar as a training session for their employees that use the application in order to ensure that they remain productive following a major change.
The Bottom Line
Every change to a software application is well-intended, but without the right communication, it’s easy to frustrate users with changes to their workflows. In-app notifications, email announcements, onboarding sequences, product roadmaps and documentation updates are all key to keeping everyone on the same page and minimizing any friction from product updates.
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