2 min read

Harnessing Employee Feedback

As a senior product manager for Store Tools & Technology at REI, I oversee the development of our iOS app Ascent, which is designed and built specifically for our store employees. Our goal with this tool is not just to streamline operational tasks but also to empower our employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Throughout this product journey, one key principle has proven itself: the vital role of employee feedback in shaping the success of our product.

In the fast-paced world of product development, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of innovation and the allure of flashy features. However, overlooking the insights and perspectives of those who are on the front lines – our store employees – can be a costly mistake. Here's why incorporating employee feedback is non-negotiable in our approach:

1. Insight into Real-World Usage

Our store employees interact with our app on a daily basis, utilizing it to assist customers, manage inventory, and ensure smooth operations. Their firsthand experiences provide important insights into what works well and what doesn't in real-world scenarios. By actively soliciting and listening to their feedback, we gain a deeper understanding of how our product is being used and can identify areas for improvement that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Additionally, we often pilot new versions of the app in a small segment of stores to understand how changes perform in real-world scenarios before implementing them company-wide. This approach allows us to gather feedback in a controlled environment, iterate quickly on improvements, and ensure that any updates are thoroughly tested and optimized for the demands of a fast-paced retail environment.

2. Empowerment and Ownership

When employees feel that their voices are heard and their opinions matter, it fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the product. By actively involving them in the development process, we empower them to contribute to the success of the app beyond just its implementation. This not only leads to a stronger sense of teamwork but also results in a product that better aligns with the needs and expectations of those who rely on it day in and day out.

3. Iterative Improvement

Incorporating employee feedback allows us to adopt an iterative approach to product development. Rather than attempting to deliver a perfect solution right out of the gate, we recognize that continuous refinement is key to staying relevant and meeting evolving needs. By collecting feedback, prioritizing enhancements, and iterating based on real-world usage, we can ensure that our app remains agile and responsive to the changing landscape of retail and customer expectations.

4. Enhanced User Experience

At the end of the day, the success of our product hinges on the experience it delivers to our end users – both customers and employees alike. By actively seeking and integrating employee feedback, we can identify pain points, streamline workflows, and introduce features that enhance usability and efficiency. This not only improves the experience for our employees but also translates into tangible benefits for our customers, ultimately driving loyalty and satisfaction.

For the Ascent team at REI, incorporating employee feedback isn't just a nice-to-have – it's a strategic imperative that directly impacts the success of our product. By listening to the voices of our frontline employees, we gain invaluable insights, foster a culture of ownership, drive iterative improvement, and ultimately deliver a superior user experience. As we continue to evolve and innovate, let us never lose sight of the importance of putting our employees at the heart of our efforts.

In coming weeks, I'll dive deeper into each of these areas to shine a light on tactics that have worked for us, and tactics that haven't. If you build customer-enabling products for retail employees, I'd love to connect and share notes!