Customers are always asking for something. When we first launched our project management & cloud collaboration web app, Rule, every time a customer would ask for something it did a couple things:
- It would shoot the requested feature to the top of our mental priorities, since here it was in realtime right before us: a real customer asking for a real feature.
- We would feel bummed that we didn’t yet have the feature.
Our immediate reaction dictated our response: Reaction: “Well competitor x and competitor y both have this feature. We need it too!” Response: “We hope to have this feature soon! Thanks for your feedback and patience.” Then one day, some customer was asking for some random feature, and we were going about our standard routine (adding it and haphazardly prioritizing it in our overwhelming list of features we needed to have) when one of our team members made the divine suggestion, “Why don’t you ask WHY they need this?” The results not only changed the way we develop our product roadmap, sharpening our knowledge of WHY we should add certain features and functionality and leave others out, but it completely changed the dynamic of our customer interactions. It engaged our customers to think rather than wait. So, now when a customer asks for something, this is our response: “WHY do you want this feature? WHAT does this look like within our software? HOW does this help you to become more productive?” It is always one of three results that occur:
- The customer does not respond to our questions. Hmmmm….. apparently they’re tongue-tied.
- Their response is a self-declaring answer arguing against the importance of their own request. They convince us (and themselves) that what they’re asking for is a want (at best) and definitely not a need. They actually talk themselves out of their own request and make it quite clear that this has no business being on our product roadmap.
- They articulate exactly WHY they need this feature, WHAT it would look like being implemented into Rule, and HOW it will truly make them more productive. Bingo! “Now, add that to our wish list too.”
When it comes to developing software, it’s not about the kitchen sink—it’s about value. Which leads us to the customer’s dilemma: a desire for a solution with only a vague understanding of the problem. “I have to manage my team which includes customer relationships and project management. I have this software that we use to manage customers and projects, and we also depend on email, but our team is still not on the same page. We have work activity for projects with discussions all over the place—from email to the software. We have the same thing for customers and I can’t see how everything relates.” This is the reason why Rule exists and why we do what we do. Customers are helping to identify the problem that cloud collaboration & project management software is trying to solve. Like a rock laced with gold, raw feedback needs to be refined. We don’t want to appease demanding customers…we want to figure them out. There’s pain in work. We all have some symptoms. We all have some points. True customer service is a two-way road: discovering the problem together and working on a solution together. We’ll never be in the business of telling customers what they need without listening to what they want. Nor will we return to the mindless nod of, “Yeah we’ll have that…eventually.” We ask WHY.