It’s Your Job To Figure That Out
When you’re building a product for someone, the first thing you need to know is that your customer probably doesn’t care.
They will care. Once you’ve finished the product, put it in their hands, and made their life better, then they will care.
For about as long as it takes them to remember that lunch is in an hour. Then they’re back to not caring.
Such is the life of a product creator. It’s your job to create something new for customers, but it’s not their job to care. This can seem disrespectful. You slaved away, building this product for them. You’ve sacrificed weeks, months, years of your life to make this — and they can’t be bothered to give you a little feedback?
You might feel entitled to at least some attention. You are, after all, building a product for them. Surely they can take some time out of their day to tell you what you should make.
But they won’t, for a couple of reasons:
- They don’t care enough to. They have a million other things going on in their life. Things more important than telling a programmer how to do their job.
- They’re too busy to. Chances are, they’re busy building something else for someone else. They don’t have time to sit down and go over the product with you.
- They don’t know how. They don’t have the skills to create the products they use, and they don’t have the bandwidth to sit around and come up with ways the product could be different. Studies have shown that the only feedback they can give you is feedback about what they’ve already used, not what’s possible. (Considering what’s possible is your job).
They don’t because it isn’t worth their time. People value their own time. “The majority (66%) of adults feel that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience.”
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time, because it is. The reason customers won’t give you attention isn’t that your work doesn’t matter; it’s because they have delegated the work to you and trust you to get it done. The highest authority in any business isn’t the CEO or the board, but the customers. It’s their money that pays the bills.
It’s your job to solve their problem, and to solve it with as little support as possible.
To some people, that sounds harsh. ‘You expect me to solve your problem, without your help?’ It can even seem like a tautology; how do you solve a problem you know nothing about?
In reality, it’s honorable work to have. And deep down inside, you know this. You’re in this position because you decided to make building products for other people your job. You made it your job (hopefully) not because you thought you’d get rich, or because it was easy, but because you find meaning in the work. Appealing to customers to tell you what to do not only produces a worse product; it takes the challenge and the honor out of doing it.
That said, you want to stay receptive to any feedback they have without forcing them to give it. People may not be able to imagine what will make them happy, but they can tell you how they feel about what’s in front of them right now.
Not getting in the customer’s way is almost as important as making the product in the first place. One study showed that 74% of customers are likely to switch brands if they find the buying experience difficult, no matter how awesome the product. This is a painful loss because it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one.
If your customers could help you that much, you’d be out of a job.
As it so happens, they can’t. By virtue of their position, they lack the objectivity they need to understand their problems. By virtue of their jobs, they lack the skills necessary to engineer a solution to their problems. And by virtue of their daily responsibilities, they lack the vision to consider other possibilities.
“I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
Your customers may not be able to actively help you, but they are still a valuable source of information. Their behavior is feedback in and of itself.
- If they receive what you build with no comment, it communicates something. It could mean that your solution is so compelling that they don’t need to worry about it anymore. Or it could mean they’re not using your solution because their previous one is easier for them.
- If they react positively, that doesn’t mean it’s time to pump the breaks. It means whatever you’re doing, you’re doing right. You should be doing more of it.
- If they receive your product with reluctance (or outright complaints), it means you’ve taken a wrong turn. Don’t wait until they complain about the product or cancel their service. Make sure to identify what’s causing the friction and solve it before it becomes a more significant problem.
“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”
It’s an honor to create products for people. Nothing matches the satisfaction you get when you see something you made changing the lives of countless other people. People are leaving it up to you to create something for them. And when they start using it, you know it isn’t because someone forced it on them, but because it makes their life better.
At Olive, we make Artificial Intelligence for doctor’s offices and hospitals that handle administrative tasks, so healthcare employees can do what they do best — take care of their patients. Check out our website to learn more.