Thursday, January 20, 2011

Giving the Customer What They Want

Our two biggest challenges with being in this business are embodied in the exchanges that we paraphrase below:

Customer: "I know this feature will be really easy for you to do"

- and/or -

Customer: "I really wanted X but I didn't ask you for it because I figured it would be too hard"

In the first case, the customer has already decided that the change will be easy because it looks simple from their end. It's often something like "add a field", "combine these two things and roll them up", "move this data from the other screen" or similar. Because they think it's easy it seems like they have a corresponding low price and effort expectation. Often, there is a good reason why the change will take longer than they think and sometimes the change is nearly impossible given the current architecture of the system.

In some ways the second case is much worse. The customer believes a feature will be hard so they don't bother to ask. Often, it turns out that the feature is easily accomplished or is no harder to implement than other features. However, since we were unaware of the desire, we couldn't deliver.

In both cases we have a hard time meeting customer expectation so customer disappointment is a real risk. I think that getting in front of the second issue is addressable by asking lots of questions and by getting the customer to dream a little during discovery. However, we have yet to figure out how to get in front of the first issue.

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