Best Practices

Why a Little Humanity is Better Than That Extra Feature

In our drive to make better products, we — product people of all stripes — sometimes conclude that adding new features is the answer. That extra feature surely will make things easier, faster, or prettier, and will help in the neverending quest to make our products sticky. Right? Well, not necessarily. Even when true, it’s costly and time-consuming.

But what if you could improve stickiness without writing a single line of code? Still with me? In my experience, a bit of human touch—making your teams more accessible and truly listening to your customers’ problems—can do a lot more than adding that extra feature.

Making Visibility a Priority

We’ve found that stickiness is achieved by regularly connecting with customers and solving problems they’re experiencing by doing things that don’t scale. The best way to do that is to make their experience with your product team human and personal. How do you do that? By making yourself available where and when it’s convenient for your customers.

At Taplytics, we run on Slack, and as such, we have channels for everything. While it definitely looks chaotic to outsiders, it helps us meet our customers where they most need us. We have dedicated, shared Slack channels for all of our customers. We set the expectation that Taplytics is not just a tool that our customers are buying, they’re also getting access to the entire team and our expertise.

This doesn’t mean every team member is in every single Slack channel. We pull people in as necessary, with our customer success team being the first responders, and they escalate up the chain of command as necessary. Things can escalate up to me, and as CEO I, on occasion, hop on to make sure we’re taking care of our customers.

With that level of attention, customers will not only feel invested in the product because you’ve taken the time to listen, but also because you’ve built something they can use to solve their problems.

By always being responsive and available to listen to customers’ problems, and managing their expectations well, you’ll put yourself in a good position to delight them. They’ll also be confident that you have their back.

Feedback and Prioritization

As you open the lines of communications, you may want to expand further in order to capture feedback. You want to be where your customers are, whether they’re complaining or praising you. So, get that form on your website, chatbot, Slack channel, an NPS survey, email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. Wherever your users prefer to communicate, you should be there to capture their feedback.

So you’ve collected all this feedback. Great. Now what? Probably the most important process is having regular touchpoints on the product’s progress alongside a consideration of feature requests. Whether it’s a spreadsheet or more dedicated tools like Pendo or Productboard, the key is the ability to visually see feature requests and planned products at a higher level, as well their overall impact on users and revenue.

We bring together these two processes — feedback and prioritization — by having monthly product feedback triage sessions. Reviewing the roadmap or prioritization tool where you’ve captured feedback will inform your next few sprints so you’re continually enhancing your product. But you want to do that with the bigger picture in mind.

Embrace the Workaround

No product solves every single customer problem, so even when you’re great at capturing feedback, that may not immediately make your customer happy.

So what should you do at that point? Workarounds are your friend, and they may take different forms. The customer success team can do some manual problem solving on behalf of the customer to get to their desired outcome. Is there a gap in your documentation? Maybe the customer needs a little extra hand-holding while you fill in the gaps in your docs.

If all else fails, earnestly listening and being transparent that there is a limitation or a gap in your product goes a long way in building a solid relationship. Be honest, capture a feature request, and let that customer know that there is a process in place to handle it. Then follow up with regular touchpoints to let them know that you haven’t forgotten about the request, and provide realistic updates to help manage their expectations. They will appreciate that you are taking the request seriously, even if you aren’t able to fulfill it right away.

Regular Check-ins

The easiest way to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the problems you’re helping solve for your customers is by scheduling regular check-ins to make sure future efforts are aligned with their needs.

If there’s a feature request that’s in development or close to being delivered, this would be the opportune time to let your customer know and make it an expectation that this level of attention and service is normal. This is also a great time to ask for candid feedback on other parts of the product that you’re keen to hear from customers about.

When Humanity Is Not Enough, Choose Your Battles

When React Native was announced by Facebook, we eyed its adoption. As it gained popularity in the mobile development community, we knew there were going to be feature requests flowing in to support it. Lo and behold, that guess was right. Prominent customer after prominent customer brought up whether or not we would support it. Every time it was brought up, we’d add a +1 to that feature request, letting the customer know that we were actively exploring the platform.

But having that human touch from account management couldn’t solve this particular problem for our customers who were already investing in React Native and wanted a way to run experiments.

This entailed our product team devoting time and exploring the technical feasibility alongside customers who were more intimately familiar with React Native. After carefully considering what they wanted, what needed to be built, and how it would fit our users’ engineering workflow, we shipped an MVP. 

While you can’t productize every customer’s problem, you can handle every customer’s problem with a human touch to assure that you have their back in a timely manner.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

In the B2B space, listening and building based on user feedback with lightning-fast turnaround is worth its weight in gold, especially when decision making can involve multiple stakeholders with overlapping and simultaneous threads. The stickiness of the human component cannot be underestimated.

While it’s a longer-term play, your customers will recognize this and invest more in your company and product. It’s the building of that trust is what ultimately makes a product truly sticky, instead of solely making it hard for customers to “break up” with you by locking them in on the product level.

About the Author

Aaron is the CEO and Co-Founder of Taplytics, a Y-Combinator backed platform that helps brands build delightful, engaging experiences that span seamlessly across web, TV and mobile apps. Before Taplytics, he was a strategy consultant at ZS Associates and a management consultant at Accenture. He holds an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.