Essay published on May 31, 2013
I've thought long and hard about how we implement customer feedback into our process at Help Scout. Sometimes it's gospel, sometimes we completely ignore it. This quote by Neil Gaiman sums it up perfectly (hat tip to Joshua Porter).
"When people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. when they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."
Truth is, all customer feedback is not gold; it has to go through a very strong filter. People say Steve Jobs didn't listen to customers. I think he listened exceptionally well, he just knew that execution was entirely up to him.
Customer feedback helps you understand a problem from every point of view, then it's your job to craft a solution that meets your customer's needs. When a customer tells you how to fix something, they speak from only one point of view. Great product execution comes from a place of deeply understanding the big picture.
The lean startup methodology and customer development as a whole are both very good things, but depending on them to make decisions for you can be toxic.
People think I'm so passionate about customer service because I'm a nice guy. The real reason I still do more support than anyone in the company is because I want to understand the problem better than anyone. Therein lies the key to designing a better product.