It's a myth. Don't buy into it. You don't need to build features requested from your customers to make them happy in the early stages of the developing a product. No, your customer is not always right. No, your customer does not always know what they want. No, your customer will not get angry if you don't implement all their suggestions.
Let's say your customer requests a feature and they have a very good point. What do you do? Here's how most businesses think about this:
- We need to keep the customer happy
- They have a great use case for this feature!
- Maybe other customers will use this feature.
- We need more features to charge more.
- There are probably even more who want this feature.
- Ok, let's add it in and make all our customers happy!
In the end, it really came down to one incredibly genius idea: Dropbox limited its feature set on purpose. It had one folder and that folder always synced without any issues -- it was magic. Syncplicity could sync every folder on your computer until you hit our quota. (Unfortunately, that feature was used to synchronize C:\Windows\ for dozens of users -- doh!) Our company had too many features and this created confusion amongst our customer base. This in turn led to enough customer support issues that we couldn't innovate on the product, we were too busy fixing things. --Isaac Hall
Every company will eventually add features to create additional revenue, but you need to refrain from doing so before your product in mature enough. Syncplicity learned a tough lesson.
Businesses are scared to deny a customer feature request early on in the game. Why? There are a few myths to overcome here:
To keep a customer happy we need to fulfill their request
Believe it or not you do not have to implement what the customer is telling you to keep them happy. Instead, listen to them and hear them out just like your spouse in a middle of the argument, say "I'm sorry, I'll work on it, here is one alternative solution." If you cannot fulfill a customer's request at the given time give them an alternative. A great example of this: I called Zappos the other day to order some boots for my wife. They did not have the size I wanted. The person on the other end went on Google and found me the size I wanted on a competitors website for cheaper price then what they were selling it at. I ordered it from the competitor and thanked her dearly. Who do you think I am going to call when I want to buy shoes next?
Customers will go crazy and we'll have a PR scandal
A lot of businesses are scared that their customers will become so upset that they'll launch a Twitter campaign against their tool and get the word out about the terrible product and customer service. We've all heard the horror stories about bad PR killing products. Most of the time it doesn't work like this. A quick note to let a customer know you will consider their suggestions in the future will deflate immediate frustration they have with your product.
Customers might follow up in a few months time, they might not. If they do, you can let them know that you've considered their suggestions and at this time you made a decision to omit these new features from the tool. A PR scandal will not start with a story of a company considering a feature request from a customer and deciding not to implement it.
Customer knows best
No. Na ah! Who says so? How long has the customer been using your tool before they make a request for a feature? A week? A few months? A year? How long have you been using your own tool? You're your products power user. You know your product better than anybody. You had the vision for the product. You understood the initial pain point to create the product. So I ask you again who knows your product best? You or the customer?
Since you're the #1 user of your product, the feature you add must improve the product experience. You understand the core use case for the tool. If the feature does not help you use the tool, how is it going to help other people who are trying to use the tool the same way you are trying to use it?
Curious - what's your criteria for adding a feature to a product?