Your Users Don't Tell You About Problems

User Feedback is key to building great products

Your Users Don't Tell You About Problems

They Might Never Tell You It's Broken

It has happened to me before, an embarrassing number of times:

There is a widespread problem in your system, and you don't know about it.

You find out about it painfully:

  • You talk to a user of your system, and they point out a glaring flaw that you didn't realize existed. The type of thing where you go omg how do you use this at all if that was broken.
  • You are looking at data and suddenly see it. Users are dropping off, having odd behavior, running a workaround, or just plain not using a feature you think is critical to how they operate.

These experiences are great, the type of pain you learn from, and the system improves quickly. If you play it right you learn now and continue to learn and improve.

The more interesting part is to examine why you never heard about it initially. This happens when they have a workaround that is stable, no matter how much extra work it causes them, and so they just keep going.

Two interesting patterns can happen here:

They reported it a long time ago - so far away that they assume it will never be fixed. This is their life now.

You might not have a healthy feedback mechanism of any form. Users can't post suggestions, your system doesn't log errors, and you don't have people that talk to customers and also talk to you. Or they are speaking with a client rep and the disease has spread to them as well.

If someone reports an issue and doesn't get feedback on it, even a thanks, they will stop reporting feedback to you.

The key form that they fill out each week doesn't save correctly, so they fill out half of it, print it out, and fill in the rest themselves. They have been doing this for years after complaining about it. They figure you don't care and it is what it is. Because of this you are missing all feedback from them, not just the reporting of this issue.

They think it is their fault, and feel stupid asking. This is their life now.

They must be doing something wrong, or that the fix will be worse than the problem. And for SaaS products they just assume it will just start working if they do nothing. And a lot of the time they are right, but the amount of time is very long.