Special Snowflakes: Keeping clients happy without building terrible products

Amongst every client base, there are always a few divas – clients who want products and policies to be built specifically for their needs and wants. This is an awesome way to build terrible products. Little requests can build up to create a mess of toggles, dashboards, and other unnecessary or rarely used features. We’ve all seen them – products where the configurations are so complex that the confusion eclipses the reason why the thing was built in the first place.

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At the same time, client feedback is important, and should be listened to in order to uncover real needs and problems. So – how do you listen and respond to your special snowflakes without overdoing it?

What is the primary motivation?

Is the feature related to the needs of a broad base of clients? Or are you concerned that the revenue from a single client will be lost? If it’s the latter, then the feature is not going to add to the building of a great product. In fact, it will probably detract. Displeasing one or two clients along the way is inevitable. If your company truly cannot lose your diva client, and this feature is the clincher, than the decision should be framed to everyone involved as a sales decision that may hurt the product. This should be the exception, not the rule.

Do your research.

There are cases where only one or two clients ask for a feature, but it may still make sense to build it. For example, sometimes more clients actually do want the feature, but just don’t know that they want it or are unable to articulate it. It may also make sense to build the feature if it’s relevant to a segment of the market that you’re just beginning to tap into, and the feature will accelerate growth. In these cases, market research is in order to validate if there’s a broader use case.

Don’t build it just because it’s easy

It’s tempting to build small tweaks because they’re easy to implement, don’t take up time, and temporarily stop people from emailing you. This is not a good reason to build something. Unnecessary bells and whistles are easy just as often as they are hard! Only build features that have a real use case and add to the solution you’re trying to build.

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Your clients don’t need a NASA-worthy control room to be loyal, happy customers!

At the end of the day, every product can be improved, and clients are a great source for ideas. But, building based on a client’s every whim is not the path to success. Carefully balancing your client’s requests will help you build a great product for most of your users rather than a terrible product for all of them.


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