Just Say No...To Your Customers?

"Can you add a Whizzy-Woo in the next release? It should be easy since you've already got a Doo-Dad-Adapter."

Ever get one of these requests from a customer? If you're trying to build a clean, usable, and effective application, the answer should always be NO initially.

But isn't the customer always right? Not about features.

Implementing customer requests that specify what you should build are the quickest path to bloatware. Listen very carefully...JUST...SAY...NO....

OK, maybe I'm being a little extreme, but the point is that as responsible product managers, developers, and business owners, we have a duty to ignore feature requests.

What we should be listening to instead are customer problems, pains, worries, and fears. It is in these that the next great feature is to be found.

But can't a customer have a great idea for a feature? Yes, but that will be even more apparent when you first figure out what problem they need solved. If it's consistent with your vision, and doesn't negatively impact other customers, maybe it's a go.

Sometimes your software will improve by what you DON'T add to it. A feature you add for Customer X may cause extra problems for Customer Y, and totally confuse new Customer Z. And everything you add needs to be maintained for the lifetime of the product. Forever is a mighty long time.

Saying "No" doesn't have to be a bad thing. Communicate honestly by asking about your customer's root problems. Let them suggest solutions, but don't commit to them until you've had a chance to really figure out the impact.

If you can't bring yourself to reply in the negative, try answering the question with a question: "Interesting idea. What problem are you trying to solve?"

This simple question can save you man-months of frustration, wasted effort, and bloated software.

This has been a public service announcement.