Customers hire products to make progress in their lives, to help them with a job
they’re doing. Any feature request should be mapped to that particular job, to what the customer is trying to achieve.
Simply tagging and tracking the requests would produce very little valuable data to help the product team. The gold is in the follow-up questions and the responses to those questions.
Ask “why” as many times as it makes sense.
What would the new feature help the customer achieve?
- I want a hammer.
- Why do you need a hammer?
- I’d like to hang a picture on the wall in my living room.
- Why would you like to do that?
- My daughter will visit me this weekend and I’d like her to see a picture we took together on our last holiday.
What is the job of a hammer in this example? Hitting nails or preserving precious memories? The end goal of a feature is not always as it looks like in the first question. Asking “why” a few times as appropriate will help your product team understand the customer motivations at the deepest level.
Understand how is the customer achieving the same thing without the feature
- How are they currently coping without the feature?
- Do they have a workaround?
- How complex is it, what steps do they take?
- Do they interact with any other systems?
Look for facts, not opinions. Avoid asking customers their opinion of what they’re doing, you only want to know what they’re literally doing.
The answers to these questions will help the product team understand the current workflow that customers are using, including the complexity of the job and any dependencies.
How important to the customer is the job they need the feature for
- How much time does it take them?
- How often do they need to do this job?
- What happens if they don’t do the job?
- Look for emotional signals. Are they frustrated?
The answers will help the product team prioritize the feature request if they decide to pursue it. When customers are spending a significant amount of time and resources on a workaround, that means the goal they are trying to achieve is very important to them. If that’s the case, you want your product to be part of the solution that helps them achieve their goal.