Sunday, May 04, 2008

Follow Your Users

Thanks to a tweet on Twitter I came across an interesting article on why companies should pay more attention to their customers complaints. But it doesn't stop just at companies keeping track of their brand reputation among their customers, this can (and should) be done much more often than it is today. Here are a couple people and groups that I think should be interested in what complaints they are receiving.

Open Source Projects:
If you run an open source project, you should be keeping track of what people are complaining about. Many open source projects get lulled into believing that if their users have a problem they will fix it and submit a patch for it. While this definitely happens, there are many more users out there that either just don't have the time or skills to fix it, or they may not even know that they can fix it themselves. This also leads me to another issue many open source projects have, it seems that many projects think that if someone has a complaint but is unable to fix it, they will go to the forums and start a discussion about this. Again, many people will simply post their complaint to their blog or Twitter and leave it at that. This isn't a bad thing, it just means that we need to go out there and actively be looking for what people are complaining about.

Product Managers:
Every product manager (software and non-software) should be keeping track of what people are saying about your product. While most products spend a load of money on doing customer research and analysis, it really doesn't cover you. While many people may fill out a survey about your product, they don't get to express their true feelings about it unless they get to say it in their own words. Product research will only get you so far, let your customers tell you what they think of it for free!

Specification Leads:
You definitely need to be listening to what users are saying about your previous specification revision or similar specification if its a new spec. It seems to me that most specifications written seem very out of touch with how people are working with the last revision. It took the EJB specification 3 revisions to begin to even remotely come close to what users wanted. If the spec leads had been listening to what users were saying about the EJB specification we could have avoided much of the hassle that was EJB2.

While there are more places listening to customer/user feedback is important, I'm going to leave it at these three. What's most important to remember is that you should be listening to what people are saying about your product, project, or whatever else it is. You need to listen to what they are saying and actually do something about it. You also should not be afraid to talk with your users and let them know that you do care and that you do know they exist. What other places could you find this helpful in? Leave some comments and let me know what you think.

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