Debunking the faster horse myth in customer feedback

Debunking the <i>faster horse</i> myth in customer feedback

One of the most successful and quotable businessmen, Henry Ford, famously said that

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Steve Jobs also shared a similar viewpoint, asserting that

“it’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”

What they both implied is that true innovation comes from geniuses and people who know best, without customer input.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss this viewpoint and debunk that faster horse myth, trotted out (pun intended) by some people in order to be used as a justification for ignoring customer feedback.

At Feedgrip, we firmly believe that paying close attention to customer feedback is the key to success! Taking the time to discuss customer questions, pain-points and feature requests can make you a better product manager and help your business tremendously. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should blindly build what they ask for, because you can’t rely on customers to explain their needs to you. You have to uncover them yourself. As mentioned in our previous post, user input uncovers problems, not solutions. It is your job to use every method at your disposal along with your intuition to understand your customer’s deeper needs.

Always keep in mind that gathering feedback in its raw form is the first step towards the right direction. Then, you have to jump in and translate these suggested customer solutions into problems, which create those needs. To do that, you need to get to the underlying “why” behind every suggestion. So, get back on that horse, analyze, synthesize and prioritize those needs. Tools like Feedgrip can help you examine your feedback methodically and combine it in a smart and meaningful way, which will help you understand the real problem. Only after you get to the root issue, you can start building a product to best address those needs.

Many times customers may know what they want, but aren’t able to articulate it in a meaningful way that will help you understand exactly what they need. There are many ways to tackle this problem, and it all depends on how direct you want your approach to be. You can try using multiple choice questions with an option for “other” and a space to write it in an answer. This way of surveying your customers oftentimes nets the poor feedback and gives your customers the opportunity to bring up something you haven’t anticipated.

What you can also do is go straight to the source and arrange customer interviews to gain a better understanding of your customers needs. User interviews give you valuable insights into the contexts in which customers are using your product. Take the time to prepare and mentally chew through all this new information you’ll gain. Keep in mind that chances are you won’t be able to use what you heard to interpret the problem. Instead, you’ll have to keep asking “why?” until you dig deep enough to uncover the core user need at play.

Finally, you have to pay attention to whom you’re listening to. It is very important for your business as a whole and your feedback quality to take the time and study the people providing it. There are many types of customers with various agendas, and each of them is using your product to achieve a different goal. Thus, segmenting your customers into groups according to their needs can help you drive your product to the direction you want to go. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every user, so you have to customize your approach for each segment.

Uncovering customer needs is a multi-step and highly iterative process. Even though you can count on your intuition to help you make informed product decisions, taking the time and getting into the habit of analyzing customer feedback can help you get to the root problems you users may be facing and come with the most suitable solutions.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Aggelos Bakos
Authored by Aggelos Bakos
Software engineer and guitar player.