Listen to your customers but not too much

By | Execution

(Extracted from David Perell’s Monday Musings (9/30/19)

During a recent interview with Derek Thompson, Spiegel talked about how he invented the Stories format. Here’s how Spiegel told the story: 

“We created stories in response to what our community was asking for. They wanted a send-to-all button. People were sending snaps to their friends, I wish I could hit send-to-all, the snaps would go to all my friends, and they could see what I’m up to. We realized that if we created a send-to-all button, people would spam their friends all day long and they’d end up hating Snapchat. We decided to create a way for people to share content with all their friends, but without spamming them.”

People always say you should listen to customers. It’s generally good advice, but you can take it too far. 

Here’s Spiegel’s secret: listen to customers, but not too much. Don’t take their responses at face value. Customers can’t understand the second-order implications of their suggestions, so their tips shouldn’t automatically serve as your product roadmap. Read between the lines and identify the deeper challenges that their responses are hinting at. 

In the case of Snapchat, people didn’t want a send-to-all button. They wanted a way to communicate with all their friends at once. Spiegel used that information to invent a new social media format that every customer wanted, but no customer had asked for. 

The art of listening to customers is to look for the solution behind the solution.

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