Seek the Pain

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

If our head hurts, we reach for the Advil. In the dentist’s chair, we grip the armrests until the novocaine kicks in. And who likes a break-up? Pain, while a part of life, is one we’d rather avoid.

But pain serves a purpose — it’s a powerful signal telling you something is wrong. In fact, there are some people who can’t, due to genetic anomaly, feel pain. In these rare cases, the lack of signal becomes life-threatening.

Our aversion to pain doesn’t stop at our doorstep — after all, we take ourselves to work. And if you’re on a product team, you will eventually feel the pain of unhappy customers. Happily, their dissatisfaction is often the fount of novel products.

If that’s so, then we not only need pain, but we should actively seek it out. However, most organizations do just the opposite — they outsource or compartmentalize the important job of working with customers. These teams act as a numbing agent, lulling the product team into a false sense of security.

Some common pain relievers include:

  • Customer support addressing reported issues.
  • Consultants performing the heavy lifting of training and adoption.
  • Internal champions driving change management inside organizations.

I’m not saying any of these insulating structures are bad or unnecessary. I am suggesting that if you’re on a product team, you need to tap into these signals. Some example signals you want to feel: users struggling with your product, long-time customers leaving for a competitor, prospects complaining about missing features or a high price, and recent support tickets. If applicable, you should also consider public conversations like those found on Twitter and reviews sites.

Customer pain must become your pain. It’s the most effective way to keep what matters top of mind. You can’t improve what you don’t know is broken.

Seek the pain.

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Paul Pedrazzi

Paul Pedrazzi

Product @ Salesforce. Advisor @flipboard. Subscribe:

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