The software industry is faced with a challenge common to other industries; too many good ideas, and not enough time and money to implement them all.  This simple fact can hinder customer service if handled poorly.  When examining customer feature requests (either new ones or product modifications) there are two classifications: healthy and unhealthy.

Healthy

  • Implement the Customer’s Request – No mystery here, right?  Good and easy ideas reach consensus quickly.  When many customers share a need the marketplace self-validates.
  • Reject or Decline the Idea QuicklyDon’t confuse rejecting an idea with ignoring it.  Rejected ideas deserve greater consideration than implemented ideas.  Your company must provide a strong explanation regarding why an idea would be rejected. This rejection is a conversation with your customer.  “I heard you, I considered the idea, yet we will be pursuing another direction.”  Notice that healthy does not mean, without pain.  Customers whose ideas are declined will not be happy yet those same customers will respect your honesty.  That honesty breeds confidence which in turn enables open dialogue which yields future business opportunities.

Unhealthy

  • Provide Lip Service – Letting ideas meander aimlessly along the river Styx to suffer purgatory in an under review status is a coward’s way to work with customers and it does nothing to forge a lasting relationship.
  • Ignore the Request – When ideas are never considered companies send a strong, though silent, message: “your needs don’t matter.” One of the golden rules of service is listening to customers.  If companies fail this most basic of tests they should expect to lose customers.

The pivot point is that when fulfilling customers’ requests, whether for a type of service, a new product, or a product modification, rejecting customers’ requests (with tact) is an acceptable alternative.  Rejection hurts, but so does being strung along.  And no one wants that in their relationship.

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