“Your product is buggy. I’ve entered my details three times and it’s an error every time. It seemed like a great product, too bad it’s utterly useless!”
These things happen. You’ve put a lot into developing a product that drives real value, only to stumble over petty trivialities like a misplaced button, a missing notification or some annoying little bug. At times you’ll be facing product decisions, where either choice is going to leave at least some of your users frustrated (see: change aversion). One thing is certain – if you’re going to have users, some of them are going to be unhappy users.
Users may offer constructive feedback, or they may just be blowing off steam. You may pay close attention to what they say and adjust accordingly, or you might brush it off. But an unhappy user reaching out to you is always an opportunity. Let me explain.
An entrepreneur’s dream is to have their product go viral. That means your product must have such an innate magnetism, that users simply can not keep their mouth shut about it. For that, you can’t just provide an OK experience, you need to delight your users. And delight only happens when users meet a reality that is above and beyond their expectations. Now, if all good products were born delightful, gaining masses of users would be a walk in the park. Unfortunately, delight is often an elusive and demanding goal, which takes hard work and many iterations to achieve.
While you work your way towards millions of delighted users, you might find it easier to start by delighting someone, and get them talking about you. And the perfect candidate is the latest person to pop up in your support queue. Because no matter what they wrote, good bad or ugly, what they are really hinting is that they care enough about your product to take the time to write you, and what they are secretly giving you is an easy opportunity to delight them, by providing a service experience above and beyond expectations.
Turning an unhappy user into a delighted one is that much easier than delighting masses of users. In fact, there’s a prescription for it. So don’t miss out on the opportunity. Paul Graham referenced this same opportunity in his post ‘Do things that don’t scale’ (Under: ‘delight’).
Next time you get a support email, try this:
♦Thank them for taking the time to write. Remember they obviously care about what you do, otherwise they wouldn’t be frustrated when it doesn’t work.
♦Acknowledge the issue, apologies and express your desire to solve it. If nothing else, this shows them you are actually listening.
♦Take them behind the scenes of what you’re working on, why this happened and how you plan to solve it. If your team stayed up until 3am to release a new version last night, feeling excited about the release yet expecting some issues the next day – share that! It is a surefire way to get your user to empathise and switch them to your side.
♦Make them part of your team. “Lauren, we apologies for the inconvenience, we’d like to solve the issue for you and all of our users. We’d love your help”. Now you can ask for almost anything – you’d be amazed at how far a user would go, once they empathise with you. I had a user voluntarily wait on the line with their mobile provider for 30 minutes, to find some definitions needed for fixing an issue in that user’s country. Why? Because they felt included, and rallied to the cause of making our product, their product, better.
♦Actually solve the issue. Let them know how long it is going to take, and why. Share your ‘inside’ reasons, to make them feel included: “Our next iteration is expected next month because we’re tackling this huge challenge and making some long term adjustments. We are expanding the team now so we can iterate faster next time – we promise to keep getting better and faster!”.
♦Close the loop. Once the issue is solved, don’t forget the ones who brought it up. Let them know, and thank them for playing a part in solving it. If you send them the fix early to test it out, you’ll not only make them happy, but also gain some free QA.
♦Show your appreciation. I once had a user who was particularly helpful in solving an issues. We took a team photo around our whiteboard, which read ‘Thank You’, with her name. It cost us 30 seconds and zero dollars. She’ll never forget us.
By following these steps you are guaranteed to gain users who become lifetime fans, follow you as you grow, and see themselves as part of your story. That is quite a delightful experience, and definitely something for them to talk about.
Here’s a basic template to get you started:
Thanks for writing us and letting us know about the issue with [some feature]! We actually heard of this several times today and realise there’s an issue there – we’re working to fix it for you as fast as we can, apologies for the inconvenience.
Could you please let me know how to reproduce it? We’ve been looking into it, and suspect the trouble might be [A] or [B] and any information you give us will help us solve it faster.
We are aiming to release an update in [X] days, and hopefully a fix should be in it, so stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, a good workaround is [suggested workaround].
Thanks for using [Product Name], there’s a line of new features coming up, so expect it to constantly improve.
Keep sending us your feedback and ideas, we love hearing from you, it helps us get better at what we do.
[Your name and signature]
Here’s [something nice] to show our appreciation.
Now, throw away the template and get creative. Some of you might recall this story from several months ago about extraordinarily service by a Netflix rep who posed as captain of the enterprise. One amazing support rep, millions of shares and tweets all over the web. You get the idea.
Do you have any stories of turning a disappointed user upside down? Tweet with @UpWestLabs
Tali Saar is CEO and co-founder of Rooster. Tali is a mentor at UpWest labs, specializing in integrated marketing, web and mobile app marketing, PR and social media. She has been a marketer at Google for products such as AdWords, YouTube and search, and has been heading marketing and advising silicon valley startups since. Follow her on Twitter @TaliSaar