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Our service, a SaaS for b2b, offers a wide range of analytics through our dashboard.

New features

  • Most clients are happy with the offering, while they do have from time to time requests for additional features. This is not a problem, even good for us.
  • We tend to work hard towards reviewing each request whether it fits into our strategy and then implement this following a certain procedure.

One of the users, an important one, is never satisfied

  • One user of a client however, keeps continuously asking for new features, even though a lot of these features are to my opinion redundant (in the sense that the ability already exists in the platform to get a certain information, but its not per se presented in the way the user wants to see it - he/she needs to click multiple times to get this info).

  • Every time when we do a new release, and we communicate this to this user, h/she doesn't even thank us for it, but simply comes back with a list of 10000 more features.

This user insists on putting us in a bad light, despite that we delivered almost 100% of her requests

  • The problem is even bigger when we have a bi-monthly catchup call with her manager, where she insists on talking about the features that we don't cover. Other points that arise:

  • During these meetings she tries to always put us in a bad spotlight, despite that we have delivered almost 100% of all her requests.

  • We need her line manager to be satisfied of course, so we always try to discuss about what we did do in last 2 weeks. Nevertheless, s/he never shows a sign of a gratitude.

  • We also need this person to be kept satisfied in order for us to keep this important client.

Whats next?

Therefore, what can we do to influence this user such that h/she looks at the positive sides of our platform, and not only focuses on what is not covered?

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  • 6
    What's your role in the company? The answer varies a lot if you're the CEO or a developer. Sep 17 at 15:14
  • 3
    Do you have a policy of work for free, or are all these "extras" paid for already? Or do they get added to the bill later? If a client can request extra fore free add infinitum then your billing structure needs review SOON.
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 17 at 15:51
  • 2
    Do these feature requests result in invoices and billed hours?
    – Nelson
    Sep 17 at 16:00
15

First, it is probably not your job to get this person to ask for less. It might be your job to get this person to be happier with what they are getting. If you have adopted a pattern of trying to talk them out of things they ask for, you are setting up a pattern of opposition and argument instead of teamwork. That doesn't work out well.

Here is something I do with a client who asks for things that are already in the product:

  • "Hi, I need you to add a button to let me make something yellow"
  • "Ok, sure. Let me ask a few things. This is in addition to the right click menu to set colours of things, right? Because you set a lot of things yellow and need it to be quick?"
  • (sometimes) "oh yes, the right click menu, ok never mind I'm good"
  • (more often) "yes, that's right, yellow is a big deal for us"
  • "ok, I will put it on the list. Is this a medium priority?"

You're not arguing. You're not assuming they are unable to remember how to use their product.

Next, you need to manage expectations. Tell them in advance what features will be in the next release, and which will not but are still on the list and will be in the next release after that, unless of course the client asks for other high priority things first. Give them a chance to review their giant list of 1000 things you haven't got to yet. If you don't mention that list, they will. It's better for you to control the timing and pace of that discussion.

When they say "and you still haven't done the make-it-yellow button!" you don't react as though they are putting you in a bad light. You react the way you would to any team mate mentioning something that is already on the list. "Yes, that's right, it's item 27 at the moment, currently scheduled to be in the October release unless you add other higher priority things before then. Has your workflow changed? Should we be raising the priority of that item?" You're calm, you haven't been attacked, you and this person are working together to sort out what will be done in what order. I mean, you don't care if make-it-yellow moves ten spots up the list and the "add a column to the blah report to show xyz" item gets pushed out of the October release, right? What's it to you?

Who knows, maybe this client will increase their spend with you to get more of their features built. They certainly aren't going to forget about things they asked for but didn't get. If you act like you're forgetting about those things, they're just going to hammer on them harder trying to get them. When they come to understand that they control whether they get the features or not (by all the other things they ask for, and the priorities they set) things should run more smoothly.

Of course, if you have one giant product that all your clients use, then one client cannot dictate dozens or hundreds of changes to it that affect the other clients. That decision, and communications like "no, you can't have another button, it makes the UI too crowded for our other users" is something that probably needs to happen between your manager and the client's manager, not between you and the client. I am assuming this is their own little sandbox they can arrange however is best for them.

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  • 3
    The problem with this answer is that it's never correct for one single client to drive product priorities. If client A says "I want a make-it-yellow button" and client B says "your UI is already too cluttered, no more buttons please!", who do you go with? The issue with functionality creep is that the more functionality you have, the harder it is to keep a good UX, and those things need to be balanced; even if this client doesn't care about their good UX, the other clients might.
    – Ertai87
    Sep 17 at 16:35
  • If it's a shared UI that's a different story. It often isn't. Sep 17 at 16:44
8

Keep your eye on the ball

There are people in the world that will just never be satisfied. There is nothing you can say or do that will change this. No matter what you give them, they will want more. You just need to accept that. How are your other customers? If you only have one dissatisfied customer in a sea of 100s of happy ones, you're doing pretty well. You will never please everyone, you just need to please enough of them to stay in business.

That's the thing to remember: you're a business, not a charity. You don't need their gratitude, you just need their money. As long as they are paying you, you don't have a problem. You only have a problem if you think they are in danger of deciding they don't actually need your service after all, or taking their business to a competitor. Then you need to evaluate how far you are willing to go to keep this customer, and how that is going to affect the rest of your business. Is it worthwhile to retain this one customer if it means losing 5 others? Is the cost of implementing the features they want going to be profitable for you for what the customer is paying? It's all a balancing act, and only your company can know the right answer.

You will never please everyone. Focus on the grand scheme of what you need to do to keep your business growing.

Customer feedback is a good thing

You seem annoyed that the customer is requesting more features. I get where you're coming from. But the thing to keep in mind with every feature request, the customer is really telling you: "I use your product. I give you money for it. This is what I think will make it better."

You are under no obligation to meet every customer request. If it takes you away from your overall strategic vision, you shouldn't. But your customers are the ones paying for your service, and their requests are them telling you what will keep them coming back. You should be happy about this. The hardest part of any business is figuring out what you need to do to make money. Customer requests are them telling you exactly what they want so you don't have to guess.

Also remember, if these are things they want and you aren't providing, there is a good chance they will eventually start looking for someone else who will. Your goal is to make money. You can't do that if your customers start taking their business to competitors.

Strategic vision - the customer isn't always right

I currently work at mid-size SaaS company. Lord knows, we've lost customers, big ones, because we didn't provide the services they asked for. We also have prospective customers tell us all the time that they would consider our service if only we did this one other thing. But we decline, because we feel strongly that while they say those features would make that customer happy, it would actually hurt our business in the big picture. And it sucks. But we think that making those decisions actually put us in stronger position in the long run. We may have lost that one customer, but (we hope anyway) by declining their requests, we actually built a product that brought in even more business. And that's the main goal. (All I can say is we have a lot of customers angry at us right now, but even more that are throwing money at us and our business is thriving. The outlook is bright right now.)

Sometimes a customer wants something that would actually make your product less attractive to other customers. Sometimes it's something that would be nice, but will take your focus away from the bigger picture of what you are trying to do. You need to listen to them, but also evaluate it against what you are able to do, and what you are trying to do in the long term. Customers will tell you what they want, but you to decide if it's actually good for your business.

As the old Henry Ford quote goes, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Summary

Feedback is a gift. You don't want to stifle it. Your customers are telling you what they want so they keep giving you money. But you will never please everyone, no matter how hard you try. You need to evaluate their requests against what is actually good for your business and what is going to bring in more business. Remember: you're a business, you aren't looking for gratitude and good feelings. You're trying to make money.

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  • "There are people in the world that will just never be satisfied" - there are also people in the world that just don't show their emotions as much. Someone on the autism spectrum may be especially likely to not see the need to show gratitude for something in a business relationship or transaction. With the details given, it seems plausible for it to be either. Although most of the rest of the answer applies to both cases.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 18 at 2:02
4

Before I give an answer, here is a question: What is your role in the company?

If you are an engineer: This is not your problem. Tell the client to talk to sales or project management or whoever and arrange it with them. Those people have expertise in things like project priorities, overarching UX design, and so on, and if the client's ask conflicts with those things then it is those people's jobs to tell the client "no", in a respectful way. You, as an engineer, are not responsible for those things, and it's "above your pay grade", so to speak, to promise features that may be against project priorities.

If you are PM: You need to consider the project priorities and how these features line up with your project design. You can't let one client drive your project, especially if this functionality affects other clients. You mention that most of the things this client asks for are already things your application provides but not in exactly the way this client wants it. Unfortunately, one of the first things you learn in UX is that adding more buttons is usually a bad thing and not a good thing, because the more buttons there are, the harder it is to find the button you want, and that frustrates the user. Even if this one client wants infinity buttons to have everything they could ever want at one click, your other clients may not appreciate that. At the very very least, ensure that any asks that this client requests do not impact the UX for other clients, especially if most of their asks are already features you support in other ways (and your other clients may use those other ways). Usually SaaS offerings have a way of doing this, but your company may vary.

Then, once you've affirmed that this change for this client isn't going to negatively impact your other clients, you want to talk to the developers to ask them for their concerns on these asks. I have worked for a company once where we effectively had to build 2 completely separate versions of our application and keep them in code-sync (doubling the development cost of every feature) because of a situation where one of our biggest clients had too many of these asks that we had to support for them only. It was terrible and made our code base ridiculously complicated and horrible to work with; even the people who built it had no idea how it worked. Speaking from personal experience, don't do that. So, before you go in promising anything, make sure your developers can do it in a way that they are comfortable with. You may have to go back to the client and explain that some of their asks are simply impractical and they're going to have to deal with that.

Once everyone is on board, then you can prioritize this feature with your developers to make sure it gets done on a reasonable timeline. Clients all think their issues are severity-1 to deal with, but they almost never are. Tell the client it's on your list of features to implement and you're working on it, and, if you can, give them a timeline of when it can be expected.

Rinse and repeat the above pipeline for each feature requested. You may want to bundle them to avoid burdening your developers with infinite product meetings.

If you are sales: Tell the client you will take the issue under advisement and discuss the issue with the product team. Then discuss it with the product team and come back with an answer to the client based on the advice of the people with expertise.

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Remember - the customer is always right. That is if the customer pays for it.

And it seems that you are not talking to a customer actually, but to an employee. It happens not rarely that an employee doesn't like the software, or doesn't like their job using the software, so what they do is moan and moan and moan about it. A talk with their boss about the cost of these requests can easily fix the problem.

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OK.. so you've got a paying customer (and you mention this is SaaS so I assume they are paying ongoing) who is asking for features, you aren't providing all the features they're asking for and are surprised when the meetings focus on what you haven't achieved and you're hurt that aren't receiving enough gratitude?

Every time when we do a new release, and we communicate this to this user, h/she doesn't even thank us for it

This is business not play time at pre-school, gratitude is nice and all and heck it can be polite to say "thank you" or whatever but these are your clients, not your friends, they're paying you for a service. Do you e-mail Microsoft to thank them every time they release a new version of Office? Send them a fruit basket? I'm guessing not.

We also need this person to be kept satisfied in order for us to keep this important client.

Whats next?

Have you tried (call me crazy) giving them what they asked and are presumably paying for?

If the requests are truly unreasonable and your business can't or won't fulfill them for the money you're charging then that's a slightly different story - either give them a price to do the extra work or say it won't be done.

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  • "they asked and are presumably paying for?" They are paying for access to the current state of the software, it does not look as if they are paying for additional customization.
    – FooTheBar
    Sep 17 at 15:19
  • @FooTheBar that is a service some SaaS companies provide. For an extra fee, of course. It depends on your business model. The other thing to keep in mind is that the SaaS business is cutthroat and moves fast. If you aren't providing the features customers want, someone else will. That's when the customer stops paying you.
    – Seth R
    Sep 17 at 15:59
1

Client requests are the best indicators of where to go next in a system.

Most will take what you offer for a while and switch when your suite of functions will get superseded by your competitors

I am sorry that you feel bad by customer having an keen interest in your system and not looking for a greener pastures.

In order not to feel bad, why not charge a client for a personal customization and leave it at that? :)

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