Are you a newbie product manager who isn’t sure how to piss off customers as fast as possible? Follow these simple steps and you can ruin your company’s brand, credibility, and sales pipeline in no time flat!
Don’t ask customers what they think. As a product manager, you have unique insight into customer needs that qualifies you to tell customers what they SHOULD think and WOULD think if they understood their needs as well as you do. Your role is to create the perfect plan through your own transcendent brilliance; the customer’s role is to tell you how very right you are.
When a customer asks you a question and you don’t know what they’re talking about, make something up. As a subject matter expert, the customer may quickly realize you’re blowing smoke. Therefore, this technique gives you the opportunity to simultaneously showcase your ignorance, your insecurity, and your lack of integrity.
When a customer asks you a question and you promise to get back with an answer, don’t. Promising answers and failing to deliver them helps to set customer expectations appropriately for when you will later on promise product features and fail to deliver those either.
Convince yourself that problems customers are complaining about don’t matter. Just because customers or prospects have noticed a problem and cared enough to take the time to tell you about it doesn’t prove a thing. If you or your experts at headquarters think a problem is insignificant, who cares what customers or prospects think?
Define product releases with the wrong features. When customers are struggling with functionality and performance limitations that kill their productivity, your best move is to ship a new release that includes support for a skinnable user interface, downloadable ringtones, and three new features that marketing needed for its latest competitive checklist. This technique is wonderfully effective for maximizing customer dissatisfaction because even if the product ships on time with all the promised features, the customers still wind up unhappy and your co-workers become demoralized.
Use caution with this approach. If you define a feature set that is TOO wrong, you may wind up with no customers and therefore fail to dissatisfy anyone. The Microsoft Kin recently highlighted this risk.
Keep laying out the vague 18 month road map customers want, but make sure that the next 18 months is perpetually the next 18 months. Make sure that your product road map is always “a dream deferred.” This will tantalize customers with false hope but never make them happy.
If you do commit to a product release date, repeatedly slip it. Slipping your product release date demonstrates that you don’t know how to accurately predict product release dates. Repeatedly slipping your product release date demonstrates that you don’t know how to accurately predict product release dates and that you haven’t fixed the problems in your planning process that are rendering you incapable of making predictions. Nothing undermines customer confidence more effectively than making the same mistake over and over again. It’s a great way to prove your company’s collective lack of self-awareness. (Incidentally, following the best practices for pissing off engineering will maximize the number of opportunities you have to slip product release dates.)
If you do ship something, ship it late. Customers have infinite flexibility on their training and product rollout schedules and are happy to wait forever for the functionality they need. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter whether you ship a product when you said you would.
Ship product releases with serious regressions in critical functionality. The only thing better than a product release that has the wrong features or is seriously late is one that breaks existing functionality. The best way to find out whether customers are using a feature is to break it without warning. This is a quick and easy way to verify whether the functionality already in the product is truly needed by anyone. It also confirms that customers are awake and paying attention. Plus, you can position yourself as a hero for handling the customer escalations and scheduling a short-notice emergency patch release when customers notice something is broken.
Repeatedly ship product releases with serious regressions. Just as repeatedly slipping release dates demonstrates continuing unresolved problems in your product planning process, repeatedly shipping releases with serious regressions demonstrates continuing unresolved problems in your quality assurance process.
Underinvest in unit tests and quality assurance. This is one of the most efficient ways to produce serious regressions. What unit tests and quality assurance don’t catch, customers are sure to find. Therefore, there’s no need to invest in either unit tests or quality assurance. Do this long enough and you’ll be rewarded by hearing the eternal lament of long-suffering customers: “Did any of you actually test this thing before you shipped it?”
Without advance warning, drop features from the product that customers depend on. The only thing better than accidentally breaking a feature the customer depends upon is to deliberately remove it from the product completely. In one stroke, you demonstrate that you don’t know what customers need (your ignorance) and that you don’t care enough about customers to check (your irresponsibility) and that you aren’t wise enough to realize the risks of this course of action (your lack of wisdom and experience).
Rely on verbal communication instead of written communication. The great thing about communicating information verbally is that later on, you can always deny or disagree about what you said. Relying solely on verbal communication maximizes your opportunity for customers to misunderstand, misremember, or forget what you said and preserves the chance for entertaining finger-pointing sessions later.
This is not a complete list of all possible ways to piss off customers, but it’s a promising start. The rest is left as an exercise to the reader!