How to know what product features your clients actually want

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Every product manager knows the right features make a product shine. But when product feature requests pour in from customers, it's easy to mistakingly implement solutions that don’t address the customer's real needs.

Below are top ways to understand what your customers actually want, so you can build a better product. 

Dig Deep Into Product Feature Requests…

Customers sometimes ask for the wrong features.

For example, with a product like Planbook—a popular online, teacher-lesson-planning platform—a user might ask if there was a way to add lesson plans without dates.

Simple enough.

But chatting with your customer might reveal they wanted that feature because they’re required to always have substitute lesson plans readily available in the event of an emergency.

Adding the requested feature would have been a subpar solution.

What the teacher really needed was a way to separate emergency lesson plans from her regular lesson plans. And since they’re used in times of emergency, they would also have to be readily available and easily accessible for substitute teachers.

A new “Emergency Lesson Plan” category that can be opened without difficulty by staff would better address the teacher’s needs.

By digger deeper and getting to the why of requests, you can brainstorm better opportunities and solutions that would solve the customer’s needs and create better service. 

...But Also Take Customer Feedback With a Grain of Salt

Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Why?

Because it was all they knew. They could tell you their problem, namely, they needed a means of transportation that could travel further distances faster, but they didn’t have the language to describe—or even imagine—the solution.

And if Ford had found “a faster horse,” it would have only been a small upgrade instead of a revolutionary product that would forever change the world.

When you rely only on customer input for your product features and direction, chances are they’ll tell you to do what others are already doing.

Instead of asking your customers directly for the features they want, vary your search methods and take an indirect approach. Survey their pain points, struggles, and what keeps them up at night in the market you serve. That’s how you’ll find your rockstar solution.

Go Beyond Your Customer

Prescription bottle labels can be hard to read, especially for people taking multiple medications or who have poor reading vision. Is it any wonder that 50 percent of people take their medication wrong?

What if as the business that provides the software to print these labels, you create a new label design that is colourful, easy to read, and has the most critical information prescription takers need directly on it?

Your client might have never asked you for it because they’re used to the standard labels, and it works for them. But by catering to your client's customers, implementing this feature would allow a company like a pharmacy to uniquely position themselves, serve their customers better, and prevent some serious problems that happen from taking medicine improperly.

CVS, an American pharmacy, did just that with their new labelling:

(photo via CVS)

If you’re an elderly person, for instance, which do you think would be your pharmacy of choice for prescription refills?

It’s All About Benefits

When evaluating what features to implement in your product or service, get behind the intent to discover if it's something your clients actually benefit from. Benefits are why customers buy in the first place. If the feature isn’t impactful, figure out what solution would better serve them. While your customers might not always be able to articulate the solution, you'll find more answers than you need if you dig deeply enough into feedback.

(Feature Image via Unsplash)

Makerkit is lightweight tool for collecting, and managing feature requests from your customers to build products that your users actually want. Designed for product managers 💖
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Lorraine Roberte is a freelance writer for hire who offers blogging and article writing services. Her specialities include creating personal finance and digital marketing content for businesses and startups. She uses her expert knowledge, skills, and experience to draft content that gets attention on social media and visibility on search engines.