In my travels this year in Europe and the U.S three things quickly emerged that impacted my experiences. I think these principles apply to our work and lives even when we aren’t bouncing around the world. They are:
- It’s awesome when things that should just work do. (Think: toilets.)
- The experience is much more enjoyable when things that could be really hard to do end up being super simple. (Think: Siri navigation in Ireland while driving on the “wrong” side of the road.)
- And, our experiences can transform from better to best through small, but delight-some surprises. (Think: warm cookies at check-in from DoubleTree hotels.)
Just work, please
I expect the basics to work when they are available. For example, when I walk into a hotel room and flip on the light switch, it doesn’t even cross my mind that the light may not go on. Or, more importantly to me, the toilet should always flush when I pull the handle or push the button. Given the right circumstances, utilities and basics like these should just work. When they don’t, few things are more frustrating and distracting. So how does this apply to our customers? Many of us provide data protection solutions that on one level are much like utilities. Customers using our products are not wrong to expect that our products should just work. Backups should run on schedule. Data should be available to be restored. Customers should be the only ones to have access to their data. When these core, utility-like, principles aren’t met, customers will have a difficult time seeing passed them. The quality of our products has to be unquestioned.
Easy does it
One of the things that made my travel more enjoyable was the ability to plan and make arrangements online through a single website. This same principle applies to our work. I was recently talking with some partners and customers about their experience using our products and services. The feedback was clear and uncontroversial: make things more simple. They didn’t mean that we should build feature-deficient products or sacrifice performance and security. It means pay more attention to simplifying the installation and administration of our products. Simplicity sounds like a basic tenant for any product and development team, but we often end up prioritizing features over experience because it’s easy to compare a feature set to a competitor’s feature set. And, it’s easy to fall into the trap that feature volume is more valuable than simplicity and experience. Maybe the balance is something I’ve started calling “robust simplicity.” Build robust products that have the right feature set to solve the problem, but make sure it’s easy for the customer to use.
Surprise me from time to time
On my trip to Europe, I was often delighted by some small, probably low-cost, things that I wasn’t expecting. Like the family restaurant we ate at in Rome where they let us stay an extra two hours at our table to wait out a rain storm. I’ve found that many of the things that delight us occur through people rather than our products. For example, I recently got advice on a great local place to eat from the employee cleaning the hotel. Instead of silently working away as we passed by, he asked if we were going out to eat and kindly told us that the food at the place we were headed was average and over-priced. He then gave us a better option and it turned out great. We need to take the same approach with our customers both in the products we develop and in our interactions with customers. Every product release we do should have something in it that will delight our customers beyond their expectations.