"Oops... We Forgot About the Users.”

🧑‍🎨 Creator(s)
🗓️ Publish Date
October 3, 2006
📚 Publisher(s)
🍿 Media Type(s)

🗃️ Archival copy:

If I attend one more tech company meeting where NOBODY talks about the users/customers (or at least not a positive one), I'm throwing myself out the window of this trailer. Think long and hard right now about some of the company meetings you've attended where the entire effen meeting is about everything but what's good for the users. We talk about deliverables and budgets and TPS reports and why we all need to help keep the refridgerator clean and how "upper management" has a new policy and why filling out those timesheets really helps the company and how we didn't make our numbers last quarter and how somebody is taking more than their share on Bagel Morning Wednesdays and, oh yeah, don't forget the team-building workshop next Tuesday.

Gag me with a motivational poster.

Until talking about the users/customers/members/clients becomes the most important thing, we're going nowhere good. And no matter how many companies pay it lip service, the meetings tell the real story. It's staggering how many meetings I've been to where nobody is advocating for the users. Nobody. Yet everybody is advocating for ways to do what "upper management" wants or ways to save money or ways to... you know, many of you probably work in the companies I'm thinking of.

That doesn't mean that most of you don't think and care about the customer, it's just that you don't always get the opportunity to talk about it. It's hard being the first one to stand up in a meeting and say, "Um, excuse me, but we just made a decision that hurts the customers a lot, and... EVERYONE'S OK WITH THAT?" And who wants to be the one who stands up and asks, "And this helps the customers... how?" or the one who says, "Do you think we could all take a look at the customer feedback reports?" or the one who says, "Has anyone actually TALKED to a real user lately?"

Caring what the users think is something that just about any company claims to do, but even when they say it, what they really mean is, "Of COURSE we care what the customers think of us" when they should care about what the customer thinks of himself in relation to the product. It's the biggest companies that usually are the worst, since there are so many layers upon layers of mid-to-upper managers who are so far removed from the real users that they've got a distorted, naive, unrealistic, or just plain wrong idea of who their users are and what their users need and want.

But I hear it outside the big companies as well. It's the author who is writing the book to help his resume or gain visibility, so he focuses on what readers will think... of the author. It's the blogger who complains about not having the readers they deserve, but not once acknowledges that what the readers actually value (and decide is worth their time to look at) is what matters (assuming more readers is the goal--for most bloggers, it isn't). We make excuses. We blame everyone and everything but ourselves when it's so often not about the things we point to (ad budget is too small, marketing sucks, not enough funding, the A-list won't link to us, we're the wrong gender/race/age, etc.), but rather the simple fact that we just don't have enough respect for the people who are our users/readers/customers/members...

So, to help reinforce the message, I've made a couple of take-offs on the Buzzword/BS Bingo game (here's a marketing bingo card), where you go to a meeting and check off each BS/buzzword as it comes up. But since that's only reinforcing what's wrong with many of these meetings, I thought I'd make one that reinforces what's right... talking about the users. In this game, you check off a box when someone says something loosely related.

Better yet, randomly pick one of the boxes on the card and just say it, every 5 minutes ; )

CLUEFUL BINGO:

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And here's another bingo game, although like Buzzword Bingo, it is focused on what's wrong (but I still like it). It's a card that brings up a variety of ways we deflect responsibility for a product-that-does-not-respect-the-users by blaming everything but the fact that we just didn't take the users seriously enough. That we just didn't value their time, money, energy enough. There are, of course, scenarios in which things on the blame card are valid, and not simply excuses, but you can usually tell when someone (or some company) is either in denial or looking for a scapegoat.

Blame Bingo

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Whoa... guess I have a little 'tude about this, but it's frustrating trying to help companies who want passionate users when their culture keeps users as a low-priority background thread. But things are changing quickly--the days of "he who has the biggest marketing campaign wins" are just about over, and it's shifting to "he who cares enough to deliver what users really want wins." And that means the little one-person-start-up might have just as much chance to win customer hearts as the Big Guys.