It’s really, really easy to read some customer feedback and think “that’s stupid.”

good idea bad ideaMy favorite example: “I want the widget to be blue.”

What? No. That’s stupid. The widget is orange.

If you’ve been having a bad day it’s even worse. I’ve heard people call customers some nasty things. Some even do it in public.

It’s understandable. Sounds like a dumb idea, must be a dumb idea, right?

Actually, no. Most of the time, it’s the customer trying to do you a favor. They have a frustration (what we generally call a “pain point”) and they’ve come up with a solution for you! It’s a bad solution, yes. But it’s a real pain point.

The problem is that often this customer won’t tell you the pain point…they’ll only tell you their (bad) solution. So you have to dig.

“Why do you want a blue widget? How would that help you?”

Then the truth comes out.

“Well, my website is orange so when I install your orange widget on it, it blends in and is hard to see.”

There it is. A real pain point. Something that really needs to be solved. Jackpot!

Should you solve this with a blue widget? Probably not…then people with blue websites would start complaining! Perhaps you’ll solve it by letting people choose their widget color. By discarding the bad solution and focusing on the pain point with your product team, you’ll come up with a great solution. A solution that will make that customer happy. A solution that will retain them…and their money.

Dismissing “bad” ideas out of hand doesn’t end well. You miss an opportunity to delight and retain a customer…and you’re probably going to start building a culture of negativity.

So the next time you begin to scoff at some customer feedback, stop yourself. Ask why. Nine times out of ten you’re going to find something useful under that bad solution.

(Hey Evan, haven’t I seen you write this before? Yeah, I mention this a lot. I thought it deserved it’s own blog post. Sue me.)

Lightbulb photo courtesy of Andres Nieto Porras. Good idea bad idea photo courtesy of Fredo Alvarez. Acupuncture photo courtesy of jessamyn.