‘Divinely discontent’ customers, and what feedback means for our team

Photo of Hugh StephensHugh Stephens Posted

Sked Social’s founder Hugh Stephens writes about how we look at feedback.

In a departure from our usual stories about Instagram and social media marketing, I thought I’d write a bit about how we seek and evaluate feedback at Sked (formerly Schedugram) – a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of post.

How we collect feedback

We have a lot of different channels that customers use to give us feedback. These include:

  • We ask customers’ net promoter score on a rolling basis, and after they provide a score it asks what we could do to improve
  • We request feedback in our monthly email newsletter
  • Some newer features will have prompts for feedback
  • People send in feedback just because of something that they love or bugs them ([email protected] for what it’s worth)
  • We look at feedback through support channels (any request for help means something can be improved, but there’s often also just helpful feedback)
  • Customers can do free one-on-one support sessions (about problems, or just to get shown how everything works or power user features relevant to them)
  • Our product team does one-on-one sessions talking to customers about their experiences and asking for targeted feedback

That’s in addition to our team’s own feedback from their experiences!

As a result, we get a lot of feedback, both positive and negative. That’s fantastic: we are where we are today because of our customers’ feedback, so all credit to you.

The ‘divinely discontent’ customer

Something I read in Amazon’s annual shareholder letter this year was (CEO Jeff) Bezos’ view of the ‘divinely discontent’ customer. He describes it like this:

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’.

I think it’s 100% right: there is no single successful state in how we (or any other business) deliver our product every day. Even many of the customers who LOVE Sked will still think that we have areas to improve – and of course there are those who hate it (we try to minimise them…).

It’s hard sometimes, particularly as a founder of a company, not to take negative feedback personally. You have a thousand priorities and there are always fires to be put out or projects to be done, and you have to learn to accept this idea that customers are divinely discontent – and then harness it for good.

We never want to be the ‘perfect platform’ – I don’t think it’s possible. You can be the best, and we strive for that every day, even if we don’t hit the goal every time for every customer.

Roadmaps and fast horses

There’s a quote often misattributed to Henry Ford (more on the story of the misattribution here):

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

It’s a very Steve Jobs-ian quote, and teases out the challenge that customers don’t always know what they want. They know what they feel and have thoughts about how to improve things, but this is often incremental (“it’d be easier to move that button over there so I can crop faster”) than step-change (“the whole upload workflow needs to be rewritten”).

The benefit of incremental changes is that they’re often smoother for the customer experience, with only minor changes to what you’re used to seeing (think fingerprint recognition in your home button, versus the step-change of the ‘hovering bar’ seen in the iPhone X with no home button at all).

Additionally, all those changes quickly add up. In the early days of a startup, you can change things incredibly quickly and that’s often necessary to survive.

In the later days, every new feature you add will need to be supported, tested and it’s hard to ‘take features away’ – they often become a core part of some customer’s workflow (even if only 1 in a million!). I’ve come to learn about the challenges of running a business at a bigger scale as a result (one colour change can get 10 ‘thank god you finally fixed that’ and 10 ‘that’s the worst change ever’ emails).

You have to end up with a balance of both things that are incremental and step-change. There are various frameworks about how you can prioritise different initiatives (in tech products, RICE is common, or otherwise impact/effort is a classic), but ultimately it comes down to what is achievable with the resources available, and what will move the needle the most.

Building for the future, not today

Sometimes you’re building something for today – customers have the pain right now, and you have to just fix it.

The hardest thing we have to do sometimes is say no to things that we could build today, and instead build for the future – for what we think is needed in 6-12 months (or even 2-3 years!) time.

It’s much like how if you focus purely on quantitative metrics (like how many people use feature X – how many calls you make on your phone), you lose the qualitative aspect (is feature X helping customers achieve their goals – people want a computer in their pocket).

Everyone has a view of what the future might look like, and hopefully through enough conversations you get enough hints that your view is something others share or experience. You have to accept the risk of being wrong though, which can be incredibly stressful at times.

The future of feedback: thought partnership

We talk a lot in marketing about ‘thought leadership’ and the importance of being ahead of the curve. But in reality, the most effective thought leaders are more thought partners: it’s less about just leading but bringing people on the journey with you, and learning in both directions along the way.

We’d like to see Sked move further toward this model, and you’ll see some new initiatives directed at just that. While we have our views of what the future can bring, we want to see if you share that with us too.

The exciting part of social media is that in many ways it still feels like day one (see the bottom part of Amazon’s shareholder letter – it’s the first letter from 1997).

New channels appear or scandals hit existing ones: at one point everyone thought Snapchat might be to Facebook/Instagram as Facebook was to MySpace – let alone the brief rise/fall of Ello or Mastodon.

Content types and styles change – the rise of video being a great example, then the more recent moves toward ‘vertical video’ on social.

Finally, our audiences themselves change: what they love or value the most, how they communicate with businesses (chatbots!) or friends (snaps/stories).

We’re excited for the future and our role in it, and we hope you are too.

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Photo of Hugh StephensHugh Stephens

Hugh Stephens

Hugh runs Sked Social, and has strong opinions about the future of the social media space.

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