It’s Never the User’s Fault

Overall, the 2021 SaaStr Annual might have been the most successful ever.  The outdoor experience, the speakers, the energy, the enthusiasm was off the charts.

And it was our best organized Annual ever.  But there was one software vendor we used that just failed us.  In fact, it simply didn’t work more than half the time.  No one could get it to work.  Again.  And again.  And again.  We found a workaround, but it involved not using the product at all for that use case.

We talked to the rep, who went on to tell every single user struggling with the software it was “User Error” and their fault.  We then filmed a video showing everyone struggling with this feature, and sent it to the company.  They told us it worked fine.

Oy.

I know as founders you know this, but perhaps the rest of the SaaS world doesn’t.  It’s a simple rule.  It’s never the user’s fault.  Especially when it is. It’s the 2020s!  Business software should be as easy to use as a social network.  If it isn’t, then at least you should try and strive for that level of ease of use and familiarity.

A few related suggestions:

  • Don’t fear live support.  If your product is very easy to use, it won’t cost you that much.  If it isn’t, it will force you to make it easier to use ;). A bit more on that here.
  • If your product needs onboarding — just do it.  You can’t necessarily automate away everything.  Onboarding, done right, is a strategic weapon.  It increases your activation rates.  A bit more on that here.
  • Try to use your product yourself, as a newbie, at least once a month.  Just do it.  You’ll be shocked by the rough edges you see if you slow down and start off as a brand new user of your own product.
  • Human beings are OK to use to bridge gaps, especially in the early days.  If your product has some user gaps, and you can hire people to bridge them — do it.
  • Don’t hide the issues.  A vendor that acknowledges the UX problem and at least shares a workaround is going to have much higher NPS than one that claims it doesn’t exist.
  • Oftentimes, the CEO has to be the Chief Make It Simpler Officer.  A great VP of Product often does a lot here, too.  But there is just so much to do as you scale.  It can be hard to get back to existing features and make them easier, when there are so many new features you still have to build. Sometimes, the CEO has to be the voice of the lay user.  Of making the product even easier to use.

A simple post, I know.  But don’t let user error — which is real of course — ever be an excuse.  The best products just iterate as much of it away as possible.

Published on October 15, 2021

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