How to extract what your customers really want from their misguided feature requests

Edited excerpt from Don’t design what users want by Michael Sueoka:

One piece of feedback we received was a feature for a user to get an email every single time a specific event occurred for one of their campaigns. Our user wanted to know every time a campaign started, ended, was performing poorly, hit the halfway mark, was off to a bad start, had little traffic, or reached its spending limit.

Now, imagine having 20 mobile campaigns running on any given day and receiving 20-30 emails all within a short time frame. Despite what the user wanted, this would have overwhelmed their inbox with non-actionable items in a non-organized way.

So I set up a handful of video chats and in-person interviews. We distilled all our findings and discovered the user’s one basic need: they simply wanted to know if their campaigns are doing okay.

Getting user feedback is the most important thing any UX designer, engineer, business owner, and product manager could do. But don’t just take that feedback and design a solution based on what the user says. Dig deeper to figure out your user’s root problem.

Don’t try to figure out what the user wants. Try to figure out why they want it.

(1) “The user’s one basic need”, “your user’s root problem”, and “Why they want it” are all other names for: your customers’ Job To Be Done. See A brief summary of Job To Be Done, with 3 takeaways for product managers.
(2) Another technique to uncover the Job To Be Done from a (possibly misguided) feature request is to keep asking “Why does that matter to you?” or just “Why?”. See 5 Whys.

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