Experian Product Lead on When To Ignore User Feedback (Part 2)
A while back, I used to tattoo mouse tails that were used in preclinical research trials. All genetically-modified mice must be uniquely identified. Identification tools are actually a big market – and the product decision making we faced taught me some valuable user feedback lessons.
First, the challenge was to design a device that holds the mouse and then moves along the curvature of the tail to apply the tattoo. Getting the font to work was difficult since zero, 8, D and O were all very similar.
Next, we had to choose between three or four characters on the tail. The customers included breeders, contract research organizations, big pharma, biotech, medical research universities and government agencies.
Everyone we talked to said three characters was fine except one breeder – Charles River Laboratories. They owned 50 percent of the breeder market and said they needed four characters. We never got a really good explanation as to why.
We choose to go with three characters. It was the wrong choice.
The framework of product decision making should reflect the impact of your decisions and what you want to avoid. In this case, the impacts included:
- Less time to figure out the product, market and distribution.
- Smaller market opportunity.
- More risk and more resources required.
Choosing three characters resulted in less time and a smaller market. Choosing four characters meant more risk and more resources.
Now once Charles River Laboratory found out we were going with three characters, they didn’t want to have anything to do with us. This revealed to me the complexity of product decision making. It wasn’t just a smaller market from a revenue perspective, our story was smaller across the industry. Also, since we told our board that three characters was easier, we had less time to deliver.
The only caveat here is that you should also weigh the impact of user feedback based on the potential for irreversible damage. In the end, we vastly underestimated the impact of losing Charles River. Most importantly, we overestimated the impact of less time to complete the project.