Product Leaders

with Adam Nash

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Delight your customers for irrational attraction, or your competitors will.

Adam Nash

CEO of Wealthfront, Product Expert, Founder

Lessons Learned

Customers are emotional, not rational ~ delight matters.

Delight often comes from surprise.

Delight features rarely come from customer requests or metrics movers.


Lesson: Product Leaders with Adam Nash

Step #3 Delight: Delight your customers for irrational attraction, or your competitors will

It turns out that customers' requests are perfect. If you're a company that moves the numbers and listens to customers, your customers will like you, but they won't love you. You won't hit that irrational dedication that great consumer brands have. And the truth is in a competitive market. If you don't delight your customers and get that irrational attraction, you run the risk someday that a competitor will, and they will get irrational metrics going their way because it turns out the consumer market is not rational. Every time I say this, people tend to be very surprised about it.

We are very utility focused in software and even in design, designers who come from software backgrounds tend to be also utility focused. They focus on things like ease-of-use, or how many clicks it takes, or how simple it is. They try and break everything down to a function.

Believe me, the food market, the clothing market – I can't tell you how many consumer markets how different they would be if consumers were at all rational. There are huge elements of fashion that have nothing to do with rationality. There is no good reason. Turquoise should be in or out of style, and yet it is. There is no good reason why all of a sudden the hot food item should be - quinoa or whatever people are eating right now, we don't eat for utility, we eat for pleasure, we eat for emotion. There is an irrational attraction.

The minute you assume that your consumers are emotional human beings, you start to realize how important delight is. Delight is basically when you surprise your customers with something they didn't even know was possible. You are the experts. Whether it's an expert in design or technology, you are the ones who are supposed to come up with things that they never thought of it. If you just implement everything they request, they think, oh great, you are like job shop, you are doing stuff that they ask for. This is where they go, "I love these guys. This team is fantastic. They keep doing amazing things. Let me tell you what they just did." That's irrational passion.

That's what people look for in other consumer industries outside of software and you'll notice in the software industry, delighting customers very often comes from surprise. You know, Tim Cook gave a talk at D11 that surprised a lot of people and I don't know if everyone picked up on this, but one of the interview questions was, "Why is Apple so secretive? Why don't they publish out, why don't they fight journalists on getting rumors etc.?" And Tim just said simply, "We actually think consumers value surprise." Once you believe that customers value surprise you have to figure out how to put a system in place to surprise them, on a semi-regular basis.

I think that's an important insight. I think it's bigger than surprise. They are looking for expertise, they are looking to believe. They want to know that you actually have a vision and inspiration for your service, whether you are the founder or whether it's a 10,000-person company or bigger, they want to believe that you are going to do great new things that change the world.

I mean, that's the ethos that drive so much of technology, even over five decades. What I've found is unfortunately delight features rarely move the numbers. They never end up in the metrics mover bucket.

Also, there are rarely customer requests. Customers are very good reporting problems to you. I think good design-based thinking needs you listen to their problems, but they're not experts. So they are very bad at recommending solutions. Delight features happen when you surprise them with something that they didn't know was possible. When we did the iPhone 3 release at LinkedIn, we had this feature where you could exchange contact information over Bluetooth.

It was the first iPhone app that we were actually proud of. We shipped at the end of 2009. I can tell you from a metric standpoint, no one used that feature. Literally a few dozen times a day. Everyone talked about that feature. When we wrote the blog post announcing it, everyone picked up on that feature. Everyone wanted to believe in this future wireless world where business cards would go away and you would just both have smart phones and magic would happen and LinkedIn was going to be there to make it happen because they were big enough to do that. Everyone loved that story.

That was actually one of the first times at LinkedIn on the mobile side we had delighted our customers. I actually tell product managers or designers to think about what blog post they will write when they launch a feature. I mean, you quickly discover that when you blog, when you write publicly. You brag about these things, you brag about these things, but no one ever mentions these things. No one but your mom cares about these things. You have to do all three.

So, mental accounting works. It's one of the behavioral finance tenets. What I actually would have my product managers do and I have recommended for you is that if you're doing a big release, think about which of your features fall in which buckets, make sure none of the buckets are empty. Empty is a problem. If you cutting things because you don't have time for the release, don't cut any bucket to zero.

If you're doing an agile process, you can look back over the last three months and say, "How many of these did we ship?, How many of these did we ship? How many of these did we ship?" If any of them is zero, maybe spend the next sprint focused on one of those buckets. You will be amazed at the quality of customer reaction when you do this.

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