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Accelerating Product Development Through an On-Site Visit

Eli Chen

CTO at Veriph.ai

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Problem

I was working in product development doing enterprise software. We were developing a feature when I noticed in our metrics dashboard that there was some functionality that was not performing well into our customers. One customer in particular began asking questions yet we didn't quite understand what was going on. We just knew that we weren't performing at our best. Over the course of a week we went back and forth asking the the customer questions and only getting partial answers. We looked into our logs and tried to figure out the problem, but to no avail.

Actions taken

By the end of the week I decided to get on a plane and fly out to the customer. I flew on-site to the company and began observing the situation firsthand. I was able to find the root cause, we fixed the problem and deployed the solution the following day. It turned out that spending one day on the customer's site was more valuable than a week's worth of back and forth messaging. The reason for this is that when you're the technology provider, when you're the company selling the solution, you have a thousand times more context to issues than the customer does. Additionally, when you're asking for feedback, you're putting a burden on the customer. Customers are also biased. Some users of your software don't want to be embarrassed so they only provide slices of the data. When you show up on-site and build a face-to-face relationship with the customer, they will give you more information in-person than they would tell you in an email. In this situation, my arrival made the customer really happy. Not only did we build a lasting relationship, but it allowed us to accelerate our development. Further still, it turned a problematic mult-week situation in being resolved in less than one week.

Lessons learned

  • You collect a magnitude more of information by being on-site with the customer. If you build trust through a face-to-face meeting and build a relationship, you can get a lot more feedback from the customer that they wouldn't necessarily give you in a personal email.
  • Being on-site also gives you context and allows you to troubleshoot much more quickly than trying to go through the process in messages. It's a strategy where you are able to get direct feedback that you may not have received otherwise.
  • The downside is getting a plane ticket, scheduling, and family obligations. But sometimes the payoff is worth the trouble.

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Eli Chen

CTO at Veriph.ai


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