Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Customer priorities versus your own

This post is regarding Joel's recent posting on perfectionism.

Although perfectionism is certainly an ill to be avoided, I think a worse ill in business is to take on the assumption that your customers (or people in customer-like, external roles) know what your priorities are.  Or that they have intimate knowledge of what is and is not trivial for your company to accomplish.  Or worse, to blow off their concerns (which may be larger to them than they are to you) as "perfectionism."

It seems to me that successful businesses do not strive for perfection in product, but they don't write off their customers' concerns as deficiencies of the customer (or anyone who deals with their company, for that matter).

I think the worst attribute a programmer, or anyone in business, can have is the "stupid user" syndrome.  Yes, some users are genuinely stupid.  But the customer is always right; they write the checks, and they generate leads to other customers.  That's at the heart of "user empathy" which leads not only to great product design, but also great customer service.

Even if the customer's concerns can't be addressed, they shouldn't be trivialized.  Because what's trivial to you--like an overhanhing "g'--is not necessarily trivial to the customer.

That's not to say I think Joel doesn't empathize with users, or that I don't understand his frustration in this instance, but I really don't agree with his response.  This was a great opportunity to teach programmers how to think like businesspeople, and try to see things from the customer perspective, and not fall prey to the aforementioned "stupid user" syndrome.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Your point is a very valid one. Balance is required in every aspect of life. Same thing applies for perfectionism as well.

But, in your post, you are talking about a customer. Now, if the same point had been raised by a (paying) customer, I'm sure Joel would have reacted differently. Tried to explain the thing to him or done a further cost analysis on putting the feature in Vs importance of the feature to the customer.

But in this case the point had been raised by an ordinary mortal (gasp!), and that too in Joel's very own forum (double gasp!). He simply had it coming buddy! :)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Interestingly, I am a paying customer, having paid for FogBUGZ and in the process of evaluating CityDesk.

Inconveniently for Joel, I work as a consultant for some of the biggest companies in the UK and am often called upon to recommend software solutions. In the past, I have recommended FogBUGZ to my clients, but now I'm not so sure.

Okay, so the product is adequate, but if Joel's ego gets any bigger he'll change FogBUGZ so that whenever someone raises a bug report it simply tells them not to be such a perfectionist and to piss off.

Unlucky Joel, I guess that's cost you a few thousand dollars.

Steve Jones (UK)
Friday, April 23, 2004

If you take step back with your strong side leg first, you can get a better swing with that handbag.

Friday, April 23, 2004

OK Steve, while I'm of the opinion that you've been dealt with more harshness than was necessary (actually no harshness was necessary), but it would be better if you were not to reduce this to a clash of egos.

When you allow your own ego to come in and start threatening the other party, you lose your standing. Now, you are also no longer any better than him, in that you can no longer point fingers at him since you yourself belong to the same boat. (<OT>Interestingly, ever noticed that whenever you point a finger at anyone, you're actually pointing 3 fingers back at yourself</OT>)

> Okay, so the product is adequate, but if Joel's ego
> gets any bigger he'll change FogBUGZ so that whenever
> someone raises a bug report it simply tells them not
> to be such a perfectionist and to piss off.

You know and I know that this is not going to happen. You asked a question to Joel, he answered it as he liked it. That he went in for such a harsh reaction as to practically insult the person asking the question maybe due to numerous other factors (like having a bad day or already having been pointed out this issue numerous times in the past) and I'm sure pointing this fact to him should be sufficient rather than going in and threatining him with economic loss or anything.

My 2 cents.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Hey T-90, I wasn't intending to threaten Joel with economic loss, it's just that I can't, in all conscience, recommend anyone to do business with Fog Creak given recent events.

I'm sure this will not have a material effect on Joel and his one developer (Hi Michael) in their quest to turn their tin-pot business into a successful enterprise.

Steve Jones (UK)
Monday, April 26, 2004

Steve (UK),
I have admired your English way of adressing things but this time you may have overreacted. There must be a moment when the victorious side may show some mercy to the defeted. Stay where you do belong, do not lower youreself to kicking sb's behind when the other's already down.
Joel has behaved plain stupid and there is no excuse for this. He has apologized. Step over this - teach him that people can not hide behind their ego, at least if they want to interact with other people.

Wojtek Szala
Thursday, April 29, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home