7 Mistakes Product Managers Make that Cause Customers to Churn

* This article is part of a book called “How a Product Manager Can Keep Customers Happy when Releasing a Major Product Update”

Churn is a dirty word in product management. It is also an increasingly important fact of life in today’s online business environment.

When users complain about software supplied as a service, purchasers of that service can drop a vendor faster than the time it takes to say ‘log off’.

Product managers often make one or several of the following mistakes that lead to end-user frustration and relationship rupture.

1. Next Bench Syndrome

In the early days of IT, when technicians ruled the roost both in the customer’s and the vendor’s organization, product managers could get away with asking the engineer in the next cubicle about how to specify a product. Hewlett-Packard made great use of this in designing its test equipment.

Unfortunately, software is a different game and the IT giant has been notably less successful with this approach.

.2 Listening Too Much to Sales and CIOs

Both salespeople and customer organization CIOs can provide valuable input. The mistake is to think this is the only input.

Salespeople can only comment on narrow sections of the business population. CIOs frequently have their heads in the clouds and operate at strategic levels, not everyday use levels.

End-user input is vital for specifying and designing products that truly satisfy. IBM’s Lotus Notes product was often highly convincing for CIOs –and highly disliked by users then obliged to use it

3. Mixing Up Paper Features with Practical Benefits

Other versions of this mistake include mixing up innovation with value, and building products right while neglecting to build the right product.

The fall-out can be devastating. The Avon Products, Inc. stopped a major software project using SAP after the features were so difficult to understand that Avon representatives deserted the company in droves.

The cost to Avon was estimated at over100 million (USD.)

4. Offering a Confusing or Frustrating User Experience

Even if the benefits are clear to end-users, the user interface still has to be up to scratch. Clunky procedures can end up devouring large chunks of a user’s day.

Oracle workplace software has an unenviable reputation for requiring labor-intensive pointing and clicking without shortcuts or the possibility to run repetitive tasks just once (instead of having to do them over, N times.)

5. Adding Too Many Features with Too Little Onboarding

Even raw features can be useful sometimes – if the user knows where to find them and what they do. But if there is no online or inline help to point out value or simplify use, features gather digital dust.

Microsoft Excel is a case in point. For most users, only 10 percent of the functions are ever used. That means effective wastage of 90 percent of product development time in those cases. Smarter onboarding could improve user satisfaction and loyalty, all the more important now that Microsoft is pushing users towards its Office 365 cloud solution.

6 .Insufficient Online Support Resources

Customers spend too much time calling support with simple “how to” questions. Both customer support costs and end-user frustration increase.

The launch of the Healthcare.gov website was an example. Before launch, website product management received information that customers wanted to window-shop before giving personal information on the site.

The site still went live with the opposite model, leading to end-user resentment about having to agree to terms of service before receiving health insurance quotes and overloading support channels as a consequence.

7. Closed Channels of Information

Product managers need continual input to understand how customer needs evolve. If not, their products or services are likely to diverge from reality.

Users have criticized the Salesforce CRM application for lagging behind web usability standards, with convoluted procedures to accomplish simple actions.

They point to competing online CRM applications that help them spend no more than the minimum amount of time needed to get things done.


This article is part of a White Paper called “How a Product Manager Can Keep Customers Happy when Releasing a Major Product Update.”

Claim your free copy by filling the form below. 




The book covers a range of topics, including:

Chapter 1: 7 Mistakes Product Managers Make that Cause Customers to


Chapter 2: 10 Data-Backed Product Tips that Will Skyrocket User


Chapter 3: 4 Tools Product Managers Must Use to Heighten Customer


Chapter 4: Summary: A Product Manager’s Checklist to Balancing UX with

Agile Development

Mark is the Lead Author & Editor of Spectechular Blog. Mark established the Spectechular blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Product Management.