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I am forced to use your product and I hate it!

Have you ever heard that? Yeap, that happens. Maybe even with your product. It often happens with B2B products. It certainly happens with products where buyers and users are two separate parties. As a product manager, what can you do about such unfortunate cases?

Why B2B products?

Mostly because in the case of B2B products buyers and users are far apart. In other words, those who are buying your B2B product are not the ones who have to use it. In theory, when it comes to buying a new tool within a business, a buyer (someone who makes a decision to purchase a product) should consult different parties of the business before making the decision. The potential purchase should be cleared by the compliance team, legal team, IT team and so on, but most importantly, it should be cleared by people who will have to use the product. In practice, awfully often, users are not being consulted or their needs are not taken into account due to various reasons. This creates a rather unhealthy situation when a buyer might be satisfied with their purchase but users are suffering.

How to identify unhappy users?

Oh, that's easy. They will make themselves heard. If you measure the satisfaction of your users in any way - you will spot the discontent. Some people will be very vocal about their frustrations. Others might be neutral or quiet about it. If you want to find out if some of your users are forced to your product ask them - what product would they choose to get their job done? If their answer is not your product - well, you guessed it.

Why people might hate your product?

For all sort of reasons. Some of which are
It's not what they're used to. Everyone who works with a product for some time develops habits of using it. Two products that solve the same problem almost always solve it (slightly) differently. Even if those differences are cosmetic, users need to learn new or change existing habits. And that's painful. Especially if the reward is not significantly higher.

It's not what their reference group uses. Some users are quite evangelic about certain products. Ask Canon worshippers to use Nikon. Or a diehard Apple fan to use Microsoft products. We chose products not only for their functionality but for their meaning. Often, for what products tell the world about us. If a user is forced to use a product that contradicts their values or that of their reference group - they well might hate it.

The costs of migration are too high. Almost always an organisation buys a product that solves an existing problem. If the problem is painful - there would be also existing solutions to it. Users most likely invested a lot of effort into the existing solution. So when a new solution gets selected, users might be scared that all their previous effort will disappear. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon. When users lose their investments in the previous product - it sets them to hate the new one.

What can you do?

As a product manager of a new product your options are limited, but that's not an excuse to do nothing.

Help them influence buyer decision 

To mitigate the problem of unrealistic expectations, help your prospects to try your product before their organization makes the purchase decision. This means free trials, demo accounts and detailed walkthroughs. Such transparency might be questioned by your sales or business development folks but don't bite to it. A long term success of a product is both satisfied buyers and users.

Differentiate valid feedback and personal preferences

Some users will not like your product because of personal preferences. In their previous product, the buttons were blue and in your product buttons are green. They don't like green hence they don't like your product. In such cases, don't make your buttons blue! (unless you can justify blue being objectively better)
You need to develop skills of differentiating valid, useful feedback from personal preferences and moaning. The later is not helpful and could be ignored.

Change the fear of losing invested effort into an opportunity

Pretty much a standard practice is to allow users to export data they've built in a product. Your product should be able to import the data making a migration fast and easy. When this is not possible, think about how you can invert this disadvantage into an opportunity. Maybe the data in the old product was kept in an old format, hence you could explain the advantages of the new format. Maybe in the old tool users need to invest much more effort to achieve the result that in your tool could be achieved significantly easier. Then you can build your story around a shorter overall time to value. Best case though is when you combine both, easy migration with novel approaches. Like Dropbox did with your Office files. Not only you can view them in Dropbox - you can also collaboratively edit those files without the native apps.

In summary 

Some of the users who are forced to use your product might hate using it. This could happen for reasons beyond your control, but it should not prevent you from trying to help those users. Even before they become users you can make sure they could try your product. This will set their expectations realistically. Some of the criticism you might hear about your product will be purely based on personal preferences. You need to be able to differentiate between useful feedback that could improve your product and personal tastes. Finally, you need to try to provide a way for users to not lose their invested effort in their previous product. If that's not possible - you'd need to be creative telling what increased benefits your users will receive for leaving their past investments behind.

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