Using customer insights to turn around a product launch failure

Stephen Carrey-Chan, director of product and design at CrowdStreet, shares his experience and lessons learned in turning around a product launch failure.

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Summary: from output-driven to outcomes-driven design

Stephen Carrey-Chan was seemingly in a no-win situation. 

As a product leader new to an e-learning company, he needed to get a customer-promised product out the door quickly. The challenge was that the product team had found themselves lost in a roadmap of features without a defined purpose or problem statement.

When they did release it, you can guess what happened.

“It was almost like a reactive, impulsive attempt that had very expensive consequences, trying to put out a fire that we were seeing in support tickets before doing the due diligence with the customers on what are the specific problems?” said Stephen, now director of product and design at CrowdStreet.

In this Insights Unlocked episode, Stephen shares his experience and lessons learned in turning around a product launch failure.


The urgency to ship vs. understanding the problem

An often-quoted statistic attributed to the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen is that 95% of new products fail. McKinsey & Company research suggests that number is closer to 50% of new products fail

Lija Hogan, a principal customer experience strategy consultant at UserTesting, says some new products will fail. But one way to mitigate that risk is through intentional research early in the product development lifecycle.

“The intent of doing user research early enough in the product development lifecycle is that you can understand that problem space better. It's about reducing the risk of having to do rework, so that you pick the right thing to build and then also hopefully get insights into how to build it the right way,” Lija said.

Stephen’s story highlights the common issue of being output-driven rather than outcomes-driven, with the urgency to ship a product overshadowing the understanding of the specific problem it aims to solve.


The turning point: understanding real user problems

Stephen said the turning point came when he and his team took a step back to understand the real problems faced by their users. By recruiting a small cohort of users and conducting generative interviews, they gained valuable insights that guided the product’s redesign.

Lija further advises on digging into the problem space and understanding user needs before making nitpicky improvements. The episode emphasizes the importance of avoiding the "order-taking trap" and understanding the deeper motivations behind user requests. 

As Stephen said, you need to be “very intentional about your goal of learning what is the right problem to focus on solving right now because it will pay off if you choose the right problem.”


Related articles and videos for getting executive buy-in

Looking for additional help or information on getting stakeholder and executive buy-in? Check out these related articles and on-demand videos from UserTesting. 


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