Are more features the answer?

From Flow:

The other day I went for my routine hair cut and as I sat to get started I noticed a sign that read “tag us in your haircut selfie”. It wasn’t a surprise to me that the hair salon would use Instagram as a way to attract new customers but I was interested to learn how effective it’s been for them — so I asked my hairdresser that also owns the salon.

She replied that these days it’s vital to have an online presence if you want to attract new customers. Instagram is one of the first places her customers go to see her work. Then she told me they go to her website which was a nice segue because, since she’s a customer, I wanted to learn more about what value she gets from her site. The top reasons were for people go to see what services they offer, find the salon’s address and phone number, and book appointments.

One of her main concerns with the site was that it didn’t work well on mobile but she was very happy with the contact form because it allows her to take bookings which is really critical for her business. She said these days people don’t like calling in because she thinks they like to be able to discretely go about their personal business while at work.

I was very intrigued to hear this and also surprised because I thought a basic contact form would be cumbersome for booking appointments. I imagine it would be annoying to write in and then try communicate your availability over email but I was wrong. When I asked why she doesn’t use an online booking service, she told me that those usually cause more problems than they’re worth. The biggest issue she found was that people don’t know how long they need to book for a particular service, something I am sure could be easily solved, so they prefer to talk with their customers to learn what they need and then book the appropriate time.

Later that day, I embarrassingly locked myself outside the house and had to call a locksmith to get back in. While I was paying the guy, I noticed he used a Square card reader and asked him how it works. He showed me how he tracks transactions and told me he could make reports but doesn’t because the software was too complicated and so he therefor prefers to export the data and make his own in a spread sheet.

Both these encounters reminded me of a research study we did about small customers early last year. A number of the participants we spoke to echoed how complicated software could be and how they cooked up simpler solutions with spreadsheets and notebooks. This was a good reminder for me because at work we’re often worrying that we need more features to make our product more attractive when in reality, I think we offer everything we probably need to but don’t promote the features in such a way that people know how to use them better.

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