By Adam Lifshitz — Executive Director of Product, Concierge.com
When I first took the role of leading the product front for Concierge.com, Eric (our founder) summarized our positioning as a ‘SwaS company.’
SwaS?’ I asked, ‘Don’t you mean SaaS?’
‘No Adam, SwaS, we’re providing a Software WITH a Service.’
At first, I was a bit taken back. I even grew a bit concerned. It felt like two conflicting ideas. Are we building a product where we control its roadmap, based on our expertise and beliefs of what would be beneficial to our users? Or are we taking more of an agency structure, building products and features for our clients to use per their requests?
After nearly three years of growing our platform, I’ve come to realise that this wasn’t an either/or situation, but rather a unique combination of both realities.
Let me explain.
In traditional SaaS product-based companies, user feedback is important (duh). Software companies rely on users to guide them on what’s not working (bugs), what doesn’t make sense (UX feedback), and what would be nice to have in the future (suggestions). How the company prioritizes and tackles these items, and whether they do, is within their discretion. Oftentimes, suggestions and ideas from users have a lesser priority than roadmap items conceptualized by the internal product team and various stakeholders. After all, it’s their product, and they have a final say.
That model allows product and development teams to work in a structured manner, staying focused on a defined direction with less interruptions and conflicting ideas. Simply put, there are less cooks in the kitchen.
At Concierge.com, our whole business model is founded upon a custom, personalized service that is aimed at giving our clients (and their guests, of course) a VIP experience. It is only fitting then that we extend that VIP experience to their involvement with the software product itself.
So if a long-standing client wants a new feature, more often or not, I’ll make it happen. If they liked what we’ve recently released, but want it to look or function slightly differently for them so it’s more fitting to their needs — we’ll customize it specifically for their account. Bugs from clients are treated with the highest priority and suggestions take on an equal or higher priority within our lengthy backlog of ideas. Usually, the same applies to new clients wishing to jump aboard, but also want a collection of features to make the transition smoother.
It is why I’ve embraced this idea that our users are not merely users we test things with and gather their feedback. To me, they are as much of a stakeholder as my cross-functional teams and internal reports, and with such, have as much as a say into what we build, and when we build it by.
Some may call this process unconventional, but to us, it’s just Software with a Service - where each of users and their guests are VIP product contributors.