Startup Advice

Why Pocketbook made a video proudly reading out user comments calling its product a “pile of shit”

Dominic Powell /

Pocketbook

Source: Pocketbook

When finance management startup Pocketbook recently rolled out a major platform upgrade, frustrated users didn’t hold back when giving feedback to the team of developers.

The startup was called a “pile of shit” and the product labelled “hideous”. One user even threatened to start a class action lawsuit against the startup.

But instead of sweeping the negative comments away and trying to ignore them, Pocketbook has released a video of team members — including the company founders — reading out the mean comments in an effort to better address negative user feedback.

“We were surprised how passionate our fans were on both sides after we released our latest upgrade, and we wanted to show off that passion in a bit of a fun way,” Pocketbook founder and chief executive Alvin Singh told StartupSmart.

“It was also a way to tell our users we were listening and making adjustments based off their feedback.”

Pocketbook was acquired for $7.5 million last year by payments company zipMoney and has a 350,000-strong user base. Singh’s business partner and Pocketbook’s chief operations officer Bosco Tan says the video was a different way for the company to engage with those users, and so far it’s been received positively by customers.

Users on Facebook praised the team for their tongue-in-cheek approach, with one saying: “I love the fact you laugh it off”.

“Thanks for taking customer feedback on board, you’re doing an awesome job, keep it up!” said another commenter.

The video also tempered some users who had been struggling with the updated app, with one saying they were still “trying to unravel” the new features but trusted the team to keep the project moving forward.

But while the team is seeing the lighter side by roasting themselves with the negative comments, plenty of preparation was done before the update was rolled out. Singh says more than 8000 customers beta tested the new app edition, and an additional 50 came into the Pocketbook office for further focus testing.

“We don’t develop in a glass house with no feedback,” Tan laughs.

Startups shouldn’t feel disheartened by negative feedback

Singh and Tan says startups shouldn’t be disheartened by negative feedback and should endeavour to always take in onboard. This is one of the key messages behind the release of their video.

“You do all this work but you’re always going to get that basket of users who feel like it still could be improved, and the best thing you can do is take action and act quickly,” Singh says.

“Ignoring them completely is just doing yourselves a disservice. We try and look for a clear signal coming from various different pieces of feedback before we look to make changes.”

But feedback, like many things, should be taken in moderation, says Tan. He believes startups should know when to draw a “line in the sand” when building a first time product.

“If you listen to everyone and everything before and during building a project, well, it’s a bit like how long is a piece of string?” he says.

“At some point, you need to put a line in the sand and actually create something you can put in front of your customer.”

Singh agrees, and says startups should also be careful to not necessarily take negative feedback at face value, and dig into the metrics to see how customers are actually using the service.

“Deciphering what users are telling you and what they actually are doing is an art,” he says.

“Taking their words at face value can be very different to how they actually behave. That’s the gap we tend to pay closer attention to.”


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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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