Hey Companies! What Not to Do When You Discontinue a Feature
It's a casualty of technology, especially being an early adopter. Investing your time and energy into new products is risky. You may get your friends to adopt and even your parents to be interested, spending meticulous time getting your new profile set up. But alas, sometimes you will lose the features you love or worst case, the company has to pivot to something completely new leaving you, the user, left holding the bag.
I recently had a service discontinue a feature I really liked (and spent hours building content around) which was unfortunate, but the worst part was the way it was handled by the company. As a user of many Internet things, and a community manager by trade, here's what not to do when a company discontinues a feature.
Do Not: Take the feature away without mentioning it to your users.
Your users will notice, even if it's a small percentage utilizing the feature. What makes the community mad is if you take away the feature without warning and force them to figure out "WTF happened?".
Do: Communicate openly with your users
People want companies to be transparent and genuine. Be honest if the feature just didn't work or it's something that just can't be supported. People will get over it. Hopefully you've done a little user testing before you make the final decision.
Do Not: Take away a feature without providing a secondary solution
Ok, so you took away the feature. Now what? Again, you're forcing your users to go out into the Internet wilderness to find another solution and they will have to trial and error new things. And when those new things aren't as good they will curse you for making them have to go find a replacement.
Do: Provide suggestions for what your users should do now
Is there another way to do the same thing within your product? Do you have some great partners to work with? Or maybe you have other companies you like that can offer a solution? Roll up all of these things and give this valuable information to your users.
Do Not: Point your users to a separate solution they have to pay for
"We took away this feature, but we just partnered with XX that will provide a new solution! It's only $100 a year, that's a discount!" I got that message in real life - actually minus the communication about the feature being gone, that was never mentioned. I don't think I have to explain this one but overall don't tell your users to go pay for something else.
Do: See my second suggestion
Partner with another solution that will give your users options, ideally free to inexpensive.
Companies are people and they make mistakes but hopefully this particular group will learn from it.