Software bugs, all of us despise them. You might prefer to call them by their politically correct name — defects. I still despise them. Yet many companies seem to ignore them. Are they hoping no one will notice? Do they expect bugs to scamper away on their own? Maybe they believe customers will be able to squash the bugs themselves!
Here are a couple of personal anecdotes. These companies are well-known and their software systems are widely used but they are not unique.
I used Yahoo! Mail for a few years. I liked the user interface and I still do. I think Yahoo! Mail is better than Google’s Gmail from a strictly user experience point of view. The UI is cleaner and more intuitive in my opinion. Yet I switched to Gmail.
Why? Yahoo! Mail had bugs that never got fixed. I reported them. I explained why I felt the bugs were a major problem. I even explained what the proper behavior should be. I got nothing.
Weeks and months went by and nothing. Sure, I received acknowledgements regarding my submissions but nothing changed. And to be clear, I was a paying customer, not a freeloader. I felt neglected.
My current company pays lots of money to use the Salesforce.com software-as-a-service. I’ve reported several bugs to Salesforce. The usual response is “that’s a feature”. Thanks, but bugs are never features. Never.
On occasion, their response is “submit a request to the IdeaExchange”. For those unfamiliar with Salesforce, the IdeaExchange is a customer forum where feature requests are submitted and voted on. It’s really a terrific concept. But, it’s not where bugs belong.
On a couple of rare occasions when I’ve actually gotten Salesforce to acknowledge a defect and forward it to their developers, they immediately close my defect report and I never hear another word about the issue. I also have never witnessed one of my reported defects get fixed — never.
Defect Repairs Are Critical
The lack of response by these companies is far from unique. It’s natural for all of us to focus on new features. We always want the software to do more. We always want the software that we use to have all the features that the competition does. New features are a driving force for gaining new customers and increasing market share. I get that.
Shipping lots of new features with an ever-growing list of open defects is a disaster-in-progress. If a vendor can’t make what I have work reliably, why should I trust them to make new features work well? Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
Fix the bugs in your software. There are many arguments around how to track bugs. Should you add them to the backlog and treat them like stories? Should you track them outside the backlog? Should they be prioritized like stories or treated differently?
As a customer, I don’t care. Just fix them!