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Convert, grandfather or alienate

Three approaches to handling changes that users might not be happy about.

Things change

As you improve your product, you will, of course, add and remove features. Sometimes you will make changes that significantly impact your users. When that has to do with how you handle money, a portion of your users might be reluctant or even angry.

In such situations, you will effectively have three choices: work to convert them, grandfather them in or politely ignore them.

Convert important customers to important changes

Justify why you made the change. Clarify why it is good for them as well. And get feedback on how to improve it.

Ideally, do this before the change goes into effect.

Grandfather-in for changes that have a wide but shallow impact

The most obvious example of this is allowing customers to continue with their existing pricing packages.

In Supplybunny, we changed our commission structure. Existing customers, however, would remain on their existing commission structures for a transitionary period.

But set a cut-off date

Before the cut-off date, periodically inform your customers that you will no longer support these changes. Explain the reasoning behind the change and the potential alternatives.

Allow them the choice to switch immediately.

Essentially, grandfathering is converting a wide range of customers slowly and then politely ignoring them.

Implementation is similar to feature flags

The implementation details are very similar to feature flags with a few additional steps.

However, feature flags are just switches to the new way. For grandfathering, there is an additional level of complexity in having to maintain two different ways of doing things.

Politely ignoring a customer

The big companies do this for pretty much all their changes. The response to questions regarding the change is the most diplomatic version of “It is what it is”

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