Shifting Through Change - A Story About Managing Product Releases

By Natalie Macks

It’s easy to take something for granted. There are skills you don’t notice until a change happens and suddenly you are struggling to do something that has always seemed second nature.

I’ve recently returned from a visit to Australia and had the experience of renting a car and driving around Tasmania for a week. I had ample warning going into this trip that there would be a change to navigate. Every time I mentioned renting a car, invariably someone would ask if I’d ever driven on the wrong, I mean left, side of the road. “No,” I’d answer “but it will be interesting to try it.” 

On picking up our rental, I noticed there was a small “Drive to the left” sticker directly on the speedometer. How helpful! Lucky for me, my partner likes driving and had even once driven a friend’s fancy car that had been imported and modified for the USA. So he had indeed driven a car from the passenger seat. I was all set.

Except sitting in the left side of the vehicle and having no control over the direction the vehicle was heading was unnerving as well! In those moments when the driver made a decision different than what my brain was directing, it was downright nerve wracking. And didn’t he realize how close to the edge of the road he was?!! Suddenly I was the worst back seat driver ever. What had happened to my trust?

Eventually I had my chance in the driver’s seat. I smugly eased on to the highway, using my turn signal on the left side of the steering wheel. I changed lanes with no issue and made it through the first couple of traffic circles on our way to the mountains. No problem, I thought. Until that third intersection when I suddenly realized that I needed to be one lane over. Like now. On went the windshield wipers. Oops. 

This experience reminded me that no matter how much warning you have, how thoroughly you prepared for it or how careful you are trying to be, when change comes your instincts and habits kick in. I have much more compassion for customers who have to go through a “simple” product change that my company expects to be intuitive and an improvement. Customers have a set amount of time in their day to accomplish a task that was routine, a habit. With this kind of change even the most patient and conscientious user will have moments when they just want things to work like they did before, no matter how many bells and whistles your marketing team lauds. Previous trust that has been earned can easily slip out the window. What can your success team do?


Give folks a heads up. Sometimes even small changes can have a big impact. The old maxim “better safe than sorry” applies. In app messaging, splash pages, even emails can all serve to alert users that “hey, something is different here”.

Gauge usage

Your best product experts are likely your customers. Set up your product usage alerts prior to launch so you can monitor how customers are interacting with new features. Are things taking longer? Are they dropping out of the sequence before completing a task? Are they skipping it entirely? 

Watch out

Track product changes in a calendar that you can easily correlate to your metrics. You’ll be prepared to identify any trends quickly and respond accordingly. You’d be surprised how many dips and peaks can correlate to releases.

Check in 

Product changes provide an excellent reason to reach out to your customers after launch. Give them a quick demo if needed and don’t forget to relay feedback to your product team.

Do your best to be prepared, be willing and able to respond to the unexpected, and keep on driving. The view from the top is almost always worth it! And I’m very happy to report that we returned our rental in excellent condition, even though we had a couple of “ARggggH!” moments.

Want to hear more about Natalie's amazing trip to Australia?  Connect with her on LinkedIn - she is an experienced traveler and customer success guru!  Want to learn how your customer success team can make sure that customers are prepared for new products?  The Success League helps SaaS companies achieve their potential by building and developing amazing customer success teams!

Natalie Macks - Natalie builds a culture of dedicated customer evangelists, as well as the systems and processes required for success.  Her award-winning leadership expertise coupled with integrity and passion produce increased customer retention and generate revenue.  With over 15 years in customer-facing roles, Natalie excels in bridging the gap between business technologies and the user experience.  She holds a BA in Zoology/Genetics from Michigan State University and resides in San Francisco, CA.