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Using User-Stories, So Your Reviews Don’t SUCK

In SAFe Distilled 5.0: Achieving Business Agility With Scaled Agile Framework by Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell, it is stated that the best way to express the needed functions of new products and services is through user stories. This is because the format of a user-story provides teams with the necessary guidance to comprehend who uses their product or system, what they’re doing with it and why they do it. Many may think of the phrase user stories and associate them with reviews being posted with stars on a company website, or social media page, expressing how they felt about a product or service, and an aspect of that rains true, however, user stories within this context are stripped down to the bare bones of what each review may say. For example, the below, completely fictional review of a vacuum cleaner.

Good Old Bobby's Lightweight Deep Cleaner - £124.99 GBP

A lightweight vacuum for getting through the grit of daily dirt and dander in the home; a fast and efficient cleaning solution.

** - False Advertising, Total Waste

My name is Kaitlyn McPherson and I bought a new vacuum cleaner, produced by your brand at Argos about two months ago, because I was moving house. I have arthritis and cannot bend my knees, so your vacuum looked like the best choice, with its head being able to go almost completely flat against the floor, there should have been no reason to worry.

The machine did not hold up to the wear that deep-cleaning my former home needed. It became clogged by cat hair under the sofa, and barely lifted any of the dirt that had been trampled into the rug fibres. Poor quality, indeed. A complete waste of time and money, I had to go back over everything with a dustpan and brush! Very disappointed as your adverts said that your vacuum was a hardy machine that could handle the wear of pet dander.

Now, if we dissect this theoretical review, we can unpick that although this is a rather long strain of comments, most of the information is not relevant when looking for the source of the two-star rating.

The second paragraph highlights that the product, having been declared as one capable of a deep clean, should have been apt for getting lift from dirt embedded deeply within carpets and rugs. However, that is not what the ad above it said; instead, this ad refers to the fact that this product will lift the daily grit and dirt, therefore is a cost-effective investment in the form of a lightweight vacuum for daily use.

If we unpick this and format it into a user story, following the aforementioned format of “as a (user role), I want (activity) to, so that (business value)”, Kaitlyn’s review would have said: “as a consumer, I want my vacuum to be advertised with clarity so that I don’t buy it to deep clean my home”. It can further be interpreted to mean “as a consumer, I want my vacuum to have stronger suction and anti-hair-wrap technology so it is not clogged by cat hair”. The business value in both of these instances is in fact to make sure that negative reviews no longer crop up with this in mind. This means that Kaitlyn’s two-star review has two focus areas, and thus needs two user-stories.

Therefore, the company, Good Old Bobby, has to do two things: focus on its advertising, because at a glance at the product name, “Good Old Bobby’s Lightweight Deep Cleaner”, of course Kaitlyn would have interpreted it as a machine that could have handled a thorough cleaning of her former home, it needs to be marketed with a clearer explanation that this vacuum is great for daily cleans to reduce deeply embedded dirt etc. and is not a professional cleaning tool.

The second area Good Old Bobby has to focus upon is their claim that the vacuum can handle pet dander. Of course, everyone with pets probably knows the woes of shedding season to some extent, with dogs, a once brown carpet can turn white with the moulting from one dog during just 24 hours, depending on its size, coat density, coat type and hair length. It can be a season of great strain on the daily use vacuum, so you want a piece of kit that can handle that extra oomph when it needs to. So, although Kaitlyn’s example is an extremity, focusing on improving this technology will likely improve their customer satisfaction in the long run.

Using user-stories makes handling and applying the reviews of your products and services much more efficient and rids it of emotional weighting. Therefore, you can approach you solutions to the problems with a clear mind.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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