Communicating Terms and Conditions in Product Management
I have always wondered when companies would be more transparent about their terms and conditions because almost nobody reads those things. It’s long, fonts are ridiculously tiny with no adequate character spacing to aid readability.
The Terms and Conditions article or document is designed to get you tired of reading and I mean they have used visually unappealing tactics to make this happen. Let’s not also forget the fact that these things are too long to skim through .
But a few months ago, WhatsApp came out and as Nigerians will say; “With their full chest” they informed users that their data is being stored and if the users don’t like it they can use the door or in this case delete their whatsapp.
A lot of persons have come out to speak against that announcement but as a product manager, I know that what they did was very transparent. They might have said it in a better way but the truth is that WhatsApp was honest and clear about a very crucial T&C for using the app.
The whole whatsapp saga got me thinking about something I do not often think about; Data Protection.
I have been drafting product requirment documents for a while now but I always leave out the technical legal aspects. The fault in that is that as the world becomes more global and as data compounds, regulation has also followed up, so it is important as a product manager to find out why and how aligned our product is with the law.
I have worked in a company with a full fledged legal team so I never had to bear the bruden of reading the far and wide about the law, but what if I find myself in a 5 man startup tomorrow where the CTO is also the CEO and I head the product team with a customer experience person, designer and engineer to support the CEO. Just 5 employees!
In the scenario stated above, I would have no access to an in-house legal team for counsel, the only thing would be to use the internet or have a paid consulting session with one.
Anway, the point here is that; as product managers we are suppossed to take care of the product so our users can keep using, a very important aspect of that care has a lot to deal with how we treat customer data and how we approach them with this information.
I have spoken to some PMs about the WhatsApp approach to the announcement they made and they all agree that the messaging although being honest was way off.
The big lesson for me me here is that as a PM, I need to be caring about not just the product but in the full extension; the user. Facebook sounded like they could not wait to exploit their user’s data.
We should never sound like we are using the customer but always make sure we communicate to them that we are serving them.
To conclude, I should also mention that when it comes to terms and conditions, you do need to speak to a lawyer. Pay for a consultation or ask a friend for some advice. It may not be during the early stages of the product but as you scale keep in mind that you could get sued for what you state or don’t state.