(Customers Rule Everything Around Me)

Are you listening to your customers? Cool, listen more. It’s common knowledge that as a Product Manager you must be customer obsessed. The customer is the starting point for Product Managers. This is especially true in a startup environment where you often have to work backwards by starting with the customer.

Marty Cagan says it best, “the best product teams solve hard problems in ways their customers love, yet work for their business”. To make sure the customers love the product, a lot of time has to be dedicated to understanding the customer. If you are not listening to your customer enough, you end up creating solutions for problems the customers don’t have.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

  • Listen to your customer to understand the problem, stop listening when they tell you the solution
    • As a Product Manager you should be coming up with a solution the customers love
    • Great products are often a byproduct of intense collaboration between product, design and engineering to come up with a solution that customers love and makes sense for the business
  • Dig deep when interviewing customers
    • It’s easy for customers to be general when having a conversation, so don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions
    • For example a customer might say “I play a lot of basketball” when in reality they play basketball every other month
  • Use quantitative analysis to see the ‘What” and then qualitative analysis to see the “Why”
    • You can use quantitative data to get an overall picture and dig deeper with qualitative data
    • For example: You notice that you have an unusually high number of users in a specific region. You then conduct a user study for that region and notice that your product is solving a unique problem you never thought about
  • Get customer feedback on Prototypes
    • Demoing prototypes with customers can lead to a gold mine of valuable data
    • “Sprint” by Jake Knapp and the GV team has a great framework for conducting user interviews with Prototypes. If you haven’t already picked it up, you should. Even if you don’t plan on using the framework, it’s a treasure trove of validated models like this one: (The 5 act interview)
      1. Friendly welcome: Create comfort with the customer
      2. Context questions: Ask questions about the problem you are trying to solve
      3. Introduce the prototype: Let the user know you did not design it, and nothing they say will hurt or flatter you
      4. Tasks: Have some tasks available to understand some lingering questions
      5. Quick debrief: Talk about some of the things you observed, and use it as an opportunity to ask any follow up questions to gauge what they like/didn’t like
  • Break feedback down into actionable themes
    • Sometimes you can be bombarded with a ton of feedback from customers from all over the place, and it’s important to break it down into common themes
    • Breaking feedback down in to specific themes allows you to make sense of it all, and dig a little deeper in to what the problem is (this is a great opportunity to use the 5 “whys”)
  • You will hear negative feedback, don’t get defensive
    • It’s human nature to be married to your product and the decisions that you made
    • Negative feedback is the most valuable feedback because that’s what you need to improve your product
    • Leave your ego at home!

Get out and talk to users. You want to be able to empathise with the customer. The great thing is, they are always willing to talk and provide feedback and should be a regular part of your discovery process.

I know there is a lot that I have missed. If you have any other methods to get to know your customer better, comment below and start a conversation!

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