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Why Customer-Centricity Matters in Product Management

Updated: Feb 14

article from ronke

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Those products that have changed us and made our lives easier, or even enhanced humanity, have that impact and reach because the people who built those products emphasize customer-centricity above all else.

A remarkable product comprises fragments of innards and building blocks, blending utility, performance, efficacy, satisfaction, enjoyment, and beguilement into a seamless experience. Above all, this product can tap into our deepest emotions, becoming an integral part of our lives without which we simply cannot envision living. Notable examples include smartphones, which have not only revolutionized communication but have also spawned new businesses and educational paradigms. These devices transcend income barriers, enabling effective interaction and becoming indispensable for pivotal moments.

Another product that embodies this transformative essence is the Ultrasound machine, now portable and robust, transforming healthcare, especially in underserved areas. This innovation is reshaping diagnostics, making healthcare accessible, and saving lives in ways previously unimaginable.

These exceptional products reside within the recesses of our memory banks, forging a profound connection with our hearts and souls. To successfully develop and launch such a product, fostering and nurturing a customer-centric approach within our organizations is imperative, ensuring that every aspect of the customer experience is thoughtfully crafted and prioritized.

What is customer-centricity?

Customer centricity signifies that product leaders and their cross-functional partners make it part of their values to assimilate and have knowledge of their customers’ circumstances, assessments, experiences, and expectations.

Product teams and their multidisciplinary partners embody customer centricity by using a first principles framework to deconstruct problems into smaller fragments and utilize them to create creative, innovative solutions. These teams also employ what we know concerning human psychology and product consumption information to assist in designing products and features that will deliver value to their client base.

Essential customer experiences to consider

An example that resonates with this notion of customer centricity, I once worked out of a customer's law office for four weeks. This experience proved invaluable in comprehending their end-to-end workflow and the hurdles they faced. It provided insights beyond communicated feedback, revealing a crucial need for a bilingual product. With 99% of their customers and all staff members speaking Spanish, it was apparent that the intake forms used to gather information from clients needed to be in Spanish as well. This revelation was the "aha moment" most Product Managers dream of, and it was only achievable because I fully immersed myself in their world.

To further assimilate, learn and grasp their customers' experiences, product teams and their interdisciplinary partners implement and participate in the following customer experiences.

1. Customer Support/Technical Support

In any company, the team that has a treasure trove of information about that organization's customer base is the technical support team, acting as the eyes and ears of the establishment. They can provide product teams with a list of onboarding and servicing issues and the workarounds they have employed. It benefits product leaders and their cross-functional partners to shadow and listen to technical support calls, offering a great way to understand pain points and challenges and empathize with both the caller and the technical support representative.

Technical support teams also foster strong relationships with power users and willingly connect them with the product management team. These power users play a pivotal role in attending customer events like advisory boards and focus groups, offering critical perspectives and insights that guide product enhancements.

2. Customer Advisory Boards

When product leaders join any organization, regardless of the size or industry, one of the first things they do is to try to garner how their organization and product teams have been getting customer feedback and validation of the roadmap and vision.

If the product or organization does not have a client advisory board, they create one with power users of their products. This type of committee can discern how they and other customers are truly utilizing the products, what features and attributes of those products are most substantial, paramount, or advantageous to them, and what additional third-party tools they use to get their job done.

3. A Day In The Life Of Your Customer

Another customer-facing activity product leaders should make use of is the "A Day in the Life of Your Customer” series, which can be done monthly. The cross-functional partners that should be included in these events are the engineering team, design lead, and product marketing manager.

The objective of this 90-minute event is to ascertain a full process from start to finish of how their clients use their products to accomplish their jobs. These gatherings and discussions assist cross-functional team members in reviving their customers’ pain points, motivations, concerns, and what keeps them up at night concerning their jobs. These proceedings help to understand their customers better. The more organizations identify with and empathize with their customers, the more they understand what to build and how to market to them efficiently.

4. Focus Groups

Adding focus group outcomes is another opportunity that enables product leaders to gather with their customers to converse about the products or services they currently offer or another product concept. Product leaders and their marketing partners either implement and run these sessions themselves or bring in market research firms to elicit ideas, feelings, thoughts, and responses.

All customer reactions, answers, and retorts are assessed and examined by the cross-functional teams as it dispenses the possible response of the larger market segment, which in turn provides them with information on how to message and sell their product and or services.

5. Usability Studies

Enactment of usability testing is one of the most indispensable phases in the product development stages. While not all features require usability testing, it is invaluable and imperative in helping multidisciplinary teams discover user interface (UI) and design challenges and hindrances before development and launch.

When product leaders and their design and research partners implement usability studies early in the product development life cycle, they learn more about their client’s needs. They can make better design and user experience adjudications. This, in turn, ameliorates their product, and most importantly, they end up with ideas into how other customers would utilize and contend with their product or features.

6. Behavioral Science Firms

Product leaders, multidisciplinary partners, and their leaders tend to believe that customers make reasonable, rational, and perceptive decisions, and they wholeheartedly believe in their customer‘s behavior. Studies have shown that there is an enormous divergence and disparity between what customers truly do and what they convey they do.

To comprehend and recognize this discontinuity and to design, build, and launch products that offer true value to their clients, product management teams engage and bring in behavioral science firms because they will assist in constructing behavior modification into a product from hypothesis to execution. What we know about human psychology and our product consumption information can help us design products and features that deliver value.

7. Surveys

Every product leader should lead the charge of effecting surveys in partnership with their product marketing manager (PMM). Ascertaining the opinions of their customers dispenses and suggests invaluable responses, and more exigently, the product team and their leaders need to know what their clients are thinking and why they think that way, and also the effect on the organization.

Enacting surveys means product leaders and their interdisciplinary partners' teams can grasp their client‘s insights and viewpoints, which can also influence the product roadmap, impacting prioritizations such as addressing pain points over new features. Choosing to address pain points and bugs demonstrates to the customer base the organization they partner with cares and wants to continue nurturing and cultivating a trusting relationship. Most meaningfully, it indicates to customers that the organization is committed to helping them manage and grow their business which is crucial in B2B.

8. Marketing

Partnership with the marketing department is one of the most important relationships for any product leader. Through this collaboration, product leaders can gain insight and awareness into the buyer persona, user persona, and ideal customer profile of their customer base. This knowledge helps to understand the decision-makers and power users and their motivations, frustrations, and how to engage them. These comprehensions assist product leaders in discovering how to make these personas heroes in their organization using their product.

Another outcome of this alliance with the marketing team is they can provide competitive market analysis. They own and have historical context into their product’s competitors, what features they have and do not have, how they charge for it, and most importantly, how to acquire market share.

9. Win-Loss Interviews

To get the whole picture and make sense of how prospects and future customers decide to purchase products, PM leaders conduct “Win-Loss” interviews and assessments. The valuable experiences aid product teams in understanding how their product and organization are regarded in the marketplace, what feature gaps that exist that competitors might have, the problems the product solves, and identifying which competitors are winning new deals and why.

Final Thoughts

Product leaders, cross-functional teams, leadership, and the whole organization must be customer-centric to build products that will improve our society, change humanity, and move us forward. Their customers are at the center of all their decisions. They never take the easy way out, significantly if it impedes the user experience and design. They see these hindrances as an opportunity to be fearless and innovative.

To be product-led, customer-centricity is not just a mission or core value, it is part of their DNA, and this is what makes these organizations productive and successful; their customers feel the love and return it with a fierce loyalty for the brand.

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