4 Ways Product Managers Can Create a Customer-centric Product
For any product to survive, it has to keep evolving based on customer expectations and needs. Brands have to be constantly involved in R&D so that the product doesn’t lose its vision and becomes outdated. This is particularly prevalent in the technology sector. Here’s where product management plays a vital role in shaping the product’s future.
Product management is art and science combined. Be it creating the roadmap or working on new features, it takes more than data for a product manager to make a decision. A lot of gut feeling is involved. Most importantly, you should understand your customers well and have good intuition.
– Shankar Ganesh, Product Manager at Freshworks
As a product manager, it’s important to be all ears to what customers think about the product. Be it their usage, likes and dislikes or suggestions, knowing them well is what makes way for a product that is both functional and customer-centric. But how do you create a product that is both successful and liked by customers?
1. Read Support Tickets
The first thing you need to do is start reading support tickets. Support tickets are your window into what customers actually think.
When we released Freshdesk Mint UI, we thought it was great. It’s when we got around 10,000 tickets over one year talking about how the UI felt cluttered, we observed that we had to do a lot of improvements.
For example, in the older UI, Freshdesk tags allowed users to organize their tickets. These tags were positioned in the ticket properties section.
However, in the Mint UI, these tags were moved above the ticket’s subject line, causing the agents to miss updating the tags.
If our customers had not pointed this out to us (through support tickets), we’d never have known about this issue. This led us to move the tags back to property fields in the Mint UI.
While we had planned to build a lot of other features post Mint release, it’s the support tickets that made us realize we needed to fix a lot of fundamental issues.
How to Incorporate Support Tickets in Deciding Product Roadmaps
When it comes to deciding the product roadmap, most teams take purely data-driven decisions rather than listen to customers. They treat the roadmap as a mere release plan for upcoming features which is a grave mistake.
Before you plan a roadmap, look into support tickets and listen to the problems customers are desperately trying to solve. Find out what’s bothering your customers on both universal and small scale.
As a product manager, you can’t be data-driven. You have to be data-informed. Rather than looking at the number of feature requests, take a closer look at how much the customers are troubled by a problem. Observe the kind of words they use to describe their problem. This will reveal the customer’s level of frustration.
– Sudharshan Karthik, Product Manager at Freshworks
For example, when data said that agents who used Freshdesk deleted a lot of solution articles, we thought we needed to build a trash. On the other hand, it’s the support tickets that revealed that most of them were accidentally pressing the delete button. This led us to add more friction in the deletion experience by including a popup.
Had we relied solely on data, we would have gone ahead and built a trash instead of understanding the actual issue.
While you can fit data into any hypothesis you want, it’s not going to inform what customers are using a feature for. Instead, use support tickets to build a deeper understanding of the data. This kind of data-informed approach brings you one step closer to taking the right decision.When the anecdotes and the data disagree, the anecdotes are usually right. There is something wrong with the way that you are measuring it. Click To Tweet
2. Talk to Customers
If you’re a product manager, make it a habit to talk to customers. Before building a feature, show it to some customers. In case you can’t meet them in person, email them and ask if they would like a feature demo.
If there’s a community forum for your customers to discuss your product/services, reach out to those customers who actively participate in it. If you’re planning to update a feature, search the community threads for the suggestions given by customers who’re using the current version of the feature. Contact them if you are going to incorporate their suggestions to get further details.
Find Out How Customers Use the Product
Customers are pros when it comes to using a product in both creative and unimaginable ways. This is especially true when customers are desperately trying to use your product for some use case. Which is why you need to keep asking customers for different ways they use the product.
For example, right from the beginning, one thing we’ve come across is customers have tried using Freshdesk in ways it wasn’t designed to be ‘used’. Some of our B2B customers who offered support through Freshdesk had multiple products under their brand. But since we didn’t offer a multi-product helpdesk back then, they started creating multiple Freshdesk accounts one for each product. Though this was something we never expected, it made us realize their struggle and create a solution where our customers can offer support for multiple products from a single account.
Apart from this, there’s another case where customers create workarounds without knowing there’s a solution inside the product. If many customers ask “How do I do this?” and there’s already a feature that does that, it means that the product copy is complex where the customers are unable to connect with the feature.
Here’s where you have to talk to these customers. Their feedback is important for you to understand their problems in their language. This helps you identify if the product copy needs to be made simpler or if the feature needs to be refined.
3. Talk to Your Sales and Support Team
Since the sales and support people interact with customers day in and day out, getting their opinion about a feature gives a lot of insights. It helps you improve the product from all aspects.
For example, every time we demoed the Freshdesk help widget to people belonging to sales and support team, they gave us new ideas. One salesperson asked if we could position the widget on top right corner of the website. Though the widget will look weird when it drops down from the top, it was an interesting suggestion. Had we not spoken to that salesperson, we would not have given the customization options which let customers position the help widget either in bottom right or bottom left of their website.
4. Use Product Analytics Software
Releasing feature after feature might be great but only if most (if not all) of the customers adopt it. Here’s where a product analytics tool helps track how many people are using the feature.
When we roll out any new feature in Freshdesk, the product analytics tool would notify us every time a customer uses that feature. This would give data on how the feature is doing and whether it needs more promotion to boost its adoption rate.
By looking at your customer’s usage, you will get to know the extent to which each feature shapes the product. This also helps you determine how well the new features are resolving customer issues.
Creating a customer-centric product is not easy. It’s the responsibility of a product manager to tune into how customers feel about the product and make sure every touchpoint meets their expectations.
Begin with reading support tickets followed by scheduling customer calls. Both these methods are great ways to obtain customer feedback and identify their issues with the product.
In addition to the above, talk to sales and support people as they are the ones who know customers really well. You can also make use of product analytics to view the performance of various features.
As a product manager, you need to combine both intuition and customer insights to keep the product updated. After all, it’s the product manager who paves the path for creating a successful product.
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