Hey Product Managers, Your Customer are Humans

Your customers are humans, no really… they are. They have bad days, they feel emotion, they’re unpredictable, and they see things differently than you or I do.

Why is this important? As a product manager it is all too easy to get caught up in KPIs, obsessed with metrics like NPS and retention rates, and lose sight of what really matters — Making the experience of your product pleasant and intuitive for a human being. Then identifying where to sacrifice precious resources to maintain and improve that experience. The rest of the metrics will follow if you can continually strive for that.

Part of making products for humans is understanding their emotions. Do users flock to your product because they’re anxious, angry, frustrated, excited, or bored? When they first start using your product what changes about their emotion? What about after they’ve finished?

In order to break this open further, think about each of your personas. They likely are motivated differently to use your product and with that comes different emotions throughout the process. Too often as product managers we get stuck on what each personas is asking for and we don’t document what they’re feeling that is leading to that request. Those emotions can help in creating meaningful KPIs, user journey mapping, prioritization, and understanding risks.

Once you have mapped out what emotions are felt by each persona at each stage of your product experience look at your product as if you are seeing it through their eyes. The eyes of a stock broker who sometimes loses more money in a day than you make in a year, and then goes home and uses your application to unwind. Or a teacher who is so passionate about her job she uses your product to research the latest studies on how children learn. The anxiety of creating lesson plans over the weekend is turned into excitement for the week ahead.

When you start to understand these stories, and how they blend together into a theme, you really have something valuable. You have ammunition when an executive at your company pushes to remove a feature from your product. You know how important it is to an entire industry of people, you have data to push back with. You know it has value, but if its still not achieving a KPI that your business is hoping for then you need to understand and explain why that is.

As you learn more about your human customer you might realize that you have been building an application for a demographic that doesn’t have time to use it. Your main users it turns out are mothers, and you’ve been trying for 3 months to increase the amount of daily sign ins. After talking to one user, you realize she does not have an extra second to spare in her daily schedule. No matter how much you improve the experience she is never going to sign in an extra time per day. You do know that she turns to your product because she feels loneliness and isolation, after connecting with other moms going through similar situations she feels connected to the outside world and also educated on new things to try with her child. Instead of increasing logins per day, you focus on features that enhance the feeling of being connected to others.

Whatever the outcome, knowing your customer and reminding yourself that they are perfectly wonderful humans too will help you make better product decisions. Ultimately, this will allow you to put resources in the right areas, defer on the wrong features to outpace competition, and build upon the foundation of your product.