We live in an age of infinite dashboards and data points.
We Product Managers work with Data Analysts and run query after query, searching for answers within A/B tests and conversion funnels and Nth day retention cohorts.
We are data driven explorers searching for treasure within fancy ML algorithms and SQL queries and business intelligence tools that took months to integrate even though their Sales Engineer said it would only take a week.
We create OKR’s and we update them on a quarterly basis and we try so hard to conquer our Key Results so we can prove that our intuition is right and we are in fact product people who know how to prioritize our roadmap.
But at some point, most of us stop talking to our customers. We don’t do it on purpose, but it happens. We start spending too much time staring at charts and email reports, and not enough time asking the people who pay us with their time, energy, and wallets what they think.
As your company grows, you will probably talk to your customers less and less. You will have more data and more teammates and more of everything.
Life will get busy and you will start to believe you have all the answers because you’ve been solving this problem for a long time. You will become slightly jaded even though you say that you’re humble and curious and customer driven.
The best product idea I’ve had in the past 3 years happened last year when I was sitting at a restaurant in Santa Monica ordering a drink.
I was waiting for a group of friends to arrive and sitting alone in a room and my waitress asked me where I worked. I told her and she stopped everything she was doing to tell me what she really thought about our product.
The feedback was honest and raw and human. No amount of data could have ever told me those thoughts. I sat and listened, amazed at how clearly she explained what she wanted from our product.
Sometimes impromptu feedback sessions like this happen and I zone out. I’m tired after a long day at work or I’m worried about my phone or I’m just distracted. I’m human — we all do this.
But at dinner that night, I actually listened to her feedback and I thought about what she said for weeks and it was one of the most important moments of my product career.
When the feature is released, I want to go back to that restaurant and show her the product and say thank you. Seriously thank you. You took time out of your busy life to help me understand your feelings, ideas, and emotions.
Data is incredibly important. A/B tests are incredibly important. OKR’s are incredibly important.
But never stop listening to your customers — even if you’re ordering dinner and you’re tired and you’re hungry.
Customers are your product. And they are more important than anything else.