Always Challenge The Customer

As a product manager, your job is to be customer-focused. Your end-game is to delight those customers. If customers are happy, your business grows and good things happen.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

One problem.

As your sales and marketing teams start to hum and you start signing up more customers, those customers are going to start requesting more features. Those requests will start pouring in through social media, customer support, account managers, your sales team and more (if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already heard the: “If we just had this one feature, they would sign today!” conversation).

This is the hard part.

Since your end goal is to delight your customers, your first reaction may be to say “That’s awesome! What a great idea. I’ll pass that along to the product team.” But the reality is that you’re actually doing the customer, and your product team, a disservice.

It’s critical to challenge the customer.

In more friendly terms, this means to ask your customer, or potential customer, the right questions to understand what it is they’re trying to accomplish.

The reality is if you take the customer’s request at face-value, there is no doubt that you will often be misled.

Here’s an example: let’s take the reports you get with Drift after you send an NPS survey to your customers.

We’ve had plenty of existing and potential customers request a CSV export for this data so they can manipulate it however they want. At first mention, this sounds like a great idea. I should probably tell the team about this to get it on the roadmap and tell the customer that I agree with the idea. Sounds easy enough right?

Let’s replay this scenario.

The customer requests a feature and instead of immediately reacting, you take a second to wonder why they want that feature.

You respond with “Why do you need a CSV export?” and you’ll likely hear that they want to run some specific analysis of the data and make a chart. Or maybe they want to take the data and then upload it into a different service.

Bingo. That’s not them asking for a CSV export feature — they just want a better way to see and integrate their data!

Now you can pass along that information to the product team and instead of making an additional CSV export feature and putting more work on the customer, you can spend the time to explore adding new data analysis to the reports or creating better integrations with existing services.

Make sure that when a customer requests a feature, you understand what they’re trying to accomplish so you identify the problem rather than taking a suggested solution or jumping to a conclusion for them.

Always push the customer to go further.

At the end of the day, you’ll make your customers happier if you understand their problem rather than agree with their suggested solution. Let your design and engineering own the solution; it’s your job to help them identify that problem if you’re on the front-lines hearing this feedback first-hand.