Product Nerd
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Product Nerd

Be more customer-centric with this 3-steps-framework 🔍

Customer-Centricity Overview: from former World-Champion Boxer 🥊 to the world’s richest man 💰

(David Travis — Unsplash)

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” — Mike Tyson.

We hopefully don’t get punched in the face by Mike Tyson 🥊. On the other hand, we get hit hard by the market reaction towards our product. This happens when we launch a product that is not customer-centric. The same occurs when the problem we are trying to solve is not severe enough.

Let’s add two other anecdotes from Jeff Bezos 📦, a customer-centric freak. The first one is the following:

Work backwards and scale forward (1) → 🤨 Let me explain what does this mean;

“Working backwards from customer needs often demands that we acquire new competencies and exercise new muscles, never mind how uncomfortable and awkward-feeling those first steps might be.”

Working backwards from customer needs can be contrasted with a skills-forward approach where existing skills and competencies are used to drive business opportunities. The skills-forward approach is the following: We are good at X. What else can we do with X? However, if used exclusively, the company employing it will never be driven to develop fresh skills. Eventually, the existing skills will become outmoded… 🔬

“Scale Forward” means, the right knowledge about what the customer needs have been acquired, therefore, go for it and scale in that direction. This is a continuous task. Backwards. Forward. Repeat. 🚀

(Paul Bergmeier — Unsplash)

Bezos, in certain meetings, places an empty chair in the meeting room and pretends that there sits a customer. And let everyone know about it. In today’s remote meeting, it is very easy to add a fictional Zoom customer to the call

Framework: 3 steps to customer-centricity:

This is a practical approach I have been using throughout the past years to understand the core issues of the users/ customers of the products I managed.

1. Fall in ❤️ with the Problem:

I like to read the role of a PM as the → Problem Manager. Falling in love with the problem helps me to understand the underlying truths about what each customer is trying to achieve regardless of the product he uses. I love to run interviews where I don’t even mention the product I work for and just ask the user about their daily routine (JTBD). Let’s say we are about to launch a new streetwear brand for t-shirt. Then I would ask the customer to guide me through a classic shopping experience. From 30 minutes before the start till 30 minutes after the purchase is done. So that I understand even better what’s around the customer, and what could prevent them to finalise the order. As a rule of thumb, we say that after five of these interviews, you have a clear understanding of what your persona find value gaining, painful and what are their needs. These interviews are a continuous iterative process as your persona might evolve over time.

  1. Value proposition canvas from Strategyzer is the number one tool to collect this information. Follow this link and you will understand how to use it best.
  2. Something I learned the hard way is that solving a problem is not enough. The problem you are solving needs to be severe 🚨enough for the customer to switch from its current status quo to your solution. I have a personal example where my switching cost was too high to try a new product, although I disliked the one I was using

→ (productivity app Microsoft To Do’s is the worst ❌❌, but i still used it for like a year… now thank God I changed to Notion ❤️)

2. Build a meaningful HUMAN relationship with customers:

Any interaction, 🙋‍♀️ personal or professional, starts with two human beings communicating. Empathy is a key driver to unlock successful interactions.

  1. Empathy allows you to gain quicker the trust of the person in front (be it a customer, user, colleague, etc.). And when someone trusts you, that someone can speak more freely and share more what is bothering them. So the feedback is not “politically correct” but rather truthful.
  2. Dig deeper with the 5 Why’s exercise. When trust is won. Then I apply the 5why ‘s framework — follow this link.

This is such a powerful methodology to cut the bulls**t and understand what is the emotion that moves the person in front of you. With the 5 Why’s, you can then write great headlines and targeted copy based on the emotions that move your users.

3. Continuous problem listening

Running user research once and then nothing for the next 5 months and just build a product is not enough. I experienced it and I have lost proximity to the market.

  1. Talk every 14 days with a customer 🔁

My rule is to talk to a customer at least every 14 days. We don’t necessarily talk about the product. Most of the time is about their business, struggles, wins, etc. Having 1:1 helps to understand the WHY behind certain struggles from the users.

This helps to build a core group of customers that are trusting me and where we are building a personal relationship. It helps a lot, especially when your customer base grows and you feel you “can’t” spend so much time anymore with users. It reminds you for whom are you working every day. We are not working for the product, but for those customers, whom we need to talk to.

2. Find the “What is going on” through data analysis 🔢

After talking to the customers, I analyse their behaviour through Web-Tracking data (this should be done daily). Data has a Macro overview of what is happening in the product. It helps me understand the WHAT. Through which I understand what users do on the product at scale.

Bonus 👂

Have you ever tried active listening → meaning listening to one person without thinking what to reply to. But just listening. And by this I mean not even say “mhmm, yes” “yes, I see” etc… not even that. Just be there and listen, that’s so powerful… and scary 👻 .


By following these 3 simple steps any product squad can easily become more customer-centric.

I am curious to hear your feedback!

P.S. shout out to my big friend simon bernhard for the exercise that brought me to write this text





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Tiziano Nessi

Tiziano Nessi

Saas, innovation and growth! Zurich based