A product-perspective on Customer Experience

I want to share a framework that I created to review the customer experience of my product, as I started in a new role. I hope that it offers you an opportunity to review the customer experience for your product, whether you’re starting out or if you’ve been on a product for a while. I see this framework as particularly relevant if your product is part of a product suite. You might have a Marketing or Customer Experience team, yet they will be interested in the customer experience overall and not necessarily look at how your product fits into it.

1. Product Marketing

The Marketing department is brilliant at what they do, however, as PM you know your product best. The Marketing team doesn’t have the time to understand the ins and outs of your product and will need you to come to them to help your product’s web page or campaign. You should regularly review the first point of contact that potential clients have with your product online, be it on your website, your social media or online ads. You need to be the external and internal advocate for your product. Make sure your product’s name is consistent in the product and on your online marketing channels — this may seem obvious but you’d be surprised. Make sure the proposition of your product is clear — and that also the most relevant features are advertised without creating false expectations.

2. Your product in the trial journey

If like many Saas companies, yours offers a free trial, it is important for you to review the role your product plays in the journey. The trial is a sort of wooing period to convince trialists to convert to paying customers. The art of the trial is to get potential customers to understand your product and see its value to their lives without bombarding them with too much information. Sign up for the trial to see how potential customers will interact with your product. Is the essential value coming across, are customers encouraged to try your product? Can you track whether they actually try it out? You’d be surprised at the flaws you may discover here.

3. The Sales team needs you

If your company uses Sales people for their larger deals, they can be one of your most important allies. It’s good to work hand in hand with them, by giving them extensive training, guides, 1-pagers and videos so that they can effectively and truthfully depict what your product does. Let’s face it, if there’s gaps in their knowledge, they might start to fill them with what they would like the product to do!

They are also your eyes and ears when you are busy prioritising the backlog and engaging in discussions with design and engineering. The input from the Sales team will help you build an effective roadmap. They can also enable you to meet your customers face-to-face. The Sales team will know exactly what will make or break a deal. While not all they say should be taken for gospel, speaking to your sales team will keep you grounded.

4. Track and review commitments made during sales

When large sales deals are made, it is likely that your sales team will commit to certain features being built. This would generally require your input and agreement. Yet if you’ve just started, you’ll have to catch up as to what the intention of each request is. The customer success managers or account managers will make sure you’re on track with customer commitments. The challenge here is to address these requests while also building a strategic roadmap that isn’t a list of random features each required by a different customer. Following only feature requests from customers will at worst create an unusable product, and at best a highly complicated product with two levels of advanced settings.

I know that this can be challenging, especially if some of your customers represent large deals and there is pressure on you to make them happy.

The best thing is to work with the Sales team to get customers to commit to certain features, which are already on your roadmap. Get them excited about upcoming features and ensure that any new commitment fits into the overarching strategy of your product.

5. Identify your important customers

These aren’t necessarily the largest deals for your company but rather the super-users of your particular product. They are the ones who wouldn’t want to go without it. Identify who they are, who their contact in the company is and foster a good relationship with them. Make sure they know how to reach you and understand your roadmap. If possible, arrange to meet your super-users in person so as to get their input first-hand. Their feature requests will be well-informed and a close relationship with them will help you build a better product. They might give you feedback on early designs and be a good sounding board for new ideas.

6. Have clear insights into your product

Analytics. Analytics. Analytics. You need them, but don’t overdo it. There is plenty of advice out there to track MAU, DAU, or better ARPMAU and ARPDAU. However, what is key is to understand what matters for your product. This may not be the same for other products on the same platform as yours. For me, I have found mapping the user journey across the different products and on my product, helped to define what metrics really mattered.

I am continuously learning and improving the data I use to measure product success. I found it useful to define between 3–5 different variables, which I can track over time and communicate to the rest of the company. The biggest struggle was defining active users, and what tools to use to measure their activity. This quantitative data will complement what your users are telling you directly and help you understand the bigger picture and support the features on your roadmap.

7. Inform your customers, don’t spam them

Another skill is to keep your users informed of new updates that can solve their problems, without sending too many emails or constantly nudging them inside your product, especially if there are several product managers competing for user communications. Select the main features and find ways to bundle new ones together. If you can, give the user value update — e.g. ‘here’s how sharing has been improved across mobile, web and desktop’.

Striking that balance is an art, and the user engagement team will be a good advisor in this case, as they will often channel all communication — depending on the size of your company.

8. Inform your colleagues, don’t spam them

Don’t forget about your internal users — especially the customer facing teams: Support, Marketing, Customer Success as well as other Product Managers. They need training on new features your team develops. Believe me, they hate finding out about a new feature from a complaining customer.

There’s however a difficult balance to strike here between under-communicating and over-communicating. If you describe every push notification and transition you’ve been working on, people will quickly switch off. That’s why you need to communicate to them in terms of the value the feature brings, whenever possible, share a screenshot or recording so that they can visualise it.

9. Know the industry.

Being aware of product developments in the industry is important to stay competitive. Your sales team will offer great insights into what your customers like in other products. This will help you appreciate a competitor’s feature that on the outside may not seem like a major innovation but solves a critical problem.

Use Twitter as a news curation website, attend industry events (live-stream big conferences — Google, Microsoft or Apple events) and sign up to your competitors’ and bloggers’ newsletters so that the information will come to you. It is easy to stop paying attention to the industry when your team needs your attention. However, it is key to stay on top and understand the latest trends, because this is what separates the good from the great.

I hope this framework has got you thinking about the customer experience of your product and helped you identify whether there’s anything you can improve. I still go back to this framework every now and then to check whether I am doing the right things.

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