If you want to be a bad product manager, ask customers to tell you why they love your product. You want to know what you’re doing well so you can keep doing it. Make sure you understand your strengths and core competencies. Avoid discussing areas that might be weaknesses — you don’t want your customers to think about them. If they start voicing their discontent on specific aspects of your product or company, quickly defend yourself and change the conversation back to more positive areas.
If you want to be a good product manager, ask customers to tell you why they hate your product. While it is inspiring to hear customers describe talk about how great you and your product are, not as much can be learned from this as can be learned from listening to customers complain.
It may seem counterintuitive to ask customers to talk about things they hate. Product managers need to be helping to promote their products and make customers want to buy and use them, right? Of course, and the strange paradox is that by telling you about what they dislike about your product you can actually help keep those customers as customers. There’s a few reasons this works:
- It can help you improve your product and service. Customers are giving you great information (for free!) on what you can improve to be more successful. Take that information and use it to create better products, leading to happier customers.
- It can help calm upset customers. Sometimes people just want to vent. They just want to know that someone is listening to them. Even if you do nothing about their complaints (though you should), the simple fact of visiting a customer and listening to their frustrations will improve their opinion of your product.
- It can help to understand areas of confusion. Maybe they are frustrated because they think your product does not include a certain feature. You know the product includes a similar feature, but it is something that is not communicated well or not easy to use. There may already be a solution to that customer’s frustration — describing the feature, showing them how to use it — which will make them happy. Then, you just need to work on promoting and improving the product for the many other customers who may be having the exact same frustrations.
On ack/nak, Bob Corrigan relates a specific experience in asking customers what they hate about his product:
We visited two significant customers yesterday and asked them to tell us (I’m paraphrasing here) what we do that sucks. … The big take-away for me – the one that still has me blinking – was how happy they were about it. At the end of both calls, the sense was “there are areas where you can improve, but we’re glad to be working with you.” As hard as it is, being honest with your customers about where you fall short, what you plan to do to not fall short, and setting expectations for how you’re going to measure progress, these are all high-value activities.
Understanding why customers like you is always useful to learn — to communicate to the rest of your team and make sure you are continuing to deliver on your core competencies — but by spending most of your time understanding what can be improved, you will be better equipped to improve your product and improve your customer satisfaction.