3 Surprisingly Easy Habits to Uncover Deeper Customer Problems
As product managers, if there was someone we want to spend more time with, it’s our customers.
One morning, my significant other asked me what my day looks like. With no hesitation, I said “Oh a bunch of sync meetings, and a brainstorming session”. He asked me this for a couple more days and my answer did not diverge from what I had quoted. I wasn’t lying though, if he looked at my calendar, it would look something like this.
Great, but where is the part where the customer comes in? Crap. This is a problem.
As product managers, knowing our customers and their objectives aren’t enough. Understanding why those objectives are important to them and empathizing on why they choose to persevere on their challenges is ultimately what we should be experts of.
After realizing this, the recurring theme became unacceptable. I’m busy and I wanted to find the quickest and most sustainable way to effectively know my customers more.
Here’s what I got for you.
1. Meet with your customers at least once per week
Speaking directly with your customers is such an indispensable opportunity. Why? Because of the power to “dig in a little deeper”.
A customer once told me that they wanted a high-end WiFi router. The conversation went like this:
Me: Why do you need a high-end WiFi router?
Customer: I need to monitor and control internet access in my home.
Customer: I need to see what websites my children visit.
Me: Okay, why?
Customer: So that I can tell them to stop going to risky websites.
Me: Why do you need to tell them not to go to risky websites?
Customer: So that they can avoid browsing and downloading content that are not appropriate for their age.
I don’t know much about internet routers, but I’m confident that it was not the best way to solve what she truly wanted which was having the confidence that her children will not obtain any non-children appropriate content from the internet. My customer came to me with a solution- not “the” solution. Had I not asked why so many times, I would not have uncovered her problem.
Having direct conversations with your customers will allow you understand & empathize with them by probing endlessly.
2. Be a fly on the wall in customer support calls
Can you think of a time when you called customer support to give praise to their award-winning service? Let me give you a minute.
Can’t think of any, huh? It’s because as customers, we only really reach out to customer support when something is wrong and need something fixed. Said differently, when there is a problem. Let that sink in.
Customer support is the mountain of the problem space. You can expect to hear what frustrates your customers, what copy seem to be unclear, what next steps they think are in the onboarding process but isn’t there, and above all, you can expect to hear the most absurd (sometimes brilliant) workarounds they have to solve for their problem.
Listening in on customer support calls will allow you to uncover the loudest, most painful, and most common problems that customers encounter. Hence, my mountain reference. It’s a great starting point, but should always be followed by deeper customer research.
3. “Reddit” your way through the online forums your customers hang out in
You’re familiar with Reddit, right? If not then here is my description of the platform. It’s a community-based network based on topics. People come here to talk about their interests, the news, an industry, their jobs and so much more-it’s endless.
As you can imagine, you will find your customers somewhere in this online solar system. Here, your customers will talk about anything regarding their role and everything impacting it such as your product and its competitors, they sometimes talk about the latest legal or compliance news they’ve heard, they even ask other professionals how they solve a problem and sometimes people even go to the extra mile by including a link to a public Google Drive folder including all of their templates and resources!
Reading through online forums will allow you to not only hear from your customers, their problems, and your product, but it will take you outside of your bubble where they talk about their problems with your product being out of the equation. This is a great resource for key insights about your customers that you or anyone else in your organization may have never heard of.
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle-and-bustle of sync meetings and solution ideation, but let’s not forget the pure value of customer research, and ensure that we spend equally as much time on that as we do with development.
To start off with one habit, I recommend adding an hour block to your calendar each week for the next 4 weeks titled “Listen to customers directly”, and do one of the three things I had shared with you. You will find it worth much more than “that meeting”.