Is Your Product Team Playing With Fire?
What makes a product flop? This question, and the fear of a failed launch, lurks in the minds of most product development professionals. No one wants their creations to go down in flames, after all.
Obviously, a tight customer feedback loop is essential to the success of product development. And no one knows a business or its clients like a customer success team. But while customer success is one of the best resources that a product team has, this key cross-functional relationship is often overlooked.
If a product team doesn’t collaborate with its customer success team, they might as well be playing with fire.
“Customer success is a superb resource for learning more about users given their first-hand daily experience managing the front lines. We need to trust them to voice the true needs of our users,” said Mike Figueroa, senior product manager at CraftJack. “Pretending to fully know your customers’ needs without actually speaking with them is dangerous, which is why user discovery is so important.”
As a product professional who works to optimize a service that connects homeowners with home improvement professionals, Figueroa relies heavily on customer success to get an accurate pulse on users’ needs. Here’s how he helps his team forge that key relationship with the voice of CraftJack’s customer.
Tell us a bit about how your customer success and product teams work together and how you nurture this relationship.
The product team relies heavily on customer success to get an accurate pulse read on our customer’s heartbeat. Product will often bounce ideas off the customer success team to see how an end-user might react to it. They also come to the product team with great feature request ideas that are typically representative of the needs of a large user base.
Our product workflow begins with a requirements gathering and white-boarding meeting designed to uncover the problem, talk about customer feedback and land on the best approach to a solution. This early meeting is important for sharing knowledge and discussing potential solutions to the problem. Discussions like this allow all stakeholders a chance to voice their individual perspectives and priorities in solving a particular problem so that we may better understand each person’s point of view. The key to nurturing these relationships is frequent, welcomed and open communication within a culture built on trust.
What is the biggest challenge you see customer success and product teams run into when working together?
One big challenge that customer success and product teams face is working in isolation without bringing in the end users. Teams need to make an effort to invest in qualitative and quantitative user research through methods such as interviews and data analysis.
Challenges must be communicated so everyone is cognitively, emotionally and logistically invested in product success.”
What’s a strategy you’ve found to be particularly effective for creating and maintaining alignment among teams?
Constant, transparent communication. Product teams need to create cross-functional alignment between various internal and external stakeholders who all have their own agendas. Meetings need to be held between stakeholders to bring everyone together on the same page, and challenges must be communicated as they arise so that everyone is cognitively, emotionally, and logistically invested in the success of the product.
As our work has transitioned into a remote model, relying on cloud-based collaborative environments has become not only a necessity but a truly positive, efficient and effective resource. The creation and constant updating of visual user flows demonstrating product pathways helps us all better identify areas needing improvement. Keeping these touchpoint timelines up to date while revisiting them with diverse groups of people from various departments within the organization has proven an effective way of helping every team feel a sense of ownership and shared understanding of our product goals.