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Written by Anant Dhavale
on November 05, 2020

Good Product Managers know one thing for sure — the inherent value from a product or service cannot be unlocked unless a customer need or a problem is solved to the best possible extent. Do you really understand your customers’ needs?

Three key truths apply to your customers:

  1. Customers have needs, issues and problems.
  2. Customers are looking for simpler ways of doing things.
  3. Customers want you to listen to them carefully.

If you follow number three, you naturally have a better understanding of numbers one and two.

It always raises red flags when I hear someone say “We know it all” when it comes to their customer needs. To me, that is an alarming sign of proxies from within internal stakeholders wielding undue negative influence. To understand your real customers’ needs, issues and problems, you must go directly to your real customer.

Having a sound understanding of their problem is the most critical success aspect of any product or technology initiative. I am a big proponent of Productizing all transformation initiatives, yet I fully understand that not all engagements run as products. There are still a large number of implementation initiatives that are run in the traditional project manner. Irrespective of what philosophical models you follow, better understanding your customers is the most fundamental activity and cannot be ignored.

There are several ways of gaining customer insights. Empathy Interviews, Empathy Maps and Customer Journey Maps help you gain a clear understanding of the user’s feelings, touchpoints and experiences better. These tools also provide important inputs to your Backlog and can point your efforts in right direction. An abundance of low cost or free tools and templates are available online to help you carry out these tasks.

The next time you hear someone say “Oh this is the way it is, we know it well,” that’s your cue to go back to your customers, listen to them carefully and analyze all relevant data. The We Know It All (WKITA) attitude is one of the worst anti-patterns that can harm a transformation initiative and keep it from attaining the intended business outcomes. Don’t be a Know-It-All, instead learn from your customers.

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