How product managers can turn customer dissatisfaction into innovation
I am interviewing speakers at my favorite annual conference for product managers, the PDMA Inspire Innovation Conference. This discussion is with Tony Belilovskiy, whose session is titled “Voice of Customer in Product Design.” Tony will be sharing with us how you can turn customers’ perceptions (that is, their feelings) into numerical, objective data that can be injected into the product design and used as a business case for innovation.
Tony is CEO and Managing Principal at C3 Excellence, that empowers clients to develop transformational strategic alignment with their customers.
This episode is sponsored by PDMA, the Product Development and Management Association. PDMA is a global community of professional members whose skills, expertise and experience power the most recognized and respected innovative companies in the world. PDMA is also the longest-running professional association for product managers, leaders, and innovators, having started in 1976 and contributing research and knowledge to our discipline for nearly 50 years. I have enjoyed being a member of PDMA for more than a decade, finding their resources and network very valuable. Learn more about them at PDMA.org.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:58] What’s an example of understanding the voice of the customer?
This ties into the innovation quote I’ll share today: “Innovation comes from your most effective disruptors—dissatisfied, pissed-off customers with specific needs.” (Robin Lawton)
Let’s talk about one of the biggest disruptions that happened in the last ten years in the taxi industry. Travis Kalanick was extremely dissatisfied while trying to secure a taxi cab in New York. He called the taxi company to order a cab, but they said he had to hail one himself. He hailed a cab and asked the driver about the fare and the route. The driver couldn’t provide any clear answers — no idea about the cost, the route, or even if he could take the shortest route. This frustration enabled him to think of Uber, a major disruption. It allowed customers to order a ride, exactly when and where they needed it, with clear information on the arrival time and cost.
[6:23] What is the voice of the customer?
The voice of the customer is the outcome the customers want to achieve when they use our products.
[8:28] What is the downside of not paying attention to the voice of the customer?
Often, innovators don’t think of the strategic implications their product may lead to. For a product to be sustainable, it must achieve some outcome. If the outcome is good, customers will keep coming back for that product. But if a customer bought the product because it was shiny and great, but now they have no use for it, it’s not going anywhere. Innovators need to look beyond the shininess, beyond the features of the product. You need to get into the minds, hearts, and feelings of customers. People will easily tell you how the product is performing, but getting into their minds and converting their feelings into numerical data that will help you design the product they want is an art.
[12:06] How should we prioritize product features?
The customer should be the one to prioritize.
For example, a higher-ed institution wanted to create a heart of campus. They didn’t know how to define it, so our task was to figure that out. We segmented the customers, including students, faculty, staff, community, and administration into groups that have similar future uses for that space. Then we asked them specific questions, called word formulas. For example:
- “A successful heart of campus is…” (attributes)
- “A successful heart of campus results in…” (outcomes)
- “A successful heart of campus has…” (features)
- “A successful heart of campus is not…”
You can end up with up to a hundred different answers for one question. Then you have customers look at the answers on a screen and pick the most important ones. Each person picks their top three or five, and they don’t know what everyone else picked. You end up with numerical data of what is most important to each segment.
The top five features for the students are not the top five for the faculty, staff, or administration. The question becomes, which one of those customers do you not want to satisfy? You can’t possibly satisfy every single one of them.
What is the decision-making process? I can’t answer that. I can give you the numerical data that tells you how important in a statistical sense certain things are to certain categories of people. Then it’s up to the business decision-making process to decide what actually gets implemented. We can’t blindly follow 100% of the voice of the customer because we still have a business to run, but at least it gives you a sense of direction.
[23:28] How do you do segmentation?
We do not have all the people in the room at once because there are power imbalances. The administration has to sign off that nobody will be reprimanded for answering our questions. If there is even a hint that could happen, we keep the answers confidential and share them with the administration in aggregate.
[26:41] How do you write good questions for customers?
Before you write the question, think about the outcomes you’re trying to achieve. What are you trying to understand from your customers? You don’t want to write leading questions. Start with the purpose and work backward.
Action Guide: Put the information Tony shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about C3 Excellence
“Innovation comes from your most effective disruptors—dissatisfied, pissed-off customers with specific needs.” – Robin Lawton
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.