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Turn insights about your users into excellent products

This post is adapted from our ebook, “How to Gather & Leverage Deep User Insights.”

In a recent article, we looked at five steps you can take to turn diverse product inputs into deep user insights. But once you’ve collected all this information, what happens next?

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can develop a ‘product mindset’ across the organization to make insight-gathering a company-wide effort, and why you need to dig deeper to uncover what customers really need. 

Creating a culture around gathering insights that can scale

Product makers represent a small proportion of employees within an organization, especially compared with customer-facing teams such as sales, marketing, customer success, and support.

So instead of taking sole responsibility for the heavy lifting, product makers should aim to build a company-wide culture around gathering insights. To achieve this, people across the organization must develop a ‘product mindset’ and understand the specific role they play in the product development process. They must be trained to recognize good feedback and learn to tease out important patterns.

So what does this look like in practice? 

With their new’ product mindset’, sales and marketing teams aren’t just there to sell – now they have an ear to the market as well. This helps them answer important product-related questions, such as: What’s happening in the industry? What are competitors doing? What is your product’s main differentiator, and what is it missing? 

The customer success team is no longer just preventing customers from churning or encouraging them to renew. They are now actively trying to understand the gap between customer needs and the product’s capabilities, clarifying where the product falls short for the product team.

The support team is no longer merely reacting to customer issues. Instead, they are taking a more proactive approach, listening for usability pains to share with the product team. 

This new approach takes a concerted effort, and it won’t happen overnight. But with the right training, you can teach your customer-facing teams how to ask the right questions and participate in mature conversations around user insights. Once you build this culture, everyone becomes an extension of the product team.

The dos and don’ts of submitting user insights

The goal is to get your entire company involved in sharing user insights. But what does valuable input look like? Here are a few tips from the productboard team.

  • Do take the initiative to share the feedback rather than relying on product makers to do it based on casual conversations or topics discussed in meetings. 
  • Do provide feedback with context to make it actionable. 
  • Do be ready to participate in follow-up conversations with members of the project team.
  • Don’t simply pass on a feature request like, “We need a Salesforce integration.” Instead, provide details and context around the problem and the people it is affecting. 
  • Don’t create your own tags to categorize feedback. Only use tags provided by the team.

Getting to the bottom of what users really need

Customers are often opinionated about your product and the direction you should take it in. Unfortunately, they’re usually wrong. Why? Because when customers ask for a feature, they envision the ideal solution for their own needs.

Perhaps because we humans assume our own needs represent objective, universal problems, we overestimate others’ ability to understand them. Why else would so many customers be willing to take the time to compose a message, but then leave out key details surrounding why they need the solution they’re requesting? You can’t rely on customers to explain their needs to you. You need to dig deeper and unearth them yourself.

There are several frameworks to help you do this. Product thought leader Rich Mironov, for example, frequently uses the jobs-to-be-done framework. This helps him get to the heart of customer needs by reframing their relationship to their problems.

The ‘5 Whys’ method is another, and one we like to use at productboard. Here’s how it works:

To identify customer needs, always ask why, then ask why again, sometimes ask a third time, and on occasion once or twice more after that. Uncovering customer needs is a multi-step process, and the trick is asking why in the right way. Each follow-up question you ask should serve to dig one level deeper towards uncovering the core user need at play. 

Nothing helps product managers uncover new customer needs quite like a genuine fascination with the problems they’re solving. And that’s something that gets built up one question at a time, over months or years of becoming an expert in a given space. 

The good news is that this process doesn’t just involve product makers. You’ll be getting help from other people and teams throughout your organization. And while it might take time to build a culture where everyone has a ‘product mindset,’ the results will be worth it.

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