The balance of power is in the hands of your customers.
They have a much bigger megaphone than you did five or ten years ago, and that's only going to grow. A single customer can have a massive impact on a business's successes -- or its failures. You see stories about this in the news all the time -- for example, when airlines do things well (or not-so-well).
This power balance didn't exist just a decade ago -- before every single customer had access to social media and public online reviews. Your customers are going to say things about you on social media and to their friends and family asking for recommendations -- so whether you work in customer service or on the product development side of the business, you need to try to influence what they're saying -- and hopefully, what they're saying will be positive.
To accomplish this, it's important to take a customer-centric approach to everything -- from the content you share, to the training and onboarding you provide, to the customer's experience every step of the way using your product. Here's how to do it:
How to Adopt a Customer-Centric Approach
- Create two-way communication channels between customer service and product
- Collect quantitative and qualitative feedback
- Build product to fulfill a holistic customer experience
- Map customer journeys that align with every touchpoint a customer has with an organization
A Customer-Centric Approach to Customer Service
My career at HubSpot has (mostly) been on the Customer Support and Services side of the business. This enabled me to get to know our customers really well -- because I spent literally all day talking to them.
When you're on phone calls or video chats for eight to ten hours per day, you get a very instinctive degree of knowledge about your customers as a result. That's a different point-of-view in comparison with what the product manager or VP of Product gets -- because your time is just spent differently.
What people on the product side of the business can find difficult to do is take that instinctive knowledge from their customer-facing colleagues and turn it into useful information to improve the product with -- something we at HubSpot have grappled with for the last five or six years.
We did a lot of different things to make it easier. We created all sorts of ways to file, categorize, and quantify every single interaction that a customer support or success team member has had, and then we hired an analyst team to chop all that data up, and feed it to our product team. We even had our product people shadow support and success team members. Spoiler alert -- none of it worked perfectly. We made lots of mistakes, and iterated and adjusted our approach -- a lot.
NPS surveys to one-off customer feedback submitted via social media and phone calls.
A Customer-Centric Approach to Product Development
Good companies are product-led, but in order to be truly product-led, you need to think about your customer experience as more than what your product is on paper or the set of screens your customers move through.
It's not just about improving user flows, it's the totality of the experience.
What's the brand impression customers get up-front? What's the customer experience like at purchase? What are you doing proactively to help your customers when they need it throughout the lifecycle -- even after they make a purchase? How does all that integrate with your broader product experience?
To do that, VPs of Product need to avoid a false division of the customer perspective. Internally, teams are usually made up of a product person, a support rep, a sales rep and so on … but customers don't care about any of that -- they're looking at you as one unified company, one brand.
Product people need to think like that too -- and really try to create a consistent customer experience throughout every step of the product. When you think about your customer journey, the map should include the steps leads and customers taken with customer support, sales, and marketing -- with product at the center (because you're product-led). In order to be more product-driven, I encourage people to think broadly about their job function -- who they work with, where they spend their time, and what they aim to improve when they go to work every day.
How do you take a customer-centric approach to product development and customer success? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter.
A version of this blog post originally appeared as an interview with NomNom.it.