Customers are the people who give your organization money in exchange for some product (or service). In order for that product to appeal to those people, it should satisfy a need they have.
If the product you work on for your organization is the thing you’re selling to your customers, the importance of understanding those needs should be fairly evident.
But what if you work on a product that you don’t sell but rather supports the actual products or services you provide your customer?
What if you work on your organization’s website, mobile app, claims processing application, HR system, or conference submission system?
Customer needs still matter.
Customer Needs and Digital Products
If you work on a website, mobile app or any other digital product that customers directly interact with, your product may not be the thing you sell, but it certainly helps you satisfy your customer’s needs.
Understand your customers’ needs to make sure you make the right changes to the website and to make sure you make the right design decisions for those changes.
Customer Needs and Enterprise Products
If you work on a claims processing app, HR, system, conference submission system, or some other enterprise product that your customers may not even know exists, customer needs are still relevant. You want to understand how your product supports the processes necessary for your organization can satisfy your customer’s needs.
For example, let’s say you work on a claims processing system for an insurance company. Your product supports a process that provides value to your customer. They bought an insurance policy to manage their risk. Something happened and they need the insurance policy to do its job – help them recover financially from an accident.
A customer focused approach to processing claims means you’ll make sure that the process results in the appropriate decision in the shortest time possible.
There is still a balance. You won’t approve those claims that clearly fall outside of coverage, because that will result in higher premiums, or an inability to cover risks down the road, which does no one any good.
Focus first on the needs of your organization and you may find yourself inclined to skew the process in favor of your organization, to the detriment of your customers. This may benefit your organization in the short term. In the long run it results in a loss of customers and potentially failure of the business.
Want to build the right thing? Focus on your organization’s customers.
Understanding customer needs helps you make decisions about whether to update or replace an enterprise product and how you approach the changes you choose to make. If the process you are improving is a differentiating activity for your organization, you want to take a unique and creative approach to it. If the process is parity, mimic what already works in your industry.
Knowing which customer needs your organization satisfies helps you determine whether a process is differentiating or parity.
I’ve included some resources below that will help you understand your customers needs better and make decisions about what to do as a result.
The empathy map helps your team develop deep, shared understanding and empathy for other people. You can use it to improve customer experience, to navigate organizational politics, to design better work environments, and a host of other things. Dave Gray originally created the Empathy Map several years ago and recently updated it to bring clarity to the idea.
To get an idea of how you might use empathy mapping to attract the right customers, you may find this piece from Copyblogger particularly helpful.
Customer Journey Mapping
Journey maps combine two powerful instruments—storytelling and visualization—in order to help your team understand and address customer needs. While maps take a wide variety of forms depending on context and business goals, certain elements are generally included, and there are underlying guidelines to follow that help them be the most successful.
Identify the Customer Needs You Will Satisfy
The following six questions help you determine, or clarify, the specific customer needs your organization should satisfy. They also help you to determine how your organization will differentiate itself from your competitors.
- Whom do we serve?
- What do they want and need most?
- What do we provide to help them?
- What is the best way to provide this?
- How do we know we are succeeding?
- How should we organize to deliver?
Use them when you’re examining your organization as a whole.
When you know the needs your organization wants to satisfy and would like to determine possible ways to do that, an impact map can help you structure that conversation.
Impact mapping combines mind mapping and strategic planning to help your team explore what behaviors you should try to influence in order to reach a particular objective.
Product Opportunity Assessment
When you know what action you want to take to satisfy a need, and you want to get a better handle on specific initiatives may do that, you can use a product opportunity assessment.
I created an internal product opportunity assessment to look at digital and enterprise products. This assessment is based off the product opportunity assessment that Marty Cagan introduced in his book Inspired.
Thanks again for subscribing to Inside Product Management.
If you have any comments or questions about the newsletter, or there’s anything you’d like me to cover, just reply to this email.
Plus if you think someone else would get some value out of the newsletter, let them know they can sign up and get a free copy of Product Ownership in the Wild.
Talk to you next week,
Kent J. McDonald