The right product meets the customer needs by addressing solutions to their problems, while keeping them engaged to use and always ask for more. Some of the most asked questions on this challenge would be how we can validate our product to meet the needs of our customers, what the next step or investment is, how we can validate our choices and lastly, the most important one, how we can build the right product. All these questions will be tackled in our article.
Building the right product involves patience, persistence, communication, planning, validation and, the most important ingredient, passion. One of the most powerful tools used when talking about the right product is Customer Feedback. Always ask your customers for feedback. Their input is highly crucial to validate the right product and to move to the next step of the game: product innovation.
Building the right product is a constant challenge as many parameters involving this process aren't in our direct control. However, there are a series of actions we can take to increase our chances to deliver the right product and clarify once and for all the most puzzling question we have.
Let's get started with an easy example called "Rooftop Problem".
Lucy has bought a brand-new house and soon she is already moved in, ready to start a new journey in her life. One day she sees, during a heavy rain, water leaking from the rooftop in the interior of her favorite room. She immediately searches for a team to help her fix the "rooftop problem", as the damages are getting worse after each rain.
She manages to find John and schedules for a meeting to discuss and analyze the current problems of the "rooftop". During their meeting, Suzy describes the pain points. John briefly investigates the rooftop and offers a solution S1- to replace a board. Both agree on a contract containing: the solution (product) which needs to fix the "rooftop problem", a timeline to deliver the solution and the cost. On a sunny day, John comes on the set date, performs the necessary operations to change the board and in the end, Lucy pays the cost specified in the contract.
After several days, a heavy rainstorm comes, and Lucy notices the water is still leaking from the rooftop. She contacts John and they agree he will come the next day to investigate and make the repairs. John never comes and water is still leaking from the rooftop ……
There was no time spent in understanding customer needs and the real problem
The solution was offered without involving the customer in the process
The solution wasn't validated to check if it meets customer needs and solves the problem raised from the beginning
The contract expectations were not meet
2.3 What can we do to build the right product?
First thing first, customers are consuming products to satisfy a series of needs. We are building products for our customers and it is essential to answer the following key questions:
Who are our customers? What are the customer needs? What problems/struggles/paint points do customer have?
A special note must be made when talking about customer problems - Have empathy towards your customer's pains and struggles when you approach them. There is nothing more valuable than showing genuine interest to find solutions to their problems.
There are different ways we can know our customers better, like:
Customer Support/Contact - Initiate a dialog with them
Customer feedback - Respond to both positive and negative feedback and reviews with a personal touch
Analytics - Use analytical data to study customer behavior
Think like a Customer - Experience ourselves the pain points our customer bring to the table
Building a product involves a series of stakeholders whom we need to first identify. Then, we need to manage their expectations from the first phases until the product is shipped.
Stakeholder identification/analysis can be achieved using different methods/tools like, for example, the Stakeholder Matrix where stakeholders are placed in four main categories based on their level of interest and power:
High Interest, High Power - Full engagement.
High Interest, Low Power - Keep them informed
Low Interest, High Power - Keep them satisfied.
After we identified and analyzed our stakeholders make sure to keep track of their expectations through the entire product life cycle - crucial point in assuring the product is delivered on everyone's key terms.
Never promise something you cannot guarantee will happen. Have a transparent approach when communicating with your customers/stakeholders and build their expectations upfront to gain their trust.
The process of building the product and having the expectations aligned with the customers is a key factor to the product's success and the customer's positive feedback.
Avoid surprises and keep this mindset throughout the entire product life cycle to guarantee clarity for those we are building the product for. We must point out what problems we are solving, what solution we are building, how we build the solution, and what the product outcome is.
Making and taking decisions isn't easy, especially when you are trying to build a solution for your customers who don't know what they really want themselves.
Asking for a specific set of product requirements from your stakeholders is a straightforward and easy task, helping them find out what it is they need can be a key element to the product success or failure.
So, how we can help our stakeholders find out what they really need? There are several ways we can help our customers/stakeholders:
Identify the customer problem by conducting various interviews, workshops, focus groups, and brainstorm sessions.
Stop listening to customers and stakeholders - expand beyond their input and offer alternatives solutions for the problem.
This process may require time- so hold on to your patience, deep analysis/investigation, sharing anything you find relevant for all the parties involved and keep everyone aware of your findings.
The Product or the solution is validated by asking customers and stakeholders for feedback. Is that feedback enough?
For example, in our initial "Rooftop Problem", the customer can offer positive feedback for a work well done on a sunny day, but once it starts to rain and the water isn't leaking anymore, then we can truly state whether the product has meet its purpose.
In case we validate our products, but the solution hasn't solved the initial problem, then we must opt for other solutions which can solve the customers' needs and problems.
The faster we fail, the sooner we learn. Validate any of your product deliverable against needs/problems as soon as possible to learn if the product roadmap is aligned with its purpose.
In case of success, continue and improve customer experiences and journeys.
Some of the techniques used to ensure the right products are built are the PoCs (Proof of Concepts) which can answer the following question: Is this the right solution for our customers?
Building the right product is more important than building a great product - see our Rooftop, compare a rooftop which is brand-new, modern in terms of "house fashion" but the water is still leaking vs an old and outdated rooftop but no water leaking on a rainy day.
by Ovidiu Mățan
by Vlad Precup