Product management is about creating value for customers through the capabilities a product or service provides. That extends beyond actual features and encompasses tangible and intangible dimensions of value. Typically, when creating a new product, we start with a core set of features. Early on this may be a minimum viable product — which I rather think of as the minimum valuable product — a product that provides an acceptable amount of value that catches customers’ attention. Over time we add more capabilities to create more value, but that is still not what we are striving for.
We need to create a whole product — adding other elements to the customer experience that solves a complete problem and creates a great experience.
The best person I know of to learn about creating an exceptional customer experience is Joseph A. Michelli. He is an internationally sought-after customer experience consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the customer. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives. He is known by his many books examining organizations that create exceptional customer experiences, including Mercedes-Benz, Starbucks, Zappos, Ritz-Carlton, and others.
The audio occasionally dropped out during recording, but it’s nothing that gets in the way of the insights Joseph shares.
Here is a summary of the topics discussed and a link to the interview:[1:46] What are the common characteristics that make companies great? My focus is customer experience. Companies that lead in the area of customer experience often also have a great employee experience because they view employees as part of the customer’s journey. Brands known for creating a world-class customer experience start with leadership setting the vision for how customer experience can be used strategically. They listen to customers effectively and infuse what they learn into their company culture. They also take the voice of the customer and use it to fuel their everyday innovations. [7:30] How can product managers better contribute to a great customer experience? I think product managers should change their title to “customer perception manager.” Peter Drucker said a business does not exist to create a profit but to first create a customer. It is through customers that everything else comes. The customer is the genesis of product creation. Everything we do to shepherd the product in a way that creates brand loyalty and repurchases is a customer perception journey. A product strategy alone isn’t going to work. You can have great products. Other companies can quickly emulate your products. How to create well-engineered products that meet the needs of customers is important, but we also need to integrate all the customer touch points with the product to build a real connection. A connection with customers encourages them to want more from us. [9:32] Who should be driving a customer experience strategy? It should come from the C suite. It is the job of the CEO. However, it is also everyone’s job. Everyone must be concerned with the experience the customer receives from the company. Everyone is a customer manager. A product manager does it through the products created. [13:39] Product managers should have deep insights into customers, but what is a mistake we can make? Some product managers love the product more than they care about the customer. They get enamored with the solution and not the customer problem and experience they value. Taking time to validate the product with customers helps to keep product managers from missing the mark creating value for customers. [19:02] How can product managers move into leadership roles in their organization? The toolset that product managers have at their disposal is phenomenal. They move from designing and engineering great products to designing and engineering organizational effectiveness. Unlike the raw materials involved in creating products, employees are unpredictable and inconsistent. It takes patience to move toward a predictable outcome with people. Leadership is the work of determining the outcome you want and then working with the wide range of people inputs to create the outcome. Just like you listen to customers to understand them, you need to listen to employees. Manufacturing outcomes with people instead of raw materials requires clear communication and creating a compelling vision.
Listen to the interview with Joseph Michelli on The Everyday Innovator Podcast for product managers and innovators.
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Chad McAllister, PhD. is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister