Customer Personas: Learn To Hate Your Product

Wait, did I say…learn to hate your product?!? How could you say such a thing? But, that’s exactly what great product managers can do at any moment. In other words, we tap into our empathy skills to experience our product through the perspective of different customer personas.

For example, we can see the “other side” (or the worst side) of your product and improve it from an uncomfortable perspective. Doing this correctly can improve onboarding, customer delight/satisfaction and retention at surprising levels.

Empathy is a tough (but essential) skill for product managers. We spend every waking hour loving and defending our product. However, it’s critical to put aside some time to experience the product in ways you would never imagine. In other words, you have to think about customers who only give 20 seconds to prove your product’s worth.

You need to get annoyed by your product, hate it, even detest it to the point of cursing all of the technology industry and humanity to boot…because that’s when you get to the good stuff. Deep inside that cave of despair is pure gold, and the best product managers invite engineers and UX designers to come along for the ride.

My favorite technique to tap into this empathy is to pull your engineers and UX designers into a room for two hours and examine it from the three “hater” customer personas. From each persona, walk through your product experience together from discovery to trial (and to the first moment of delight). Along the way, you’ll micromanage every single request and action to see what comes out.

Persona #1 – The Luddite.

The Luddite, by definition, is the user who hates the fact that you are making them change ANYTHING about their current way of life. You mean I now have to LOGIN FOR SOMETHING?! And then LEARN A NEW THING?! The great gift they give product managers is that they loathe every…single…step…in…the…process. And to wait between steps? You might as well be pulling teeth with rusty pliers on the curbside.

To see your product from the view of the Luddite, walk through the process one tap at a time and be ready to GROAN at every step. In fact, give it a GROAN score. At the end of the session, rank those out. I bet you’ll find that there are a few simple “unsexy” improvements that can dramatically reduce your GROAN score.

Persona #2 – The Rabbit.

The Rabbit has no time for anything – especially your product. Luckily for you, they need your product in some way that requires them to tap into it in the middle of their crazy/busy lives. But they are going to give it exactly 200 milliseconds – so you better be ready!

To see your product from the view of the Rabbit, ask your team to play the part of the Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland. In other words – they’re always late, can never find the time or moving on as soon as they can. Create a simulation of your product experience with the longest allowable delays from one step to the next – and experience it together as Rabbits.

Are you asking the Rabbits to post to social media when they need utility? Is any step so insane that it’s worthy of considering a new app? At what point does the majority of your team get frustrated? Mark that exact moment in time and make sure your user experience has some delight that pops up before it does – because your Rabbits are moving on.

Of all the customer personas listed here, most Founders/CEOs will approach the product like a Rabbit. If you put a meeting on the calendar, be sure to invite them (brainstorming only, no roadmap!), and let them know you are looking for the impactful/unsexy features. You’ll likely be pleased how it puts your Founder/CEO at a peer level with all of your team and customers.

Persona #3 – The Grandma.

The Grandma is that person in your life that you really, really, really want to impress. What are the moments of delight in your product experience that reflect that? How soon do those moments show up? Where is the first and second moment that your Grandma clasps her hands and says “I love that!”? How does she explain it to her Grandma friends?

Viewing the product from the Grandma is both a challenge in simplicity and in finding the fast path moments of delight. If you’ve found something your Grandma would enjoy, there’s a very good chance you have sparked the fire of viral growth well beyond Grandmas. Do her a favor and get her in touch with that as soon as possible!


Your teams will always appreciate seeing a new meeting suggestion that has a fun angle, so be sure to schedule a time to explore how to hate your product. They will certainly all identify with these customer personas. By exploring them together, you are sure to run into some unsexy golden insights.


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About the speaker
Scott Dunlap JUUL Labs, Chief Product Officer Member

Scott Dunlap is a data-driven technology executive and investor that loves to build great teams and delightful products by nurturing brands through product-market fit and hypergrowth. Scott has worked with many innovative teams in both large and small companies to launch 60+ products, including many #1 mobile apps (NearbyNow, GQ, Seventeen, Vogue, Mtailor, etc.), smart home systems (Brilliant), consumer products (JUUL, PAX, Paypal, etc.), cloud computing (Opsware, Avolent), analytics (E.piphany, Kahuna, Apptimize, etc.), and more.

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