Gina Nebesar is a career product innovator – from developing a women’s health app used by millions to a whole new take on vending machines. Understanding your customer’s needs is the foundation for every great product. Gina talks about how to get the most out of user interviews to guide your product development process.

Creating Customer Empathy: Listen Up!

You might think that there are very few parallels between building satellite hardware, vending machines and women’s health apps. As you can tell, these products cover a wide spectrum of use cases and industries. However, there’s one theme that holds true in building products in any segment. You must learn to exercise customer empathy.

Before you can build a great product, you have to listen to the people who are trusting you to provide value. In other words, you need to completely understand their needs in order to create an ideal solution. When I started Ovia, I had not become pregnant. As a result, I couldn’t build the product based on my own experience.

Ultimately, this proved to be a major advantage in the development of Ovia Health. For example, I listened to others about their pregnancy experiences and used these insights to create our product. As a result, my personal biases and assumptions about being pregnant did not affect the development process. By exercising customer empathy as a product manager, you’re able to build highly-personalized products. In the case of Ovia, this proved to be invaluable as we realized that each woman’s pregnancy represents a unique use case.

While user interviews are critical for early builds, they continue to provide value as your product matures.

For example, I still conduct user interviews on a regular basis to inform my decision making. In my experience, it’s important to ask the user what they would expect to see from your product. In other words, ask them to tell you “if there was an app that can help you, what would it look like?”

At its best, customer empathy enables you to get a deep understanding of your users. I try to start with open-ended questions at the beginning to build rapport with your customer. This will ensure that you can connect with them on a human level before jumping into technical questions.

Ultimately, you’ll get into detailed insights as you progress in your user interviews. But, the key is to establish the human element early. Once you establish a personal connection, your customers will naturally open up to provide the level of detail you need to create a meaningful product.

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About the speaker
Gina Nebesar Ovia Health, Co-Founder, CPO Member

Gina Nebesar is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Ovia Health - a mobile platform that enables women to track their fertility cycle, create pregnancy plans and manage family life. In addition to starting Ovia Health, Gina was the founder of Automatic Apparel - an innovative vending machine solution that provides easy access to electronics and apparel. Gina is a graduate of USC with an MBA from Harvard. Gina currently lives in Boston.

About the host
Mark Pydynowski Products That Count, Podcast Host on Product Talk

Mark has deep experience (1) bringing new B2B products to market, (2) leading early-stage sales and business development, and (3) conducting user research. He has conducted 1,200+ user interviews over the past 10+ years building and selling new products (software and hardware). Mark runs, a blog to help WashU students learn how to land their first job from alumni that have already landed theirs.

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