As Director of Product Management at Loblaw Digital, Karthik Sankar leads Strategy and Product Management for the grocery delivery business of the largest retailer in Canada. At Amazon, Karthik was a Product Lead for Automated Brand Protection, where he envisioned, designed, and launched automated technology solutions to proactively prevent millions of infringements and counterfeits, using real-time catalog scanning, machine learning, and computer vision. Karthik also worked with the marketing team of Amazon Marketplace, where he launched influencer marketing and personalization initiatives by collaborating with successful entrepreneurs and business thought leaders.

He recently spoke at a Product That Count hosted webinar and discussed customer-focused product management. The talk focused on what it really means to start from the customer and work backward, unpacking a customer problem through focused data analysis, and how to earn a customer's trust in the product.

Karthik Sankar went into detail on what goes into customer-focused product management. We recommend watching the entire video of the presentation, but you can catch the highlights below:

On eliminating the noise in the pursuit of customer-focused product management

For Sankar, it all starts with asking one very important question.

“On a day to day basis, are we really really being customer-obsessed?

There are other things that we actually obsess over. Instead of being customer-obsessed, A lot of us are obsessed or sales, marketing. So, traffic, how many people actually come to my website? Signups? How many people actually create accounts? I want to build a cutting edge technology. I am extremely worried about the competition. So, what’s the competition doing? What is that company doing? What’s this company doing? I need this to be exactly perfect. I need the best product out in the market and until then, I’ll just be obsessed over that. Visual appeal. How does it look? Does it look beautiful? All of this. 

So are all these obsessions bad? 

Absolutely not. But what’s more important is doing right by the customer. It’s actually the foremost thing that we should all obsess about. All of this comes secondary. If we don’t obsess about the customer, if we don’t think about the customer on a day to day basis, no matter what we think about among this entire list, that’s actually pointless. And the reason I say it’s pointless is that it does not optimize, and it does not set us on the right path for the long term. All of these are short-term obsessions unless these are all grounded with a customer-centric reality.”

The five questions for customer-focused product management

These questions were learned by Sankar while he worked at Amazon. They’ll help you be a great product manager and remain customer-focused.

“So this is called the working backward principle that we use at Amazon. Basically, every product manager should start with the below questions.

  1. First one, who is the customer? 
  2. What is the customer problem or opportunity? 
  3. What is the most important customer benefit that we are trying to try?
  4. How do you know what customers need or want?
  5. And what does the customer experience look like?”

On creating a customer-focused MVP

For customer-focused product management, your customer needs to be the real MVP. 

“So, we all talk about this MVP, most viable product, right? But what it actually means is shipping the most critical features that solve a real problem for a real customer who’s willing to pay you to have the problem solved. So, the most critical features are important. You are not shipping every single feature that the customer would have had on their wish list. You’re shipping only the most critical features that the customer is expecting that actually solve a real problem for the customer. And they will be willing to pay you for even the MVP product.

That’s how you should look at an MVP. And what it means is knowing the customer really well. Prioritizing the problems, identify the viable solutions, prioritize the solutions, build, launch, test, learn and iterate.”

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About the Speaker
Karthik Sankar

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