As customers face new challenges in an increasingly remote world, product teams need to become more customer-centric. It is a fresh discipline that can be difficult for all of us. What are some challenges that face product teams during these unprecedented times? Typeform Product Lead Irana Wasti talks about key customer-centricity practices for every CPO to adopt in a more virtual world.

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On how customers vote with their wallets

As product leaders, we know customers have a lot of power when it comes to making choices in the marketplace. We observe how they tell us that — often through their wallets — and what they look for in a product. A business with customer-centricity is often one of the options chosen by customers.

“Who are we building the products for? We are building the products for the customers, and therefore making sure that the voice of the customer is heard throughout the company, throughout the product experience. Actually, every touchpoint we have with the customer is super important. In fact, I mean, it’s given that the reason we all exist as a business is to solve the customer’s need. Therefore, what the customers get to do is that they get to choose who to work with. 

How do the customers decide who to work with? Well, they vote with their wallets. Therefore, there’s a ton of experiences out there for our customers to choose from, a lot of the time they have the power to choose. Now, sometimes, obviously, some of the experiences we as customers are often faced with maybe have a little bit less of a choice, but for the most part in a competitive business environment, usually there’s an exciting opportunity available for business needs to be solved, and there’s usually more than one option for our customers to choose from.

Among the plenty of options for customers to choose from, who do they vote for? How do they use their wallet to vote for the best option? The customers choose the best option based on the experience, based on how customer-centric the product is, and how much delight does that product generate for that customer. If I have an option to use the product out there that solves my need, I would go for the one that’s the most delightful. I will go for the one that solves my need and is the most delightful. When products don’t deliver on that delight, and the products don’t think about the customer first; when the products are functional, they do the job, but are not delightful, that really opens the door and the opportunity for a disruption. Somebody else can come in and solve for the same problem, but do it in a much more delightful way and do it in a much more exciting way.”

On achieving customer centricity with follow-me-homes

Irana shared a few ways to get feedback from customers that can help build your company toward customer centricity. This included some physical examples, as well as digital ones such as promoter scores and surveys. Her favorite one is follow-me-homes, which was done in a physical space but also now translated into the digital space.

“For many years, as a product leader, I’ve used this [follow-me-home] as a way to get customer insights in the sort of physical world where you actually go to the customer location. As we’re experiencing a sort of more digital world right now this year, we actually tried follow-me-homes in the digital format, and they work really well. …  It’s my favorite way to get to customer centricity and it translates quite well. It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal, but it translates quite well into the digital work world, as well. 

The follow-me-home term was created actually by the Intuit founder. What he used to do is back when he used to sell shrinkwrap software in the stores, he would look for people who are buying his software, and then ask them if he could literally follow them home or follow them to their office to see how they use the software. It was a brilliant way to truly understand how is the customer going about doing their job, whatever it is that their job is, using your tool. What follow-me-homes are about is an opportunity to observe and learn what is it that customers do and how they complete their jobs. It’s not about asking them leading questions. It’s not about filling out a survey. It’s not about knowing what you want to learn, and then asking the customer to validate or invalidate it. This is truly about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, and observing and learning how customers go about doing their jobs. 

The best part about follow-me-homes and the most important part of our follow-me-homes is you always have to be prepared to be surprised. I’ve done this at every company I’ve been at. I’ve done this in many geographies as well, not just in the U.S. I’ve done numerous ones  in London, in India, in Spain; I’ve done them everywhere. Every single time, the best thing that comes out of them is surprises you learn because you observe and listen to what and how the customers go about doing their job that you couldn’t have thought of asking if you were just going to those customers and asking them questions.”

Letting the customer guide for better product building

Irana continued to share about follow-me-homes and how this type of customer centricity work can elevate better product building.  

“How do you run a follow-me-home and what’s important to have success? Follow-me-homes are when you ask the customers to go about their job. When I used to work in the payments business, we would go into the stores of our customers, and ask our customers to go back doing their job of servicing their customers collecting payments, and you just observe, you take pictures, and you look for ways where the customers takes more time, where things are more manual. How could you do differently? How can you help the customer become more efficient at what they do? Regardless of what the solution you’re solving for, you’re solving for some job, you’re solving for some customer job. Going in and observing how the customer does that job is quite powerful. You’re going to look for what are the pain points, like were in that experience of solving for a job that the customer has to do something out of the ordinary, something manual, something not efficient, in order to solve for the job? Where did they create workarounds? They might not call them workarounds, the customer won’t say that, won’t say ‘I wish your software did this, because it didn’t I did this, they will just say you know what I needed to do a job I needed to sell something to to my clients, and this is how I do it.’ They’ve created a workaround. 

You will know to observe for those, you also see where in the process of doing their day-to-day job or doing the job that you’re observing where the customer has the emotional highs and lows, right where which part of the job excites them, in which part of the job is cumbersome for them. Therefore there’s opportunity for improvements, efficiency, and so on. This is where you will be able to find those insights and find those opportunities of how you can solve for those customer pain points. When you do so, you’ve observed the customers and walk away with the surprises, understanding of the pain points, understanding of the workarounds that the customer did. You as a team can then look at what are the insights, where are the opportunities, and then validate them back to the customer.

Yet here we are in a digital environment. How do we translate follow me homes into digital first, where we are in a digital-only environment, we actually follow the follow-me-home format. We did them effectively over Zoom over a video conference. We asked the customer to join us via video conference, turn the videos on and share their screens, and use the video and share their screen. Because we’re looking at software solutions, of course, walk us through the day-in-the-life, go about doing their job, go back over their schedule, go about how they track with colleagues. Some of the customers were excited to share their screens, they would pull up all the tools to use and all the documents that go ahead and work on some of them because they use the camera and the camera was on. They literally move the camera around to show how their office space is set up, which is for most customers right now. Customers have done all kinds of things to go out of their way to ensure we truly feel like we’re part of we’re right there with them that we truly are following them home into their office space. …
It was a great tool in the physical world, and it turns out to be a great tool in the digital world. It truly helped us shape our product vision and product strategy, get the teams on the same page, create the customer portraits out of these experiences, and so on and so forth in the digital world. So just because we’re all remote first and remote first is here to stay for many, many companies for many interactions around the world. Let’s make sure we don’t forget why are we here and who we’re serving. Then we can bring our best practices of customer centricity into our digital world.”

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