The Art of Asking Why: Narrowing the Gap Between Customers and Users

Jord Sips

Group Product Manager at Mews [Product Team]


The Split Between Users and Customers

"The split between users and customers was apparent."

"The actual users were the recruiting agents, although the people making the decisions were in leadership."

In my product management experience, I have encountered a clear split between users and customers. This divide was evident when I worked in a government-facing software company and later when I built a recruitment product. In both cases, the users and the decision-makers were different entities.

Balancing Users and Customers

"There was no simple way to balance these parts."

"I had to find the overlap between the two to create the largest impact – looking under the surface level to find the root problems."

Balancing the needs of users and customers proved to be challenging in both roles. Users often requested features or bug fixes that indirectly affected the customer experience. On the other hand, customers sought governance tools to monitor their employees and gain a holistic view. To address this, I had to identify the common ground between the two and tackle the underlying issues.

The Common Theme of B2B and B2C

Dig Deeper

"The mentality of a product manager can be related to a young child that keeps asking 'why.'"

"By asking these questions, you can learn a lot about your users, and what they truly need to solve their problems."

In both B2B and B2C companies, it is crucial to delve deeper into the root problems and solutions. Adopting a curious mindset, similar to that of a child constantly asking "why," is essential for product managers. By asking probing questions, we can gain valuable insights into our users and understand their true needs.

"Customers don’t come to product managers with problems; they come with their own solutions."

"If you keep building the solutions they suggest, instead of fixing their problems, you’ll end up with a Frankenstein-product without any coherence."

Customers often approach product managers with their own solutions rather than articulating their underlying problems. As product managers, it is our responsibility to focus on addressing the root causes of these problems rather than blindly implementing user suggestions. Otherwise, we risk creating a disjointed product that lacks coherence.

"On the other end, we have the challenge of falling in love with our own solutions too quickly."

"This all goes back to truly finding the root cause of the user's problems."

Conversely, product managers must also guard against becoming too attached to their own solutions. It is important to avoid adding unnecessary features that users may not find valuable. To prevent this, we must always strive to identify the root causes of user problems and develop solutions accordingly.

Tips on Digging Deeper

  • Avoid relying solely on customer solutions: Instead of waiting for customers to present solutions, product managers should proactively dive deep into the problem to build successful products.
  • Learn to say no: To prioritize the best solutions, product managers must be willing to reject good ideas, even if they come from customers, and focus on great ideas.
  • Involve the product trio: Engage the product trio (product manager, tech lead, and designer) early in the discovery process to ensure a deep understanding of the problem and facilitate the development of optimal solutions.
  • Shadow users in their environment: Whenever possible, observe users in their natural environment to gain insights that may not be captured through interviews alone.

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Jord Sips

Group Product Manager at Mews [Product Team]

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