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The True Value Of Data

Feelings Aside
Impact
Feedback
Sharing The Vision
Data Team

17 May, 2018

Shyam Sundar
Shyam Sundar

VP Engineering at Proofpoint

Shyam Sundar discusses the importance of using data to determine improvements you should make to your products.

Problem

While working at Amazon, we started to use crowdsourcing to gain insights into improvements we should make. We started out by using a blank text box to gather feedback from customers. However, what we realized was that customers were telling us things that were already in the product detail pages.

Actions taken

Because customers usually complained about things that we were already providing them in the product pages, we came up with an idea to have a box that allowed people to find things within the product page. We realized that when you printed out the product page, it was eight to nine pages long, so it was really difficult for customers to find things even if it was on the page. My challenge, as a manager, was to show my engineers that based on the feedback there was a problem. More than 40 percent of the feedback we were getting discussed product attributes that were on the page. While people comfortable with a computer would know to use CTRL +F to find things, many people aren't that technologically savvy. In order to convince them, I had to collect the right type of data to point to the customer pain. We released a small feature that allowed people to search within a product page. This proved to be really valuable. Lots of people used the feature and we then started adding value by going adding the search feature to the reviews. This planted a lot of seeds for finding information and there is now a customer-sourced Q&A section, which allows customers to ask questions and have them answered by other customers.

Lessons learned

This was a hugely valuable lesson for me in terms of what data does and how it can show you the truth. I'm a huge believer in starting with the customer's needs and wants and working backwards. No idea should be seen as too stupid. You are probably not your product's average user, so sometimes you have to go with who your customers are. Whether you like an idea or not, you should always look at data to get a deeper understanding.

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