In the current economic climate when the markets are not growing and customers are becoming cost conscious to beat the recession, selling definitely gets tougher. In order to ensure success of the product under such harsh conditions, product managers have to pack the product with features that maximize the revenue. It equally implies that the product should be filled with features that are required by majority of the customers. So the difference between success and failure lies in our ability to understand the customer requirements. But many of us become so engrossed with the term ‘Understanding the customer requirements’, we literally remain at customer’s door steps asking them what they need. Please be cautious, I have only emphasized about understanding the requirements and not gathering the requirements. Understanding the requirements is tantamount to gaining deeper knowledge of why customers need something and not just asking what they need.
So thumb rule for understanding the requirements are ‘Never ask any customer WHAT THEY NEED, instead ask WHY THEY NEED’.
As product managers our territory is the product and we understand the capabilities and abilities of our product better than any else, similarly customer has a better knowledge of their business environment, objectives and issues. Asking customers what they want is synonymous to asking them to gain an understanding of the product and translate their business objectives into product requirements, more often they pathetically go wrong. Ideally we have to take the responsibility of jumping the fence and understanding the business requirements of our customers. Asking WHY is so powerful that you can engage in enriching discussions with customers without nagging them and still obtain powerful insights about their business. Such insights will help us to draft solution/feature requirements that perfectly align to the business objectives of the customer, develop/ design products that amaze our customers and create a WOW feeling in them. Only problem in this approach is that customers might be worried about their immediate business objectives, so we should not lose focus on their long term business objectives. Doing so, will not only facilitate us to understand the requirements better but also facilitate us to build a strong roadmap.