Suniti is a product manager in a company that’s been building products and platforms for logistics management in the transportation industry. She moved into this role from a previous one where she was an on-site installation engineer. Her exposure to customer environments and workflows have developed a sense of empathy that enables her to understand their day-to-day needs and expectations from the product.
She took to her PM role about 14 months ago. Her work is now mainly with the engineering team helping them understand requirements. She has lost direct touch with customers and is relying heavily on her past experience to manage product backlog and prioritize requirements. The company has other teams, like Suniti’s previous one that directly interact with customers and across the PM function, engaging with customers on a regular basis is not a consistent practice. Her role as a technical product manager also requires her to focus more on helping engineering.
The industry landscape is a rapidly changing one and recently the company lost a customer when they chose a competitor product. The engineering team themselves hear little of customer feedback and during sprint showcase gaps are uncovered which frustrates both PM and the delivery team or worse, after the product is released, customers are complaining.
Suniti and the tech leads have discussed the matter in retrospectives and are trying to come up with ways of getting regular customer feedback. How can you help Suniti?
- Suniti can start engaging with customer facing teams, like her previous one and request that she and a tech lead be invited to a few customer meetings over a call, to listen to conversations between support team reps and the customer. This can be done at a mutually agreeable cadence. She can also use the sessions to discuss customer issues in depth with the support team and tech lead together, which can bring a level of cross functional collaboration and shared understanding that can improve product capability in the context of building the right thing.
- Suniti can also extend and share this practice and its impact within the PM community and across other customer facing functions.