What use does a product manager have for great customer support? In short, great customer service helps ensure the success of the product. If you are a product manager, customer support should be one of your primary stakeholders and you should be concerned with the efficacy of your customer service/support department. Here’s why:
It’s Not Just about the Product but the Experience
The primary goal of any product manager should be to keep their customers happy. Happy customers promote your product. What kind of support they receive when they reach out to your company will help determine whether or not the product is successful for that customer. It’s often less about the product but about the experience—whether people feel they are being heard and treated knowledgeably. Help your customer support team improve customer experience by informing them of any issues or enhancements impacting the product well beforehand.
Customer Support Can Inform Product Managers about Issues
Your customer support department has the most contact with the users of your product. They will have a great sense about how the product is being used, what issues users are running into, and what features your users want. While market research and beta testing can all be useful, customer support has a much closer tie to the real life people that are using your product right now. When your customers repeatedly have a question about a certain feature, are unable to find get a certain feature to work, or experience the same problems over and over, that is information that is vital information to have for product enhancements.
Keeping in contact with your customer support department and asking them what features are having problems, what features are being requested, and what overall issues your users are experiencing gives you much more targeted information about current problems and desired future developments. This information can then be used to create a product that has the features that your users want and with far fewer issues.
Customer Support Can Inform Product Managers about Usability
One of the biggest issues that product managers have is knowing whether or not a typical user will understand how a product works. Those who are directly involved in the guiding, building, and marketing of the product know it inside and out. They know the jargon, how it works, and why it works. It can be difficult to see the product through the eyes of a user who has very little or no experience with the product.
This is where customer support can again provide vital information for product managers. When customers call in routinely about a feature or function of the product that they do not understand, customer support can relay that information to the product manager, so that they know that somewhere in the product there is a miscommunication. Somewhere, the product is not intuitive enough for the average user to understand. Roadblocks like these can be easily broken down with the right customer support department, who regularly relays relevant information to the product manager.
Product Managers Can Learn about Their Market
A great customer support department will be able to notice patterns in the requests they get from product users. These might not be patterns like the ones mentioned above; there might not be lots of users who all have difficulty with one feature of the product. What they can still do, however, is make note of the kind of communications that they get and who they are coming from. The people that get in contact with your customer support department are the people that are already using your product or that are going to be using your product. You can learn who they are, what they want, and how to reach out to them from that department. The customer support team can also often provide names and valuable contact info for customers to talk to and get feedback from on any product enhancements or ideas.
Product Managers Can Learn About Listening
When I ran teams of product managers, I asked them to spend a few days with the customer support team listening in on calls as soon as possible as part of their orientation. This enabled them to get up to speed on issues with their products quickly. A side benefit is that they often learned how to deal with and communicate with difficult customers by observing how customer support handled them. As any product manager knows, this is a valuable skill: to truly listen.
Set up regular meetings with the customer support team of your company. As I said earlier, remember that communication is a two way street—keep the customer service team informed of any changes or enhancements to the product that will impact customers. They will appreciate it.
Keeping the lines of communication open between customer support and product manager is vitally important. They are your window into the world of people using your product. They’ll be able to tell you what issues real users are having, what improvements real users want, and finally, who your real users are.