Customer visits by Product Managers

Product Managers (of enterprise products) must visit customers. However, customer visits for Product Managers are important but not urgent. If you miss a customer meeting, you would not notice anything amiss in the short term, however if you keep missing customer meetings, you will find yourself grappling to catch-up in the long-term. That is the reason you must schedule customer meetings well in advance – block your calendar – so that there is no excuse for you to skip.

Preparing for a customer meeting:

  1. Be clear on numbers: How the product helped your customers ultimately depends on the quantifiable data. You must have the latest numbers ready as well as the comparison to the previous period – whatever is relevant. Build trust by knowing numbers like back of your hand.
  2. Promises made during last visit: You must get back to the customers on the promises you made during the last visit. Of course, you should have gotten back before the meeting, but make sure that you explicitly set the expectation that there are no backlogs. Beware: your promises should be investigative in nature and not on product features.
  3. Product issues reported by customers: Imagine going to a meeting while a major problem ticket raised by the customer is yet to be solved. No customer is interested in listening to your vision and long-term goals unless they have some solution to their immediate problem. In large enterprises where departments are disconnected in communication, this can be a major embarrassment if you do not know about the latest issue.
  4. What do you want as the key take-away? This is the most important reason why you have scheduled the meeting much in advance. You must zero-in your agenda around one of these: (a) State of the market and where it is headed (b) Your product road-map versus customer expectations (c) How is the customer using your product and extracting value from it. (d) Competition – who else is invoicing or wants to invoice your customer!

During the customer meeting:

  1. Be prepared to listen and not react. Empathising with the problems of the customer is sometimes what is required and do not get into a defensive mode.
  2. Prepare your questions before-hand but do not sound like you are reading from a questionnaire; that would be a stupid idea to know how your product is used. Start with an observation you have on the customer’s product or metrics; that will prompt the customer to provide you anecdotal evidences to explain the numbers. Anecdotal evidences are priceless information for a Product Manager as they say anecdotes are plural of data, after all. Everyone likes exchanging anecdotal evidences, so be prepared to share what you probably can within your boundaries.
  3. Do not promise anything on the product (except if it is a bug you embarrassingly discovered during the meeting): You should never decide to add a feature into your roadmap just based on the symptom you learn about. You must thoroughly analyse multiple customer feedback and if there is a common thread that you can weave, then it might be worth considering for a test – but not yet a serious contender.
  4. Maintain a separate customer meeting book. Write everything that you discuss. Do not depend on your memory. This might sound very elementary, but if you maintain a book and it contains notes from 50+ visits spread over a several months – that is a gold mine.

Related post: When did I last meet my customer?

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