Want to Be the GOAT of Product Development? Follow These 5 Steps

Every digital product team wants to be customer-driven, but it’s not easy. Here are five steps to ensure you bake in customer feedback from the get-go.

They are some of the coolest kids on the innovation block. Every company, it seems, wants to be like Airbnb, Apple, Netflix, Robinhood, Venmo or Zoom — disruptive businesses that didn’t just improve on existing products and services but created entirely new markets.

But too many companies and the product development teams within them aspire to be the next breakthrough brand without understanding how those cool kids got to be so disruptive.

Spoiler alert: They did it by looking beyond ease of use and clever design — the bare minimums in designing successful products — and delving into deeper questions about what would dramatically make customers’ lives better or easier.

Innovators Have Deep Connection to Customer Experience

Thanks to their profound sensitivity to the customer perspective, super innovators don’t merely build a better mousetrap and figure out who might use it. They envision and construct an entirely new experience. And they make sure that new experience truly matches — on an emotional level — customers’ wants, needs, and pain points.

Every digital product team wants to be customer-driven, but it’s not easy. These folks face intense pressure to quickly devise new offerings at a time when customer behaviors and expectations keep changing, and market conditions become ever-more unpredictable.

Many teams respond by making high-risk decisions that give short shrift to the customer perspective in favor of fast and “good enough.” Short development cycles may seem like the right thing to do to make incremental gains in highly competitive spaces, but it’s a myopic approach.

Ultimately, product teams help build brand buzz and loyalty when they listen to and observe the people for whom the products are being created. That is the sure path to identifying the right problem to solve and which solution best addresses it.

And they must do this at multiple points in the development process — not just immediately before the product is released in an effort to “validate” it.

It can’t be overstated: To drive business growth, product teams must make better decisions by incorporating customer insight throughout the product development process. That way, they can get steady feedback to learn, improve and iterate every step of the way.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer: What Is It and Why Does It Matter for CX?

How Product Dev Teams Can Overcome Challenges

The challenge for product development teams comes down to a trio of priorities: Minimizing risk, getting product right the first time and reducing rework.

To cover these bases, product organizations should always follow these five principles:

Set Out to Regularly and Programmatically Understand Customer Needs

This is especially important to get right before writing a single line of code. Clearly understanding the customer pain and identifying and attacking a problem that’s worth solving is the first step to launching a successful product.

No matter how well an organization thinks it knows its users, teams must step out their own worlds and into customers’ realities at every juncture. This customer-focused ethos should be every team’s guiding philosophy 24/7/365.

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