811-rev-2-300Customers, both external and internal, are the lifeblood of product management. As product managers, we need to be able to talk to our customers openly and honestly about our products. We are able to do this in a few ways throughout the development process.

The first is through special interest groups. Customers have an idea about how the product should look and feel, so when you are able to bring together all types of customers for a regularly scheduled presentation addressing the current product and future enhancements, it provides customers with a life line into the product. They are part of the process and have a stake in the product, thus they help build value. During these presentations, the product manager is able to build personal relationships with their customer. The feedback given at these group meetings allows product managers to prioritize enhancements to address the customers’ immediate needs while driving overall direction of the product in a way that the customer will continue to see value in.

The second way to connect with customers is through internal product use within the company. Task forces composed of employees from different departments provide internal feedback on the product on a weekly base. Implementation project managers within a company have deep and personal relationships with the company’s clients, so it is important for product managers to depend on them for feedback. This leads to project managers hearing about the product from a project implementation perspective, opening up additional sources of feedback on the product and product’s improvements. The sales team is also a vital source of input as they are gathering feedback from potential future clients.

Finally, Support is a third internal customer that provides invaluable product information as they are working with the customers on a daily basis. The Support team can track bugs and issues within the product and run reports to find high priority ones.  Using that feedback to quickly correct issues with the product helps to improve its stability.

Being open to customer feedback in an inviting and friendly manner is the most important part of the job. At Mapcom our passion is our product and they relationships we build around them. Using special interest groups and internal tasks forces can help you create product road maps to implement customer-suggested changes- something we’ll discuss next week.

If you own M4 Workforce and are interested in an open and honest product manager-to-customer exchange, join my M4 Workforce Quarterly Special Interest Group webinar Thursday, August 13th at 3:00PM EDT.