Today we had big issues with one the products we are working on. Late night, customer complaints, fixing bugs on live product: basically driving a flaming car.
I am a fairly anxious person, not the best trait to have as product manager, but despite my anxiousness, everything felt strangely familiar and manageable. I wondered why.
How could I manage conformably a very uncomfortable situation?
I realised I had a lot of experience from… my romantic relationships.
Relationships are messy, just like building products: you care a lot and failure is very… very painful.
Half of the time you are the problem, and for the other half… it doesn’t matter that you’re not the problem.
No matter how hard things got with my partners, I wanted to get to the heart of the problem. To figure out what doesn’t work. To figure out how and if we could fix it. I knew some answers will hurt.
So this would be the first lesson: Ask the hard questions and take the punches. That is how you improve.
Here are the other lessons learnt from my relationships that made me a better product manager.
She went with the other guy, even if you were better
She ended up dating another guy: a boring, un-mannered, lazy ass and frankly… with a bit of dickish character. You were funnier, smarter, better looking and you dressed better (sometimes).
But he kept asking, kept showing interest, he did the things you were too proud to do. She can’t evaluate you, if she does not remember you.
Persistence beats quality. Be top of mind for your customer!
“You moved too fast and I thought you just wanted to get into my pants”
On-boarding is important. If you ask for commitment too fast you may lose the customer. Let them see the value first before you ask them to commit. Nobody wants to feel rushed into making a decision.
Be patient. Let customers commit at their own pace.
“I have a crush on someone else”
This hurts. You were there, you always cared, solved problems and offered a shoulder to cry on. And you also have better facial features. The others don’t have all of this. If she looks at other guys, maybe you need to put on a shirt and hit the gym.
Improve your UX.
By the time the customers notice the other product is not as good, it is too late for you. It does not matter if “you were right”.
“What have you done for me lately?”
It does not matter what you did for them a year ago, only what you did for them yesterday and the day before. We as people have an awful memory. We tend to forget the nice things people did for us, and just focus on how do we feel now. This is true for everyone.
Constantly delight your customers. Constantly ship updates.
“I hate this house! Why are you late? I don’t want to go to the movies anymore!”
Fits of rage, anger that come out of nowhere, and after each issue you solve… another one appears. Nothing you do is ever enough. But at some point you learn that she was just hungry.
Sometimes customers don’t know what they want. It is your responsibility to figure it out.
“You are not here for me! You don’t help me, you don’t care.”
Sometimes it is not your fault. And sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. It is not even your responsibility. But sometimes you just need to be there for them, and tell them you understand.
Focus on the entire customer journey. Be there for your customer, even when it is not your job.
Because if you don’t, someone else will.
“You are too predictable”
You have not changed. You actually did everything you said you will do. And yet… it was not enough. No one want their expectations to be met, they want their expectation to be surpassed.
Always underpromise and overdeliver.
“I don’t know if I love you anymore”
After a while… there is nothing more to learn about you. Nothing new. Nothing to fall in love with anymore. So keep improving: learn to dance, learn to sing, or to do rap if you don’t have a voice. You want to keep hearing: “I did not know that about you.”
Your product will reach maturity. Diversify your product and services if you want to survive.
“I thought we were ok… – We were not ok for the last year, George”
They will not tell you anything before they leave. The worst thing is not when you fight, it is when you don’t hear anything after the fight. When you fight it means they are unhappy, but care enough to fight.
Indifference is worse. You do have a “grace period” when they are not satisfied, yet still hang in there.
This does not mean they will tell you they are about to leave. Before they leave… they usually tell you nothing.
Watch out for the silence of the customers. Ask them if they are happy.
“Please come back, I can do better!”
You learn pretty fast that it is much harder to get someone back than to keep them close. They trusted you, they put her faith in you and you disappointed. Now it is much harder to gain their trust and take you back.
When you met, you just had to convince them you are “good enough”. Now they feel they can’t trust even their own judgement. So you need to convince them you are way more than good enough. That you are 10 times better than anyone else.
Predict churn: it is 10x harder to bring back a lost customer than to gain a new one.
“We don’t have chemistry. I am not sexually attracted to you.“
Well my fellow product managers, this is a hard one. If in all the cases above, there is something you can do about it, here there is nothing you can do about it. You invested so much, you tried so hard and it was all for nothing.
The hard part here is just… accepting it.
Accept when there is no need for your product, and pivot.
Ok… I never heard a yes to THE QUESTION and I never built a crazy successful product from 0 to 100, but I did had a few amazing ones of which I was really proud of. I bet it feels pretty good though.
I did not want to end the post on a sad note because even when you don’t get to the “I do” it is one hell of a fun ride. I am George, and I lead WiseUp a product design agency where we build products, not just with love, but in spite of pain!
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