You’re not the customer; customers are not your Product Manager

Alfredo JuarezAlfredo Juarez | May 30, 2019

You’re not the customer; customers are not your Product Manager

The art of identifying customer’s problems and not get biased by their proposed solutions

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they’ll surprise you with their ingenuity.  — General George S. Patton, Jr.

One of the big mottos of the Lean Startup movement and many other current Startup Methodologies is that we (the founders) are not the customers, therefore, we got to get out of the building and listen to them to find out the best solution to the problem we are willing to solve. The problem with this is that we tend to forget that customers are not Product Managers.

The Product Manager’s job is to get a full understanding of the problem she’s willing to solve and work towards finding the best possible solution. In other words, she needs to filter the signal vs. noise when talking to her customers, because as Marty Cagan brilliantly points in his book Inspired, the “Customers, will often try to tell you how your product should work, rather than what your product should do”.

Blindly building what your customers ask you to build could lead you to a total disaster, because customers and users really aren’t in a position to come up with a good solution themselves. They just don’t know what’s possible. Simply put: Just as you’re not the customer; your customer is not your Product Manager. If you, as the Product Manager, focus on the problem at hand instead of the solution, you’ll be amazed on how many possibilities you’ll come up with to solve it.

This problem also happens when the Product Manager tells the User Experience Designers and Software Engineers how to design and build the product instead of telling them what the product needs to do. So, how do you come up with a product that actually works and is appealing to your customers? Fall in love with the problem, not one solution.

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