Involve them in exactly ONE customer interaction whether it is a customer visit or a customer phone call!
Not more, not less, exactly ONE and you as a software product manager would have done them the greatest disservice. There is no better way for you to taint your team’s perspective of your market, your prospects, your customers, your buyers. They will now have ONE data point to rely on. Later when they question your market research based on your large number of customer data points, can you blame them? You will hear “That is not what I heard from the customer I talked to…..”
Instead as a software product manager, involve your cross functional team members (development, QA, product marketing etc.) in multiple customer interactions as possible. Avoid the situation where a team member just attends one. Set the ground rules – either you attend at least three customer calls (visits) or you don’t attend any. Having a musical chair of developers attend these customer calls (visits) such that each one gets to listen to one customer is not useful. If this happens, your team’s perspective of the customers will be akin to the Blind Men in the famous Indian fable of Blind Men and the Elephant.
They will miss out on seeing the patterns, trends, consensus, variations, contradictions that emerge after multiple customer calls. You will be better off in having less number of developers get a good feel for the user base by having them consistently attend multiple calls (visits) than spreading the wealth among all of your team members. Once you do this, it will be a lot easier to prioritize and decide what to build.
Image Courtesy of: Satrakshita
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