Customer Support people are the best source of knowledge on your customers.

Full disclosure on this one. I started my career in customer support. I have first hand insight into the work they do and what they know. It’s how I stumbled my way into product. And that background enables me to make one statement with absolute, 100% certainty:

No one in your company knows your customers as well as your customer support team do.

The best product managers, business analysts, researches and CEOs pale in comparison to how well an experienced support team member knows your customers. You’ve got to build a close, trusting relationship with them.

I’ve personally witnessed research teams involving a product manager, researcher, designer and developer spend weeks on a project only to come up with “insights” which any support team member could have told them over a cup of coffee.

The problem is, that a lot of support teams are too busy to, or simply don’t know how to surface this knowledge and share it with product. They think it is just something they need to deal with, tickets to solve or assume everyone already knows it.

There are a few things you can do to help the team leverage this knowledge and improve your backlog with it.

Spend at least 1 day per month sitting with support answering support tickets. Don’t make a big deal of it, don’t create a “schedule”, just clear your calendar for 1 day a month, find an experienced support agent and ask them if they mind helping you out answering some tickets. It is literally that simple. Then next day, make sure to buy that agent a coffee or find another nice way to say thank you.

There is no better way to get close to your customers. As a product manager, this is one of the most important things you can do. There is no valid excuse not to do this.

  • If you don’t have access to your support tools – get access!
  • If you don’t know know your support team – get to know them!
  • If you don’t like talking to customers for any reason – get over yourself!
  • If you don’t “have the time” – get better at managing your time.

Ask support maintain a monthly list of their top 10 issues they receive tickets on. This list is the top 10 pieces of friction your customers experience. Every month, fix at least one of these issues. Before you make this fix, talk to the support team to ensure that what you are planning will remove the friction for the user and not cause something worse.

Give your support team a method to raise questions with you or your team directly. Don’t make them jump through hoops. Don’t waste their time by making them go through their manager first. Don’t make them fill out a form with the “repo steps”. Just tell them – you can talk to us on #slack-channel, email us at <group email address> or if they are in the same building WALK UP AND TALK TO US.

Treat your support team as stakeholder. This means keep them up to date on what you are working on, what is coming down the line and most importantly, give them a heads up before EVERY product release – especially if that release does anything to change the user experience.


What will happen if you start to do all of these?

By building a close relationship with your support team, spending time with them talking to customers and regularly fixing top support issues, you’ll get to know your customers better than ever, you’ll always know the biggest friction points for your customers, you’ll identify issues quicker, you’ll reduce the number of support tickets and everyone (including your customers) will be happier.

Product Managers – You’re not (always) the expert

As product managers, we are always learning about our own products and the industries we operate in. As a result, over time we become the experts and “go to people’ on a lot of topics.

But we can’t be the expert on everything, so know when to ask for help.

In my first company, by the time I left I had spent a total of 6 years in Customer Support and 3 years as a Product Manager. After these 9 years, I knew every inch of our product, I knew when and why decisions had been made, I knew how the printer on the 2nd floor worked, I knew everything about our customer’s products and I knew everything about our industry of online gambling. I was the go-to person for a lot of things, for a lot of people and I loved it! But luckily I had time to learn a bit of humility by the time I left.

One day towards the end of my time in Paddy Power, a business analysis friend and I were scoping out requirements for a redesign of our main sports pages. These pages would list all the games in- play and their scores, along with the upcoming games for each sport. Nothing too groundbreaking but the live score element was something our mobile app never had on the match listing pages.

Between the two of us, we knocked out the requirements for all the sports we knew inside out – Football, Rugby, Tennis, etc. in record time, until it came to cricket. We’d always had cricket on our app, but the designs had always been the same and this was the first time we had introduced a new feature on it.

As neither of us quite understood how cricket scores work, not to mention the other rules of the game, we were stumped (bad dum dum). We looked on a bunch of other sports apps to see how they did it and slowly started to get an idea, but there were a few things which just didn’t add up. These were the days before I learned it is okay to admit you need help on something, but luckily my BA friend was a little more humble – or maybe just smarter. He suggested, “Let’s just find and talk to the Cricket trader”.

Within minutes we had located the cricket trader and after 10 minutes talking to him all of our questions were answered and we could finish the requirements. The trader also told us “I had no idea this redesign was happening. It sounds really cool. Let me know if you need any more help!”. And just like that, we had identified and started to build a good working relationship with the cricket guy in the building. Afterwards we asked him to double check the requirements and when it was built he happily helped us QA it.

“Find the expert in the building.”

Things learned:

  • It’s nice to be the expert, but you can’t be the expert on everything.
  • When we are not, it’s important to recognize it and find the expert in the building.
  • Doing this will grow your knowledge, build trust within the company and spread awareness of the work product is doing.

It’s a win-win-win!

How to win at product analytics

A product manager’s guide to building an analytics culture.

“If you can’t measure it, don’t do it”. This was one of the first lessons my first mentor in product taught me. It is advice which I have remembered ever since, advice which I have occasionally ignored, but advice which has almost always turned out to be true.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

Good product analytics is vital if you want to consistently improve your product and grow. Every time you make a change to your product, you need to how how that change has impacted your users and your KPIs.

Your product analytics tool should show you key events over time, allow you to view different types of user cohorts, retention and show your core user funnels (i.e. signup, login, purchase etc.) and where the drop offs in each step of that funnel are. This lets you know where to point your team’s focus to get the best results.

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Once you have a good analytics tool up and running, you’ll need to get the most out of it. So these are my top 3 tips on how you can empower your whole team with product analytics, build an analytics culture and ensure that you keep focus on your goals and measure what you are doing.

Tip 1: Give every member of your team access to your product analytics tool

Analytics isn’t just for product, it’s for everyone. Ensure every product manager, product owner, designer, developer, dev ops, QA, support agent, sales person – you can see where I’m going – Make sure everyone has access to your product analytics tool.

Analytics isn’t just for product, it’s for everyone.

Ideally you should be using a product analytics tool which requires no query writing or coding of any kind. But if you are not there yet, make sure everyone has at least enough basic training to be able to measure your key events and user journeys. Then set up some dashboards so everyone can view important events and trends at a glance.

This will;

  1. Ensure everyone can explore their own ideas or hunches without waiting on someone else to pull the data for them.
  2. Save you time pulling reports for people.
  3. Result in more well thought out product suggestions being submitted to the team.
  4. Give people extra insight for their own role. For example, your sales team can see which features different user find most valuable and incorporate that into their pitches.

Tip 2 – Share charts and insights regularly on Slack

As a product manager, you should be obsessed with how people are using your products, what they do well, what their biggest pains are, which funnel has the highest drop-off etc. More than that, it’s your job to keep everyone up to date on how your product is performing and how our users are using it.

So, every time you discover something interesting or the team has made good progress towards a target, share the graph showing it internally to try and generate discussion around it.

This will;

  1. Get everyone thinking about analytics and the customers affecting it.
  2. Get some good group discussions going. You’ll find lots of people have great insights and just need something to prompt them to share.
  3. Keep everyone on the team and wider teams up to date with what is happening.
  4. Keep everyone accountable. If your product isn’t improving, there is nothing like sharing that with everyone to get the creative juices flowing.

Tip 3 – Include analytics with every backlog or roadmap item

When a ticket goes into the backlog, you should have success metrics defined. Something like “introducing this feature should increase signup conversion by 15%”. In addition to just listing the success metrics, also include a link to a dashboard which shows those metrics over time.

This will;

  1. Ensure that everyone throughout the process who handles the backlog item has visibility on what you are trying to improve.
  2. Keep focus on the correct goal all the way through design, dev, QA and release.
  3. Stop people getting creative in the wrong places and makes the “saying no” part of product management really easy.
  4. Make measuring success in most cases as simple as opening the dashboard and looking how the numbers change.

If you don’t do any of the above, try implementing them for just 1 month and I guarantee you’ll be delighted with the results.

What are your top tips for getting the most out of analytics in your company?