Are Angry Customers A Product Manger’s Best Friend?

by drjim on February 10, 2009

When Customers Have Problems With Your Products, Product Mangers Need To Take Action

When Customers Have Problems With Your Products, Product Mangers Need To Take Action

In the world of a product manager, we spend our time worrying about defining, creating, and selling a product. All too often we view our job as being done once a customer has purchased our product – the next time we deal with them will be to get new requirements or to have them buy our next offering. However, all too often we overlook one of the most powerful forces in the universe – the angry customer.

I don’t know about you, but in most of my product manger positions dealing directly with customers who have already purchased my product was done by the customer service team. I’m no longer sure that my not being involved in this was the best idea.

Dr. Stefan Michel, Dr. David Bowen and Dr. Robert Johnston are European researchers who spend their time studying how customer service is done and they’ve made several interesting discoveries.

First off, the good Dr.’s have discovered that providing good customer service after the sale turns out to be just as, if not more, important than providing good customer service BEFORE the sale.

It turns out that your customer’s perception of your company and your product are never fixed – they are constantly judging you based on the level of service that you are providing them with. This leads to two interesting points.

The first is that your customers are going to be judging you on how you handle any problems that they have with your product. This also means that they are watching you closely to find out what you are going to do in order to make sure that similar problems don’t happen in the future. Guess what – customers won’t be forgiving you a second time…

In the world of customer service, they have a name for the process of fixing breakdowns in a product. They call it “service recovery”. How well this is done is what will have a very big impact on your customer’s level of satisfaction, the  possibility of repeat business, and in the end, your product’s profitability.

If customer service is so important, then why do we seem to do such a poor job of it? The main problem seems to be that most product mangers assume that the customer service department will handle any customer’s complaint completely. This is not enough.

What a product manager needs to be doing is finding a way to address the underlying problem that caused the customer’s complaint in the first place. If you don’t do this, then the problem is bound to happen over and over again. And that is very, very bad.

It turns out that if a customer has the same problem with your product again, then you’ve pretty much lost that customer for life. There is almost no way to get them back. That’s no way to manage a product!

So what’s a product manger to do? The answer is easy to say, but hard to do. A product manger needs to find a way to get the customer, customer service, and product management to work together in order to fix the root cause of each customer service complaint.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well getting these three teams to work together is quite difficult. In a recent survey, only 8% of firms do this well. What you can do to make your product successful in this area is what we’ll talk about next time…

Do you interact with your customer service team today? How are customer complaints resolved – is only customer service involved? What do you do to get down to the root cause of customer issues? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Postal February 10, 2009 at 8:02 am

Awwwww. Doubl-Stumbl. It’s not eazy to be grean.

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Joe Stanton February 10, 2009 at 10:20 am
Dr. Jim Anderson February 11, 2009 at 9:30 am

Joe: Sigh, yes – sure looks like I need to start taking just a few more moments to re-read my titles. Sadly, Wordpress & Firefox don’t put red squiggly lines under misspelled words there (as you have noticed!)

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