How often do you think you SHOULD talk to customers?

I’m an aspiring PM, and the general sentiment I get from PMs I talk to is that you should be talking to customers frequently (though the timing varies). Then when I press them, almost 100% of the time each person admits that they don’t talk to their customers as often as they should.

I’d love to hear everybody’s experience here. How often should you talk to them, and how often do you really do it?

(I assume it’s different in B2C vs. B2B as well, but if that’s wrong please disabuse me of that notion)

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There is a lot of say-do in product practices. Just as there is a lot of say-do in humans/users/customers. What we say is not what we do. There are some product orgs that NEVER talk to customers but espouse human-centered and discovery practices.

You should “often.” That’s probably at least every couple weeks. This is more to have a constant pulse and drip of insights. There will be a ramp up of intensity of the types of research depending on where you’re at in the discovery process for a given product/feature.

You could consider Jared Spool’s “exposure hours.” Being tapped in to your users doesn’t always have to be you literally talking to customers. It could be recordings from user research sessions, looking over verbatims emails, surveys, etc. That said PMs should not completely outsource user insights.

Teresa Torres’s new book on Continuous Discovery is perhaps an “optimal” we might aspire to. In talks she’s given related to her book she talks about the evolution of a lot of companies shifting to at least doing project based research vs continuous. And that’s OK on the journey.

My experience is more in line more project based research. Ebbs and flows. I did 10 user tests last week. Probably wont do anything this week. Hopefully a handful next week. My most intense research effort in a B2B context was 20 interviews over 2 weeks + a few dozen user tests and accompanying surveys.

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Not all the time but especially if I am working on a new feature / project. I like to run Customer Discovery Program each time.

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Well, I have an inner product and my customers are employees at Commercial Department. And I talk to them, well, every week as I guess. Our interaction consists of different types of communication: text, voice, images/prototypes, and so on.

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I speak with customers and business partners about 3 times a week. Activities are normally sales, roadmap, feedback, or research. I personally like staying close to customers.

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I have an internal product with outsized effects on our business. So I chat 1-2 times a week for 1hr each time.

That said I am also helping them design their processes (which are in chaos) which is probably why…

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We have a OKR on this just to stretch the muscle - it is at least 5 per quarter.

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@Natasha, Having an OKR on this is a great move, and helps develop the muscle too if you’re not doing this regularly.

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I’m a bit more forgiving when it comes to talking to customers. Talking to customers should be serving a specific purpose. It’s easy for new PMs to talk to one or two customers and take that as insight to act on.

The goal is for product managers is to be the voice of the market, not the voice of the customer.

So, as long as you’re using customer interviews as a data point and as a tool in your toolkit to develop that market view that’s okay. In an organization where you might have tens of thousands of customers, you’re looking for more macro trends and I tend to rely more on usage data, patterns, and trends. Product managers have a lot of listening posts across a variety of tools and solutions these days to be close to customers and to aggregate findings. The same cannot be said for organizations that have few customers where PMs can easily maintain relationships with all customers on the books.

That said, I still try to tag along in Sales calls when we’re launching something new, Account Management meetings for major customers, the occasional customer onboarding call with the customer success team, and as many user research interviews with the UX team as possible. I tend to average around 5 or so external meetings per week despite a hectic back-to-back schedule.

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At least once a week. Sometimes 3-5 times a week.

I made an experiment and it worked beautifully well: suggest your team (pick one that you meet very regularly) and suggest that you all spend the time you’d holding a meeting and instead talk to a customer asking questions about experience, usage, success, you name it.

You’ll see how valuable it will be for everyone involved. But keep in mind that ideally you shouldn’t have too many people on the same call to talk to a customer.

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My team is in B2G space and ideally I want my team driver proactive customer engagements weekly, however we are moving to a model where they are required to have one well documented and shared VoC in our team drive per month. Proactive means, a call discussion a quality issue does not count… as that is reactive.

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It depends on the org, target segment, B2B vs B2C etc.

I work for FAANG and UXR members are embedded into product teams. The team collaborates on variety of consumer research for e.g. foundational, concept testing, usability testing, general research (day in life of). All of these are then synthesized, quantified and then shared with product teams with specific recommendations. The teams can view the recordings, notes etc to get a better understanding of the user.

It doesn’t matter if you have a full fledged research or you’re doing an ad-hoc research, the key things you want to

  1. Validate Needs => result is prioritized JBTD statements
  2. Gaps in the current product
  3. Measure sentiment
1 Like

It varies, but definitely more often than you are.