How CX Research Can Help Product Managers

Summary: Customer Experience (CX) research can help product managers to understand how to sell the product to customers, but also how to get buy-in from management for this type of research.

3 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on November 26, 2018
Topics: Business Strategy, Customer Experience, UX Research

How CX Research Can Help Product Managers

New product development benefits enormously from customer experience (CX) research if done right. Sometimes, CX research is reduced to gathering product attribute lists outside the context of the actual experience.

Moreover, companies often do CX research on an ad-hoc basis, not as part of a process. This leads to missed opportunities to save time and money in the process.

At the 2018 Dallas CX Talks, Brian Sullivan, from Sabre, presented a case study illustrating the value of CX research to product managers. His presentation, Making the Unnatural Natural: Getting Design Into the Corporate DNA, told a powerful story. In a conversational tone, Sullivan described how he introduced a product manager to the world of user experience. As a result, he helped him succeed.

How to Make the Planning Phase Less Messy

According to Sullivan, regardless of what methodology you follow in software development (e.g. waterfall, agile, scrum), there are always three phases. These are Planning, Building, and Running. CX professionals play an important role in all three.

Often, the Planning phase is messy.  We gather a lot of information in this phase, but some of it may not be right. At times, we simply miss opportunities to engage with customers earlier during the design strategy step of the process.

Sullivan started in the Planning phase by showing the product manager different methods of gathering insights. His purpose was to support strategic goals instead of just going out to customers and getting a feature list.

Further, they created a user journey map. They used the peak-end rule to focus on a specific point on the journey map.

This rule describes people’s tendency to evaluate their experience based on how they feel at the high points and at its end. The goal was to magnify the peaks and provide a strong finish to the experience. With a focus on certain parts of the journey map, they looked at stages, steps, pain points, metrics, opportunities, and new technology that might impact the user experience.

How to Understand Your Product’s Impact on Customer Satisfaction

To further his cause, Sullivan used the KANO model as a teaching tool.  This technique helps to classify product attributes based on their impact on customer satisfaction. In this case, it helped to identify basic expectations and aspects of the experience that could delight customers and become differentiators. They found that basic expectations were important to customers. Meanwhile, the next generation of the products with differentiators and delighters mattered most to long-time customers. This helped the product manager to understand how to sell the product to customers. He also learned how to get buy-in from management.

As Sullivan put it, “this process, which is very natural for CX professionals is often unnatural for product managers.” By going through these exercises in the course of a week, the product manager learned how to include customer experience in the development process. Moreover, he reduced the planning time from two years to one week and got funding for his project.

How To Create Cultural Change

In this process, Sullivan discovered a universal truth in the CX field: “If it is not part of the process, people don’t do it.”

Sullivan’s advice to CX teams: In order to create cultural change in an organization regarding CX, you need a success story in which you help others in the organization to be better at their jobs. “It is not enough to preach to the choir, we have to give the choir tools, so they preach to other people throughout the organization.”