Product Management Tactics — Products Aren’t the Solution

Bob Moesta, President and CEO of the ReWired Group

KEY TAKEAWAY

Products are a tool for the customer to progress and reach their own solution. If customers cannot figure out the product or figure out how to progress, that is your problem, not theirs.

OUR TAKE

As product people, we at Product Collective liked to think that the products we were creating were “solutions” to our customers problems and pain points.  So, when we heard Bob Moesta contend that our products weren’t, in fact, solutions after all — it admittedly stopped us in our tracks a bit. Bob goes on to say that it’s not the product itself that is the solution.  We are not solving the problem. The customer is the one that’s solving the problem. They are just using our product as one of probably many tools that help them solve that very problem.

After letting that sink in a bit, we realized that Bob Moesta was probably right.  After all, no product itself can solve the problem. It can only, at best, help enable the customer to solve the problem.  At worst — if the product isn’t used correctly or in the right situation — it may not even help the customer solve the problem at all.  And when this is the case, we often hear the phrase “User Error.” But this phrase is misleading, because “User Error” really isn’t the fault of the user.  It’s the fault of our product! This means that we didn’t enable the customer enough.

So, why does this matter?

As Moesta has shared before, the entire experience that a customer goes through to use our product — that is really the product.  If we can identify other parts of the experience that can help achieve what we want our product to achieve — enabling the customer to solve the problem — we can strengthen our product without adding a typical feature or function.  Some of those parts might include:

  • The onboarding process:  Even though you might take pride in how easy to use your product is, chances are that it may not be so intuitive to the customer or user.  So, your product’s onboarding process is a critical part of the entire experience. Whether this is a walk-through given by a member of your team or a carefully planned series of actions that your platform takes a user through before they are dropped into your product, if this process isn’t planned right, your product may not be such a helpful tool after all. 
  • The customer success team:  How responsive is your team to users when they run into issues?  If you don’t support users proactively and reactively when they have issues with your product, you’re certainly not enabling them to solve their problem.  In fact, the customer’s feeling of frustration will just intensify. But a great customer success team that empowers customers can not only be help customer solve problems, but they can help build loyalty to your product as well. 
  • User tutorials:  It is nice to have a real human being answer questions when you’re experiencing a problem.  But sometimes, we know that there is a simple answer to a question we have — and we just want to find that answer quickly.  User tutorials, FAQ’s, and help guides can add to our product’s experience and help enable the customer to get closer to actually solving the problem they’re setting out to solve.

So no, the product itself isn’t the solution.  But — we as product people certainly have the power to arm the customer with even more tools around our product to help them solve the problem that they’re faced with.