Meet the one and only Jeff Stanier. In case you aren’t lucky enough to have crossed paths with him, Jeff is Director of Product Management over two Adobe Systems products: Adobe Experience Manager Forms and Adobe Connect.
With a job that hinges on understanding his customers at a deep level, Jeff — and Adobe’s — success relies on customer insights. But not all customer feedback is created equal. Read on for Jeff’s thoughts
- Don’t listen to every customer.
- Focus on listening, not selling.
- Think about how you can create radical changes for your customers.
If you work in B2B — or any industry, for that matter — you know that listening to your customers is the only way to create a product that truly delights and meets their needs. But, there’s a trap many fall into when they start a Voice of Customer program.
Customers have a tendency to voice what’s on their mind that very moment. And while it’s true that many times this feedback can represent your customer base as a whole, it might also simply reflect a singular need or desire that isn’t shared by most. If you rush headlong down every one of these rabbit holes, you’ll quickly find yourself resource-strapped and without direction.
Luckily, there’s an answer — focus on the data points, or customer stories, that you see pop up again and again. At Adobe, one of the ways we find best to identify this big-picture, directional feedback, is to host a “Customer Advisory Board” several times each year. At these laid-back conferences, customers talk and we listen — all the while keeping track of overall themes that help us prioritize our roadmap.
At our Customer Advisory Board sessions, we invite about ten senior-level managers who use our products. As they talk about their experiences and sometimes, struggles,
I’m always tempted to put on my sales hat and explain how great our products are.
After all, we put countless hours of hard work into developing them.
But, I’ve found that the most meaningful insights come from biting my tongue and simply listening. Instead of jumping in to show a customer how they could use our product better, we observe their current struggle and think about what we could change that would have eliminated the roadblock in the first place.
The customer stories we hear at these sessions are invaluable — we record the most representative ones, share them with our team, and use this feedback to influence the direction of our development. Designing for a user gets easier when you can picture the real person you’re helping on the other end.
At Adobe, I oversee the product development of Adobe Experience Forms, a digital documents and forms platform. If you’ve ever filled out a form online (and I’m willing to bet you have!) it’s very possible you’ve used our software.
At first glance, handling forms for a business doesn’t seem like something that could be radically improved. After all, it can be boring stuff. But after spending time exploring the needs of our customers, we were able to help in some pretty transformative ways. From using machine learning to digitize paper forms in ever more efficient ways, to rationalizing redundancies in their forms (in some cases reducing forms needed by 80%!), we’ve discovered opportunities for incredible upgrades in our customers’ daily experience.
If you listen deeply to your customers, and are able to sort out the underlying themes from the clutter, you can do the same for your business and products.
Impressive stuff, Jeff! As a final question I asked, “What keeps you up at night?”
I loved his answer: “I’m always thinking about how the way we interact with systems is changing. With products like Alexa or Google Home, the Internet of Things will change our lives. Who knows — it may even affect how we fill out forms!”