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14 Feb 2023

How To Be a Customer-centric Product Organization

Product Management

Customer-centric is all the rage these days - and it’s understandable. Customers are why most companies are here; without the person engaging with our product, we don’t exist.

There is a difference, however, between saying you are customer-centric and doing it.

Being customer-centric is a posture, a choice that a company has to make - with consequences that affect the entire product. This isn’t the same as being sales-led, engineering-led, or product-led. Being customer-centric means, you are driven by the customer. 

That stance has to be deliberate. 

Customer-centric posture means a team has to tackle feedback and tackle it seriously. This means having an ethic around capturing feedback, integrating feedback into your discovery process, and analyzing feedback.

user feedback

In this article, we’ll talk about what a customer-centric organization looks like, what the culture resembles, and how to drive a customer-centric strategy.


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What are the characteristics of a customer-centric organization? 

Customer-centric organizations are focused on the customer over anything else. That means the organization has a few characteristics that they are striving for. As a product manager, it’s critical that you’ve thought about how your work can help a company succeed, as your success in these endeavors will improve your standing in the company. 

Here are some concepts that the company may be focused on:

  • Customer-focused leadership - in a customer-centric organization, the customer is represented in everything the company does. This starts with leadership. For example, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is famous for having an empty chair in meetings to represent the customer.  

  • High trust with customers -in a customer-centric organization, the customer is “always right,” and teams can see this reflected in surveys like net promoter score(NPS)

  • Customer success investment - in a customer-centric organization, there is often a customer success team whose sole job is to ensure that customers are successful in using their products and services.

Gathering Customer Feedback

How do you create a customer-centric strategy in your organization? 

  • Communicate with customers -  As a product manager in a customer centric organization, you’ll need to contact with customers directly. You cannot rely on anyone else to communicate for you. Multiple connection points drive customer understanding, and creating places to reach out directly will help build relationships that will drive insights. When engaging with leadership, you must keep leadership interested by carving out time to update them about the customer.  This will inform the basis of your strategy. 

  • Internal team collaboration  - as a product manager in a customer-centric organization, you’ll need to spend time with teams that have the most contact with the customer - like customer support/success teams. They will provide insight into what customers are doing and are great partners in creating opportunities to talk to customers.  

  • Communicating for the customer -  As a product manager in a customer-centric organization, you have to communicate the insights you receive from the customer often, so you’ll need to dedicate time every week to analyzing and sharing what you’ve learned back to the other teams so they can infuse what you’ve learned back into their processes.

customer feedback

Solving problems for customer-centric teams

Being customer-centric isn’t easy. There is a lot of information to process and it requires a different way of working if you are used to being team-focused on delivery. As a Product manager on a team focused on being customer centric, here are a few answers to the challenges we’ve seen.

  • Help, I’ve gotten too much feedback and have no idea what it means -  This means you haven’t thought about the customer you are trying to serve. Take some time to identify an ideal customer profile (ICP) and then make sure your feedback mechanisms are tailored to receive the feedback they are giving. You’ll know you are in the right place when patterns start to emerge, help you and the product development team make choices that drive better outcomes that focus on improving customer-centric companies' characteristics. 

  • Help, we’ve got feedback but not regularly integrating it into product discovery - Are you writing research guides that outline what discovery you are doing, and where the inputs come from? Having teams slow down and engage with the feedback and figure out what hypothesis matches what you are getting for customers. 

  • Help, our discovery isn’t ending up in our releases for customers -   You most likely are doing large releases. Customer-centric organizations need agility, so think back to the agile manifesto and think about ways you can chop your release time to weekly or biweekly. That way, you’ll have some feedback and can get that feedback directly into what your working on.

  • Help, we’re not gathering enough feedback -  How is your relationship with customer success? Leveraging them to help you gather feedback can help open up the floodgates. Another way to check - do you have any in-app tools to get feedback in the moment?


Customer centricity

Focusing on the customer is challenging and requires a team to make choices that aren’t always obvious. That said, if you are able to get teams aligned on a customer-centric approach, you’ll find that the teams are able to solve problems quickly and get customers who love the products you put out. 

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Adam Thomas

Adam Thomas

Lead Product Manager @ SmartRecriuiters
Adam Thomas is a technologist and product management expert based in Harlem, NY. He’s passionate about social justice and the behavioral psychology at work within product teams. Adam is a pro when it comes to strategy, team organization and product management. But what really sets him apart is his talent for communication and his psychological insight....more
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