• Read Time 4 min
Five misconceptions customer success has about product
This is a guest blog post by Joe Daniels, head of content at Receptive.
It’s no secret that Customer Success and product teams have a bit of a love-hate relationship, and when it comes to communicating and working together things don’t always go smoothly.
With that in mind, I thought I’d cover some of the common misconceptions that CS folk have about product folk, and explain why they’re wrong.
1. Product doesn’t care about our customers
It seems a lot of CS people have this idea that product managers don’t really care about their customers, instead preferring to focus on what they want from the product. Considering this is in complete contrast to the values inherent in CS, it’s no wonder this leads to animosity.
However, not one bit of it is true. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite.
You can’t possibly create a product without considering your customers. For most Product people, your customers are the main reason for building the product in the first place. They do care about what customers want, and it’s their job to make it happen.
But sometimes they have other priorities, more important things to do, and so customers might have to take a back seat. It doesn’t mean they don’t care.
2. Product ignores our feedback
CSMs are often on the receiving end of customer feedback as they’re on the frontlines of the company. They then take that feedback and pass it on to the product team.
Then it all goes wrong when the product team seemingly ignores the feedback, and leaves the CSMs scrambling after the disgruntled customers, apologizing as best they can. It’s safe to say this doesn’t help the CS-product relationship.
But if we look at this from product’s point of view, then maybe there’s a good reason for why they “ignore” the feedback. Perhaps it’s actually not very helpful.
A PM’s job is to solve problems. They come up with solutions. Generally when a customer provides feedback, they’ll tell you what they want. They provide their own solution.
That’s actually not very helpful for a PM. It would be much more useful if the feedback was framed as “This is what Customer X is wanting to do.” Then the product team could try to figure out how to enable that. Provide product with the right data will make them far more likely to take notice of it.
3. Product doesn’t like new processes
We hear this one a lot at Receptive, where a frustrated CSM tells us they want to introduce Receptive into their workflow but product is blocking it, because it’s not how they want to do things.
But the truth is, every team has their own ways of doing things, and their own workflows and processes. Product is no different.
If you’re having trouble getting product on board with a new process, then there’s probably a reason. Perhaps they’re scared it’ll be more work for them, or maybe they don’t feel it will be as effective.
To get them on board, you need to explain the new process clearly to them, emphasizing the benefits it will bring them. Product teams are always open to new options, provided the new options genuinely provide a better solution.
4. Product wants to have control
Another common misconception is that PMs are control-freaks who always want the final say when it comes to their product. They have their roadmap planned out, and they decide what they build next and how the product will develop over time.
However, product teams aren’t power-hungry maniacs who don’t want anyone else to have a say. They’re usually more than happy to receive input from other teams. Sure, they want to make major decisions – that’s their job, after all – but they’re happy to make those decisions based on suggestions from other teams like CS, and from customers. That roadmap they’ve created is a living document, always ready to be altered and updated.
The best way to approach conversations and meetings with the product team is to make them aware from the outset that you aren’t there to tread on their toes, you just genuinely want to help make the product as good as it can be. Listen to them as much as you want them to listen to you. It works both ways.
5. Product doesn’t respect what we do
There’s a common grievance with CS where they believe that product don’t respect them, and their responsibilities, enough. This likely stems from a lack of communication. CS believes that product doesn’t care about customers or feedback and that they want full control. It’s easy to see how those misconceptions can lead to a feeling that there is a lack of respect.
Fortunately, that’s not the case at all. Product absolutely realize the importance of Customer Success, and more importantly the role CS teams play in helping customers. They’re well aware that without customers, their product isn’t worth anything, and so they know that the work CS do is instrumental to the success of the product they’re building.
A lack of communication isn’t down to a lack of respect, but rather down to a lack of the proper processes and communication channels. Fix these issues and you’ll find a healthy mutual respect between product and CS.
Product and CS are basically like cats and dogs. They both approach the world in different ways, have different perspectives and priorities, and so they often clash when it comes to working together.
But, just as cats and dogs can learn to live harmoniously, so too can product and CS; they simply need to be taught.
The importance of communication can’t be understated. Making sure you’re both on the same track helps to keep you both aligned with your company’s goals. Realizing that these beliefs you have about product are entirely false is the first step. Then you can start focusing on working together to make the best product, and ensure the happiness of your customers.
P.S. We did our own guest post on the inverse of this topic for the Receptive blog. Click here to read five misconceptions Product has about Customer Success.