Why You Should be User-Centric not User-Led in Product Management

Throughout May, I talked to four Product Leaders based in Berlin about what they think it means to be successful in Product Management as part of my Product Top Tips series. Sam Love (Chief Product Officer at wefox), Benjamin Ramhofer (Vice President of Product at Data4Life)Alexandru Dina-Gargala (Head of Product at expondo), Parth Das (Head of Product & Operations at DECA), all collaborated on May’s edition to provide top tips for the Berlin Product market. 

There were a number of great tips on developing communication skills, the importance of challenging yourself, being decisive, and taking time to deliver a better result. Two consistent themes throughout all four contributions were prioritisation and user-centricity in Product Management and Delivery. I really wanted to explore these hot topics further to gain more insight into why these are so critical to great Product Management. This blog focuses on user-centric product development – read on to find out more about why user-centricity is critical to delivering a high quality, relevant product that customers really need.

User-Centric Product Delivery NOT User-Led Product Delivery

User-centric product delivery does not equal user-led product delivery. Being user-led can become problematic if you simply follow guidance from users on what they think they want, because often, they don’t really know. Delivering products through user-centric processes is actually better but can sometimes mean ignoring or going against what users are telling you they want. Sounds confusing right?

Take Ryanair as a good example. Ryanair has been criticised for poor service for many years, but this is not something they have focused on changing. They have ultimately ignored this negative feedback and demands for better service and continued focusing on what they believe is the most important factor to their audience: price. And subsequently, they became one of Europe’s largest and most profitable airlines. 

Essentially the approach to user-centric design and delivery is not about asking your customers what they want, but rather discovering an underlying need and finding solutions to these. These might be needs that your users aren’t even fully aware of yet. As Benjamin Ramhofer explains “observe your users and how they use your software. Often they tell you one thing, but do something different, not because they want to fool you, but because they do not realise and leave out important things”. You are responsible for uncovering a user’s true needs, and these underlying needs can be discovered through market research and user observability, and then later checked using prototyping and customer feedback. 

How to Become User-Centric in Product

User- centricity in product delivery is highly desirable, but how do you implement a user-centric methodology into your process and what do you need to achieve this? Here’s a look at what it takes to become user centric.

Become User Advocates

Aim to know as much as possible about your target audience, including where they are, their pain points, and what motivates them to make decisions. This will then help you make the best decisions for your product whilst being able to market and sell it to customers where they already are. 

Put the User at the Centre of Your Vision

Make sure your vision is about how to best serve your user. Utilise creativity, industry knowledge, and a deep knowledge of your user base to create a broad vision that aims to continuously provide agile solutions to emerging user pain points. 

Focus on the Problem – Not the Solution

As Sam Love suggested in her Product Top Tip, you should “prioritise the problem, not the solution” and “bring value to customers by solving their problems, not by shipping them features”. When you request user feedback you might get a lot of feature suggestions, but you need to look beyond this at the root cause of the issue that has resulted in the request. You will be able to design a better solution if you really understand a request and the pain points behind it. 

Align your Teams around Customer Success

By aligning all teams around customer success, you ensure that everyone is driving towards the same goals and outcomes, which will always benefit your user. 

Prioritise based on Users 

I recently wrote an article on prioritisation in product, and in order to be truly user-centric, you should prioritise tasks that have significant impact on your users and address their biggest challenges or issues. There are different frameworks for prioritisation, which you can read more about here.

Focus Content Around your User

Rather than asking “what do I want to say with my content?”, ask yourself “what does my target audience want to know about from my content?” You should curate content based on what your readers want to know about a particular topic, as this will help you attract your target audience and add value.

Why is User-Centricity Important to Product Delivery?

Putting your user at the centre of your product delivery is the only way to truly ensure you are putting the customer first. As Alexandru Dina-Gargala suggests “only by speaking regularly to your customers (gathering context, testing prototypes etc.) will you be able to properly discover a solution that works for many rather than develop a series of one-time specials”. This is important to deliver long-term solutions, which ties in with Parth Das’ tip for retaining customers which is that “it’s not only the first-time user experience that needs to be perfect, but also the subsequent user interaction must add value”.

What are you doing in your business to ensure you are user-centric rather than user-led? I’m really keen to hear form you. Drop a comment below!

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