Product development – How to develop products in a customer-centric way

Until a few years ago, product development processes were characterized by a pure inside-out perspective. Cascading in long waterfall-like procedures, new products or product versions (releases) were created in a lengthy process.

In the age of customer centricity, this is an aspect of the past. 

You are basically forced to take the outside-in perspective of the customer and align your product development accordingly. In this article, you will learn what tips and tricks there are specifically for agile product development. 

Product development processes in times of Customer Centricity

First of all, we should consider the difference between a purely product-centric and a purely customer-centric organization. 

Product vs Customer Centricity
Differences product vs customer centric

Characteristics of product-centric companies

  • Corporate strategy is focused on effectively leveraging existing technologies and capabilities
  • the corporate culture is focused on technical innovations (inside-out)
  • the entire organizational structure is divided into product divisions
  • the main metrics include product quality and sales KPIs
  • the processes at the core of the organization are product development and sales

Characteristics of customer-centric companies

  • The corporate strategy is focused on challenging the existing business model and optimizing the customer experience.
  • the corporate culture is focused on customer demands (outside-in)
  • the entire organizational structure is divided according to customer segments
  • the main metrics include the KPIs around Customer Experience
  • the processes at the core of the organization are those of Customer Experience Management

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5 Inspirations for customer-centric product development

1. fill the tanks with customer knowledge

The first impetus is aimed at responsibility within companies. In the best case, each process should be responsibly assigned to one employee or team.

For example, sales is responsible for customer questions sent to customer service. Customer service is in turn responsible for directing content from customer conversations to the right person on the product team. Product managers are responsible for what pieces of feedback are followed up on and when. Designers are then in charge of designing solutions, developers in charge of implementing them, and then consequently the communication chain back to the customer.

If a company does not act in a customer centric way, it will be difficult to build up customer knowledge within the organization. It’s the same the other way around: If the designers and developers don’t listen, the product will be hard to sell.



2. use customer insight to act in a customer-centric way

Customer needs and the customer experience should be one, if not the, deciding factor when it comes to decisions for new features and changes to the product.

These decisions will be in response to questions such as: What do our customers wish they could do? What are they dissatisfied with? What will deliver the most value to them? Answers to these will come from what your team has heard from customers through various channels.
Understandably, you can’t meet every single request, and the effort should be feasible. Customer-centric product development is about using those impulses and ideas from customers in prioritized order for your product roadmap. The following questions can help you to do this:

  • which customer segment is helped by this idea?
  • how does this idea affect the rest of our customer base?
  • is this idea in alignment with our vision and business priorities?

3. prioritize the roadmap for users and business

The task now is to prioritize the ideas for the product roadmap so that they promise progress for customers and the company in the same way. The company TryMyUI has developed a simple formula for this:

(Value / Complexity) x Need^2

For each idea, assign a numerical value from 1 to 10 to the variables, then calculate to form a ranking. 

Value: utility, marketability, magnitude of impact

Complexity: difficulty, opportunity cost, time effort

Necessity: importance for the customer/user experience, urgency



4. solve problems for the users while you develop

“User experience design” is the keyword here. During implementation by developers, the customer-centric team focuses on designing and delivering a great user experience. The goal: intuitive design that is easy to use by customers.

It is important to mention here that listening should definitely not stop. Especially for experience design, the valuable views of your customers are crucial. You just need to ask them what ideas they themselves have to address problems. Their ideas and yours will come together to form a much broader picture. 

Feedback helps throughout the process. With prototypes, MVP and wireframes it is possible to show them to the actual customers or even make them usable. This is the only way you can see what they are saying early on.



5. communicate changes to the customer after you have developed the product 

As soon as a feature requested by customers has been embedded, a team or person should again be responsible for communicating the changes to the customer. This helps build trust and transparency across the entire timeline. 

Even if your team is not immediately “done” when a feature is “live”, it is important to continue developing your product in new iterations. 


Conclusion: Successful product development is always customer-centric

The article, and in particular the 5 impulses for customer-centric product development, show how companies today should no longer remain in “build it and they will come” mode. Regardless of your industry, the ability to interact with customers is a key competitive advantage. It’s how you design products that are truly relevant.

In an age of abundant data, the trap of disconnecting from the real people who use their products or are involved in purchasing is all too easy for companies to fall into. But customer insights are more than just data. Being driven by insights means building relationships. And what better way to do that than through customer-centric product development? 


About Me

As a founder and entrepreneur, I experience every day how important customer centricity is for companies.

Integrate the essential customer perspective into your product genesis and marketing processes. That puts horse powers on the street, until it runs.


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