Have you ever said “I love you” … to software? Maybe once or twice. One product that has earned my heartfelt devotion is the Strava cycling app. I use it on my morning rides to record my speed and routes. This real-time data provides a history of where I rode, with whom, and how fast (or slow) I went. Today’s ride: 25.2 miles at an average of 19.4 mph. Not too bad.
I love it because it quantifies something that is hard to track — all from my iPhone which I carry with me in my jersey pocket. That is why I define Strava as a lovable product for me.
Lovable products are hard to find. Maybe you have been let down in the past by poor quality, pushy salespeople, and slow-motion support. Or the product and support are good enough — but you have seen the company’s not-so-good headlines in the news. You do not love their values. And by proxy, you can no longer love their product.
Unfortunately, unlovable products are easy to find. Besides, if a product does not delight you and solve your problems, you can quickly move on to the next best alternative. For most of the problems that you will face, there are plenty of other solutions to choose from.
That is why lovable products really stand out. Lovable products delight you in multiple ways — they help you solve a meaningful problem and do it in a way that makes you smile. And because of that, these products steal your heart and earn your heartfelt loyalty.
This is why I always wanted to be a product manager. I wanted to be the one to help craft lovable products and change the course of the companies I worked in and the lives of customers we served.
Here is how I learned to be my best, and in my new book Lovability this is what I recommend for all product and company builders:
Once you gain an understanding of your customer’s problem, work to refine the essence of the product first. And focus on doing that one thing right (at least for now). If you try to shift focus to a new challenge before you master the first, you risk failing at both. Stay focused. I often say “first one focus, second one free.” Keep working on it until you get it right. For example, if you are opening an ice cream shop — get the ice cream right first. No matter how great your toppings are, you will not delight customers if your ice cream is lousy.
You will find plenty of articles that encourage product managers to listen to customers. But you need to do more than just listen. You need to really hear what customers are saying — and fast. There are two reasons why this is important. First, when customers are speaking to you that means that they are engaged at that very moment and you can actually have a dialogue. Second, the more you hear what customers are saying, the more you can start to identify patterns of behavior. This helps you better understand what new customers will need based on previous interactions with similar customers.
You have focused on the essence of what customers want. Great. Now, refine every aspect of how you serve customers to truly delight them in a lasting way. This is the key to earning customer loyalty. Because your product is not just the technology — it is the complete experience that customers have using it. Every interaction should say to the customer, “We are paying attention, we care, and we are doing our best.” At Aha! we show our commitment by only hiring former product managers to support our customers (who are also product managers and their teams) with responsive and advanced assistance. And we never charge for that support.
It is time for a more human centered approach to building products. One that puts customers and people first. It is time to build products that people really love.
It is not the easy route nor is it the shortest. But I have found it is the most rewarding. For me, there is no other way but the pursuit of love. Sure, it does not always work out and it can leave you vulnerable, but it is what we all should be working for.
What products have earned your love?