As a product manager, what are some anecdotes you find yourself using often?

“Don’t think about how to make your product better. Think about how you can make a life of your customer easier”

In my previous job, I would often be tasked with researching how to plug holes in the 10-year old legacy product. As with many legacy products – it was surviving not because it was good, but because the competition hasn’t caught up yet. One of our main competitors was making a really good progress on catching up and we were scrambling to find and build a feature that would slow down customer leakage.

Instead of thinking of how to make the product better I went to the sales team and asked them what would be the lowest hanging fruit to address with our customers. They were, at the time, under a huge pressure from one of the large accounts threatening to leave. I asked for a “Christmas List” – a list of wants (not features) that in an ideal world this particular client would want to have. What would make their life as our client easier?

One of the items somewhere in the middle of the list was “ease of inventory import from third-party vendors into your system”. Apparently, someone within any large client spent anywhere from 4 to 8 hours per week manually copy-pasting large orders (hundreds of SKUs) from vendors sales orders into our system. I’ll leave it to your imagination to think about all kinds of input errors they were dealing with. But it was literally, copy a line – paste a line. Repeat 100+ times over. Check for errors – manually.

I’ve looked into the problem and within a month we had a solution ready. It was not directly built into the product, which means customers could use it on any other computer, not just where our product was installed. It completely eliminated the need to manually enter anything at all. Instead of 4 to 8 hours, it took 4 to 5 clicks to automagically import each order into the system.

Not only it saved this particular customer, but that was also impressed with the effectiveness of the solution, the speed of the solution’s delivery and with saving on average 20 – 24 hours of one of manager’s time. It allowed the company to promote the “champion customer” program where certain customers would get access to early-stage products I was developing and provide their feedback.

While solution itself was free to our customers compared to the amount of money saved by retention it was definitely a revenue-positive discovery.

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