3 Ways to Build Team Productivity Through Access to Customer Insight

This excerpt provides a little glimpse into how we’ve gotten our extended teams working in unison by expanding the access and participation in customer research. There’s lots more where this comes from! Take a look.

The following excerpt is from Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin. 

Your job as a product leader is to infuse customer insights into the broader team’s work, not just present the personas. As a reminder, a persona is a user archetype created based on your research that represents how someone might use your service, product, site, or brand. It’s about your ability to help the team get to know the persona as a person and to enable them to stand in the shoes of this person while doing their job. We’ve observed, through years of experience, that the deeper our extended team’s understanding of the customer, the less we have to rehash requirements for the project and the less rework we see.

Back in the late 1990s, when both of us were at Intuit, Heather was on the QuickBooks team and Vidya was on the TurboTax team. We were just implementing the concept of Follow Me Home across the company. This was a form of ethnographic research where we conducted onsite observational research sessions. We’d go to our customer’s place of work or place of filling out their taxes and quietly observe the process of managing finances or taxes.

The QuickBooks team conducted a bunch of these Follow Me Home sessions with small businesses and invited our engineers to observe. There was an interesting side effect of this. We found these engineers going home on a Friday after seeing and hearing these customers firsthand, and coming back on Monday having fixed an issue they observed in one of the sessions. They were so excited (and frustrated) by what they saw during the observational session that they couldn’t help but try and make the users’ experience better. We were seeing things like this across the company. The point is that seeing and hearing your target customer is by far more valuable than reading any documented persona. 

There are a couple of things to consider in achieving this kind of intimacy and motivation:

Get your extended team participating in the research whenever possible. 

Observing everything firsthand is far superior to waiting to get the CliffsNotes version. It’s not always possible, but you’ll get the best outcomes if the majority of your extended team has seen and heard your target users through observation or interaction. If they can’t participate, then organize ways for them to view or listen to the recordings of your interactions. Brown bag lunch, anyone?

Debrief the team on what you all learned through the research before putting pen to paper to write the persona. 

Make them feel just as much ownership over the persona as you do. The more ownership they feel, the more they will utilize personas; ensuring consistency and delight in the user experience they are all working hard to develop. 

Share what you learned first. 

When you learn something new through research that leads to an evolution of the persona, make sure you share the learning before reposting a new version of the persona. Focus on the infusion of learning about the persona and the implication of that learning on what the team is working on. Focus on this more than on presentation of the persona.


If you like what you see, there’s more where that came from. Pick up Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin from Amazon.

Product Rebels is a product management training and coaching firm run by long term product executives for companies like Intuit and Mitchell International. We have trained over 200 companies, small and enterprise level, in the skills and frameworks that help product management leaders and product managers deliver kick-ass customer experiences. We have a passion for finding efficient ways of infusing customer insight into everything product teams do in pursuit of experiences that customers love …and that drive growth.  Join us in the Product Rebels Community on Facebook or the Product Rebels Community on LinkedIn.

Take a look at our very practical training courses and coaching programs that give you practical tools, frameworks, and support you can use tomorrow in becoming a more effective product leader.  www.productrebels.com

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