Tools of the Titans: The Processes, Tactics and Habits of a Best-in-Class Product Team webinar recap

It was a pleasure for Nicole Wojno, UserIQ’s Chief Marketing Officer, to welcome three enthusiastic product leaders to this months’s webinar titled “Tools of the Titans: the processes, tactics, and habits of a best-in-class product team.” Geoff Bokuniewicz (Cirrus Insight), John Peltier (Terminus), and Aaron Aycock (UserIQ) discussed what makes the difference between a good product team and a truly successful one. They shared real-life examples based on their day-to-day experiences, told us about the best practices they’re following, and gave honest pieces of advice for building scalable processes and consistently deliver customer value.

If you weren’t able to join us, there’s no need to worry! This recap blog will lay out the key points discussed so you too can benefit from our panelists’ expertise. Excited? Here are the questions we addressed during the webinar:

What are the tools in your product stack that you can’t live without and what are some unique habits you’ve built as a result of using these tools?

Our three subject-matter experts use a broad range of cloud-based applications for various purposes. They’re improving their understanding of sales processes and customer relationship management using Salesforce. They rely on Zendesk to stay on top of user’s queries and provide efficient technical support. And they use project management software including Slack, JIRA and Asana to keep track of tasks and meet deadlines. They have started to build the following habits thanks to those solutions:

  •   Forward-looking planning and retrospective reviewing
  •   Initiating alignment between functions
  •   Laying the foundations for scalable communications
  •   Creating more repeatable processes

How have you created a successful feedback process that incorporates input from customers, stakeholders at the company, and your own findings?

John (Terminus) explained that one of the challenges he faced building the product was a lack of alignment between functionality and user needs. Often new features were driven by the founders’ and leadership’s vision and these, in his words, “did not quite hit the mark with customers.”

  • To combat this, the product team began setting up discovery meetings with internal stakeholders before taking on a new project and gathering everyone’s opinion using a Slack channel.
  • Customer success managers (CSMs) also invited the product team to attend the sessions held with clients every two weeks. These changes created an environment suitable for early feedback and user testing whenever needed.

Aaron (User IQ) spoke about the channels he finds most effective to gather feedback, and while “nothing beats face-to-face meetings,” these aren’t always possible or scalable. In contrast, targeted engagements, such as NPS surveys to new customers after they’ve completed a series of onboarding milestones, is an efficient, scaleable, and data-driven alternative, and can serve as a baseline to make sure the team is heading in the right direction.

Geoff (Cirrus Insight) share some of the questions he usually asks customers during meetings:

  • “What do you like? What don’t you like? What’s valuable? What don’t you want?”
  • But his favorite question is “if you had a magic wand that you could wave to solve a particular problem, what would that problem be?”

The goal is to derive a good user story and get specific feature requests at the same time.

How do you prioritize what processes get implemented when you’re getting one set of feedback from customers and one set of feedback from leadership about the product and roadmap?

Our three product leaders agree that balancing internal and external perspectives is necessary and that not all feedback is good feedback. So to whom should product teams listen to under different contexts?

  • From Aaron’s viewpoint, it all starts with data. His focus varies according to prioritization worksheets highlighting potential revenue, effort, impact, etc. Stories emerge from these and allow him to back up opinions and recommending what to work on next.

Geoff answered this question looking at incoming deals and what projects are worth taking on. The criteria that matter to him and his team include ROI and the overall efforts required. They follow a tight roadmap and often need to put requests in the backlog.

  • “Decisions are not just driven by data,” but are also weighted based on their judgment and expectations about what users will want.

John balances push and pull by focusing on problems faced by customers as part of an overall vision. Making this happen involves blending multiple ends among which customers, product teams, and customer success are critical.

How do you successfully facilitate product and customer success alignment to deliver customer value?

Product and customer success teams have many synergies to leverage when working in tandem. But this is not always straightforward and requires a lot of communication throughout the organization. To manage this, Cirrus Insight set up bi-weekly meetings inviting CSM, product, engineering, and technical support to discuss feedback

At Terminus, collaboration takes place in all areas, and the company is investing in further CS involvement early as new features get developed. Customer review sessions typically happen weekly, building on learnings from the previous week, and also tackle recurring themes such as product team members giving information on the latest features or uncovering underlying value.

Aaron, as the founder of UserIQ and Chief Product Officer, spoke about best practices he implemented to make sure groups align and spend enough time together:

  • Conduct weekly product meetings
  • Ensure that nothing falls through the cracks for customers
  • Treat critical customer issues or technical hurdles like a project through a “Refuse to Lose” approach
  • Share the same tool sets, so everyone has access to the same data

We would like to thank our product panelists for sharing their thoughts and advices. To conclude this webinar, Nicole asked them to share one actionable tip, which we decided to keep as a surprise for when you have time to watch the webinar recording and learn more about what product teams can implement today to improve results.

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