Is there any good reason not to have a regular cadence of product manager job rotation with customer success managers? I can’t think of a single one.
On the other hand, there are five good reasons why it should happen as a standard operating procedure and three benefits that go beyond both roles.
5 Reasons for Product Manager Job Rotation
1. Product Managers Are Starting Their Careers in a Huge Deficit
A majority of product managers are coming into their role from technical backgrounds like engineering and have spent very little or no time at all with customers.
Understanding WHAT customers do, WHY they do it and HOW they do it is the most fundamental skill for a product manager. Without that knowledge, success will be an uphill battle for the long haul.
2. Customer Success Managers (CSMs) Could Use a Dose of Perspective
Customer success managers would benefit from a whole new perspective on the juggling act product managers deal with every day. There are more customers than the ones you’re responsible for!
Furthermore, understanding the challenges of everyone just asking for features without any context whatsoever would be a welcome but rude awakening for many CSMs. Kudos to the CSMs who keep everything in business context!
3. Doing Product Management From the Customer’s Perspective First
If you’re a product manager and you don’t understand what customers do, why they do it or how they do it, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table in terms of the product’s value and usability.
Worse yet, you have no legs to stand on when someone challenges your decisions and priorities. Customer domain knowledge is your kryptonite!
4. Infusing a Customer Mindset Into Design & Engineering Teams
Over the course of time, product design and engineering teams would reap tremendous benefits from stronger customer domain knowledge. Bringing a steady stream of that expertise in through customer success and ultimately product management makes engineering’s job easier.
When customer outcomes are the target and the obstacles are clear, there’s a lot less less guesswork for engineering.
5. Writing Customer Success Stories Before Products & Features Are Built
If there’s anything that makes product management, design and development easier, it’s understanding the exact “business outcomes” customers want and the obstacles standing in their way, long before you design and build the solution.
And I’m not talking about large scale epics or use cases (even though these are still necessary). I’m talking about very specific user job tasks.
For example, a success story on a high-value feature set might look something like this.
A physician is presented with a simple summary of a patient’s treatment history before each consultation without spending 5 or 10 minutes figuring out where the information resides or how to get it. This allows physicians to spend more quality time with patients and/or see more patients.
Trust me. Your designers and developers will figure out the simplest way to deliver these outcomes when you draw value targets this clearly.
Here’s the point. Using customer outcomes to create the value bullseye for your design and engineering teams is imperative to everyone’s success. It’s impossible to do when you don’t understand what customers do, why they do it and how they do it!
A Win-Win is Good but a Win-Win-Win is Better!
A consistent and steady infusion of customer domain knowledge into product management, design and development from CSMs and ultimately product managers benefits everyone.
Customers benefit from products that are easier to use and deliver more valuable outcomes, i.e., more quantifiable value.
Your organization ultimately wins with greater wallet share and higher customer retention because you’re consistently delivering measurable value with strategic impact.
Here’s the bottom line. Even when product managers have strong customer domain knowledge, it’s still a good practice to give them heavy doses of customer exposure. When you live with your products 24/7, it’s all too easy to think the world revolves around those products.
Happy job rotating!
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