I heard the word “Empathy” about 8 years ago at a Product Conference in the Valley. For those not in the Product Management circles here’s the Webster definition below.
Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Over the past 8 years Empathy has become one of the key attributes highlighted and talked about in PM circles. Customer Empathy has been championed in organizations as they strive to understand customer pain points and address them with products and services.
The emergence of SaaS products has further pushed Customer Empathy. SaaS products/services need to be sticky for the customers to pay for them year after year. To account for this shift, we have seen companies evolve from “feature/benefit” selling to “Customer Experience” based pitches to nowadays driving “Successful Customer Outcomes “. This has also lead organizations to transform from the traditional Customer service to Customer Success model, with direct customer feedback getting incorporated in the AGILE development sprints. However, one thing which we haven’t religiously preached is getting the Empathy loop going Inward.
Pretty early in my product career, I had a conversation with a member of the sales team that stuck with me. We were prioritizing new features vs engineering backlog for an upcoming sprint and we decided the best thing for the business was to drop a feature. I, as the Product Manager, had to make the phone call to let the sales team know about it – knowing that they were not going to be happy campers.
One of the guys said “To you it’s just a feature for me it’s a paycheck”. Trying to put myself in his shoes made me realize the hardships he and his family might have to go through because of decisions outside his control. We did not change the decision because it was the right thing to do for the company, but I did everything else in my power to help him close deals. Over the years as a PM having empathy whether it’s for the Customer Success team working nights to support a Beta or the engineering team coming on the weekend to help meet a deadline , has helped me build great relationships and make better products.
All my Product mentors have always preached “Eat your dog Food”, so we as Product leaders need to drive Empathy through our organizations because if it is good for our customers it must be good for us.
What do you guys think?