How Working With Aha! Customers Makes Me a Better Product Leader
May 11, 2018

How Working With Aha! Customers Makes Me a Better Product Leader

by Melissa Hopkins

“Customer success” — what is that? Not too long ago, no one knew. There was sales and there was support. But not customer success. Today, it is one of the fastest-growing job titles in the U.S., with more than 35,000 roles currently listed on LinkedIn. What changed?

More and more companies are working hard to align teams around customers. So roles that have traditionally been more inward facing are now looking out — to the customer and how to meet their needs.

We have a unique outlook on this at Aha! because we never had those traditional sales or support teams. Our Customer Success team serves customers of all sizes. And even more unique, each teammate is an experienced former product manager. We hire for this skill set because our customers tend to be product managers.

Aha! has worked this way from the start. In 2014 (not too long after the company began), our co-founders hired the first person to work with Aha! customers. Her title was Senior Manager, Customer Success. Today, that one-person team has grown into a team of 30 — with each one of us dedicated to solving customer problems.

But here is the thing — our customers are helping us too. Working with them every day makes us better product builders.

In our past roles as product managers, our focus in any one role was generally narrow. We worked on a single product with a team or two. And we typically served one segment of customers at a time. In our current role with Aha! Customer Success, we get to work with thousands of teams building the world’s best-known innovative products. Even more exciting for us, we get to work with the folks we understand best: product managers.

We are helping these teams innovate — all while learning more ourselves every day. Here is how we do it:

Focus on strategy Your average product manager often gets pulled in a million different directions — making it difficult to stay focused on what really matters. And even more difficult to build strategic thinking skills. Not so much on our team. We strengthen our strategic mindset every day by helping teams set a vision and connect their work to their goals.

See different perspectives The best product managers speak with lots of customers. But when you primarily work on one product, you end up speaking with the same kind of audience every time. Our customer base at Aha! is large and diverse. Customers work in companies of all sizes and in industries that range from banking to beauty. Talking to all kinds of product builders daily gives us a broad perspective — one that is nearly impossible to capture anywhere else. We also get to see every approach to building companies and product, and we are able to identify emerging trends as a result.

Discuss best practices Product managers usually adapt to the development methodology that is being used at their company — whether it is agile, scrum, SAFe, or waterfall. This makes sense since it is important to have consistency across groups. Our team at Aha! works with customers to align their work to the methodology of choice. And in the process, we are becoming experts in each methodology. We can clearly see the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Respond with urgency The goal of any product manager is to deliver what the customer really wants. But delivering on this can often get slowed down by competing demands from leadership or simply the day-to-day work of the job. Everyone at Aha! follows a framework that helps us discover what customers want really quickly. It is called The Responsive Method, and it is centered around the belief that interactions with urgency move people and organizations forward. Using this sense of urgency, we help customers get the most out of working with us. And we learn from them as well.

Working with the Aha! Customer Success team reminds me how much we product managers have to learn from one another.

The great thing is that the value exchange goes both ways. Every interaction our team has with customers improves their ability to build great products — while improving our ability to support them in that pursuit.

And in the process, we are all becoming better product leaders.

What has working with customers taught you?

Our team is happy, productive, and hiring — join us!

Melissa Hopkins

Melissa Hopkins

Melissa loves using technology to help people solve their problems. She is the vice president of customer success at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software. Melissa has more than 20 years of business and software experience. Previously, she managed teams at Citrix across consulting, education, supply chain operations, and IT.

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