What is the Complete Product Experience?

What is a product? It sounds like a simple question. A product is any item or service that a business sells. Right? But a product is so much more. It is the entire experience that customers share with your company. This starts the moment someone realizes they need a solution to their problem and includes the tools your teams use to support that customer.

Many blogs and books have been written about customer experience. Aha! co-founder and CEO Brian de Haaff first wrote about the concept of a Complete Product Experience (CPE) in his 2017 book Lovability. The CPE encompasses every interaction people have with a product, from discovering it to making a purchase to becoming loyal advocates. The concept behind the book was that product managers in particular needed to focus on building a Minimum Lovable Product (instead of a minimum viable product) to fully achieve a CPE.

Building lovable products requires you to consider all the touchpoints people encounter as they use your offering and interact with your team. Every interaction, whether positive or negative, contributes to how people feel about your company and product. To consider the CPE, you have to think holistically and cultivate a relationship with customers based on respect, trust, and lasting value.

Why should you think holistically about your product?

Thinking holistically about the entire experience you offer is essential to the success of any business. People can tell whether or not a company truly cares about helping them. This is true at any stage of the customer lifecycle. For example, consider a sales team that glosses over prospects' questions or uses high-pressure sales tactics. When people feel coerced into purchasing a product, they may naturally assume that the company is only interested in making a quick sale. Those customers who have unhelpful interactions with the support team or unpleasant experiences with your company's policies? They will probably remain one-time buyers and look for a competitor that offers a similar product with better service.

This is why it is so important to put customers at the center of all you do. The most successful companies constantly strive to optimize each component of the customer experience. Viewing every touchpoint as an opportunity to improve people's lives shows people that you care about helping them. Prove that you understand their struggles, empathize with their pain, and want to invest in building a long-term relationship. Over time, this inspires customer loyalty and even lovability.

What are the components of a Complete Product Experience?

Besides thinking about the actual product or service you provide, you need to consider the other interactions that contribute to people's experience with your product. These might include the technology you use to deliver your product, how responsive your internal teams are to new requests and ideas, and what kind of support you give customers. The graphic below shows the key touchpoints you have with each customer. These all equal up to the CPE.


Marketing

How do potential customers discover your product? How do they learn more about it? Company blog posts, social platforms, and ads are examples of marketing communications that enable you to reach and engage with an audience.

Sales

How do prospects get more information to determine if they will make a purchase? They might read reviews, speak to a member of your sales team, or sign up for a trial. The quality of each of these interactions contributes to whether or not they decide to make a purchase.

Technology

What are the core features that customers pay for and what technology does your company use to deliver these features? Customers expect the technology and platforms they use to be more than functional — they want a frictionless experience without interruptions and glitches.

Supporting systems

What internal systems does the team use to deliver the product? When you adopt better billing, accounting, and analytics systems, the logistics of selling and supporting your product become simpler. It is easier to deliver the actual product and keep track of sales and other user data.

Third-party integrations

What other products and services do people use in conjunction with your product? For software products, integrations are an important consideration so customers can seamlessly incorporate your product into their existing workflows.

Support

How do you offer help and training to customers? How do you gather customer feedback and prioritize enhancements? Continually supporting customers and improving your product requires you to understand what users need, identify new opportunities to help them, and build the features that will deliver the most value.

Policies

What are the company values and frameworks that all team members follow? Having clear guidelines in place for interacting with customers creates a uniform code of conduct for how people should be treated. For example, everyone at Aha! follows The Responsive Method, a set of principles that drive how our company serves customers and each other.

The seven areas of the CPE contribute to the full customer lifecycle, from awareness through advocacy. But having plans in place for each area is not enough — you also have to make sure that each touchpoint functions smoothly with all the others. For example, the values and messages that prospects hear during engagement need to be consistent with what they are told during onboarding and billing. When each stage of the customer lifecycle clearly supports the next, customers can be confident in your ability to provide a positive experience surrounding the product.

What is the role of a product manager in the Complete Product Experience?

Product managers are responsible for envisioning and delivering the CPE. But you cannot do it alone — you need input and support from teams such as marketing, sales, support, and engineering to ensure that your customers find satisfaction in every interaction with your offering.

Consider the launch of a new feature. Besides defining a cross-functional product launch plan, you have to think through what the new feature means for all the internal groups you collaborate with as well. You do this so that you can provide guidance or identify areas where customers may need more support to have the best possible experience. The marketing team should know how to promote the benefits of the new feature, while the sales team should understand how to talk about the problem that the feature solves. The support team needs time to dig into the new functionality so they can better answer customer questions.

The launch of a new feature is just one example. You also have to think about how to achieve a CPE at the macro level too. The exact actions and focus areas will depend on your company, product, and customers. Setting clear product goals, linking them to company objectives, and aligning the entire team around a shared roadmap are a few ways to encourage everyone to think holistically and prioritize customer joy. Establishing consistent workflows and processes is vital to making sure that everyone keeps customers at the forefront — you can think of these like guardrails that help you stay on track.

Many teams use Aha! Roadmaps to plan and collaborate on product planning. You can create and share strategic roadmaps that align the team around what you are delivering and how it contributes to a lovable experience. And by linking the tactical work to company and product goals, everyone can visualize the impact of their efforts.

Thinking more broadly about what you offer is a valuable skill for every product manager. When you constantly strive to increase customer joy at each touchpoint, it is easier to identify novel ways to help your users. After all, building products is all about service — you are creating a solution that helps people.

Product management dictionary
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