How to balance the player requests and needs with your product strategy
What is this podcast about?
1. Minute 11:26 - Rizwana shared with us how can companies build product roadmaps and gives a super interesting example from Salesforce.
2. Minute 14:23 - we asked Rizwana how much should companies really listen to their customers, versus relying on their gut instincts and the strategic vision to really shape the future of the product and she shared her thoughts with us.
3. Minute 16:05 - Rizwana shared with us her top tips for incorporating customer feedback into the product without completely derailing the product roadmap: "gather the feedback proactively, understand the problem and need, identify opportunities to help the goals and incorporate in the roadmap based on the priority."
4. Minute 19:21 - we asked Rizwana what would be the 3 insights that bring the biggest impact to her team and she emphasized on: customer behavior, the path to personalized customer experience, and predicting churn.
5. Minute 21:16 - we wanted to hear how product teams receive reports from customer-facing teams in the companies and she shared with us that "customer Support or subject matter experts from customer-facing teams are essential key drivers to learn about the voice of customers."
6. Minute 28:15 - Rizwana shared her dream insight from customers and she said "it would be connecting with the target customers and learning about their behavior patterns, to proactively know their pain points and help arrive at solutions which are novel."
00:56 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Hello, everyone. Today, we're going to ask how do you balance the user requests and needs with your product strategy. So, welcome to today's episode. My name is Itamar. I'm today's host and I have the pleasure today of hosting Rizwana Rahman who's a technical lead product manager at Intel. So, first, let's say hi to Rizwana. How are you doing today?
01:21 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
I'm doing really well. It's great to be back on another episode of the Affogata podcast. Thank you for having me. A real quick question for you Itamar. I observed that your LinkedIn title says 'growing pies'. Is that a reference to data analysis via pie charts or splitting shares among shareholders?
01:41 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Yeah, so this is a great question, and the fact that you need to ask me it's probably not a great subtitle, but it refers to growing the pie for all stakeholders, right? Because I mean, you know, it's not only an expression, it's a way of thinking, right? You can aim to get a bigger piece of the pie, or you can aim to grow the pie. So, you know, I always try to grow the pie. So, I thought it's a nice reference to that. But it's probably not clear enough, to be honest.
02:12 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
It is really good. That's great. I was also looking forward to asking you this. What's been your best learning as the co-founder of affogato?
02:23 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Oh, that's a great question. So, best learning in general like it overall?
02:28 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
02:29 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
So, there's so many possible answers to that, right? I think one thing that is kind of high level, but I would say it's been very meaningful to me that my previous company that I started was a consumer-facing company, right? And I also started another b2b company, but it was more of a kind of a mass b2b. It was like a lot of small businesses, SMBs and small businesses. So, before Affogata, I didn't start myself a company that is a b2b company that works with, you know, enterprise type customers, right, where you have a totally different relationship and I think that has been, you know, my biggest learning it was around processes, different aspects of, you know, managing everything from your team to the roadmap, just to kind of relationships that you have with customers. It can be very rewarding, and also very demanding, right, in a good way because you have, you know, you have customers who are each customer is a very high value, they have, you know, expectations, which are in line with that and I think that has been a super interesting learning process. It's also a very different pace compared to the models that I described earlier. So, I think that learning things around that definitely has been probably the biggest thing for me. Thank you for asking.
03:52 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
That was very insightful Itamar. Thanks for sharing, and I do have a great admiration for entrepreneurs.
04:00 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Well, you know, we are all entrepreneurs. Each of us, you know, like is an entrepreneur within the context in that we operate, right? You always have stakeholders in all your reporting to and who you owe who to answer to. So, I think it's much the same, you know, within companies and when you start, like a small company, or a bigger company, or whatever it is, I think we all it's a point of view more than I think that you do or think. Anyway, thank you so much for asking this question. But I want to hear from you. So, before we dive really into player insights, would love to hear a bit about you. Can you please tell us how you got into the industry and where you are today?
04:42 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
Before we get started, I wanted to mention that I'm not representing Intel Corporation and not speaking as an official spokesperson. Going back to your question of how I got into the industry and where I am today. I wouldn't be where I am if I hadn't started as an engineer. Perhaps that is through the inspiration of watching my father tear apart electronic devices and build them back up again. Fast forward, I did my undergraduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering but took a couple of computer engineering courses in graduate school. That inspired me to change my majors and it was a shift in the beginning. But I was intrigued with embedded engineering. It gave me an insight into how to make hardware work with software and all the various components to make any electronic device functional. My current focus is product management with the added benefit of being technical, because of my engineering background. I emphasize the engineering aspect, since it really helps in knowing and breaking down the product cycle based on how big or small you want to go with your product in what amount of time. As I manage products for programs I've seen products are at the cusp of engineering design, user experience, product manufacturing, and sales and marketing. I've learned a lot through working at numerous fortune 500 companies like Siemens, GE, Sony and now Intel.
06:11 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
So, I think this is amazing. I think it's, you know, thank you for sharing that because I think what you described as you, you know, you watch your father, work with these electronics, that's very inspiring and I think, you know, we have just a lot of different types of product management, and definitely a lot of, you know, different kind of product stakeholders will listen to the podcast and not everyone is as technical, right? So, I think it's very interesting to hear for someone who's really started from that kind of that origin, and gets to do these types of things, obviously, for extremely technically capable companies. So, thank you for sharing. I think this is really awesome and before we actually start the questions, we have an interesting story. So, let's just take a quick break for that and we'll be back right after this interesting story.
07:11 | STORY
Here's an idea. If you were about to launch a new multimillion-dollar video game, what would be the best fear stands to get people excited? If you said hire a guy to put on a mask and wave a gun around in a crowded bar. Well, you probably work for the boneheaded PR team behind Ubisoft 2010 video game, Splinter Cell Conviction. Yes, to drum up anticipation for the game in New Zealand, Ubisoft hired an actor to dress up like an enemy from the game. Enter a popular Auckland bar and wave a fake gun in people's faces. While the cops were inevitably called, the actor was almost shot. As far as ill-advised PR stunts go, anything that warrants a 911 call, probably shouldn't make it past the pitch stage. Thank you for joining me and see you next week on tales from the feedback crypt.
08:18 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
So, with that story in mind, we really can't wait to finally hear what Rizwana has to say about all this stuff. So, let's get started. So, we'd like to start, you know, as our first question. Can you kind of help us our listeners get to know about your current roles, your current things that you're busy within your career?
08:40 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
I'll be happy to. I'm currently a technical lead product manager in the gaming and graphics product group at Intel. In this role, I'm learning how PC gaming and the components around it are so different from console gaming, and the added opportunities that PC gaming has around, modding, and streaming. Although statistically, the percentage of console gamers is slightly higher than PC gamers, PC gaming provides you with more options for customization based on the games you would like to play and the performance you would like to achieve. Intel has been cognizant about the needs of gamers and recently launched its first discrete GPUs to enter the graphics industry. This is an exciting step for Intel. I'm also on the Advisory Council for the executives programs at California State University, Chico. I've had the privilege of meeting top executives from diverse and innovative backgrounds who are also on this council. I will also like to share that I recently presented a case study for the executive program which was super fun, and I shared with them the learnings of my research about an online fashion retailer called Zalando in Europe. In a nutshell, this console builds the business community by offering expert guidance to faculty and students, it promotes program goals of linking industry to academia and enhances the reputation of executive education by strategic reviews.
10:09 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Wow. Okay. So, thanks a lot for sharing this. This is, I think, first of all, it's beautiful that you're kind of doing, you know, those things that are also educational and enriching other stakeholders. So, it's great to hear about that and I think obviously, a lot of our listeners are very passionate about gaming hardware, and definitely, you know, about GPUs, it's, after all. While we're not a technical podcast, obviously, it's very important for the gaming experience, to have the latest and greatest and we've definitely seen a lot of interesting innovation. I mean, for the last years, for sure, but I guess if you look further over a very long period of time, it's amazing to think how much we've progressed. So, it's good to hear from the people are making it work. Yeah, so thank you for sharing and so, for being a product manager, we know it's not an easy role, because you have to balance a lot of things out, right? And especially, you need to figure out basically what features the company should be building, right? We talked about just now about, you know, those different constraints. It's on this decision, and we would love to hear from you a bit about how do product managers build the roadmap, in your experience, from your perspective.
11:26 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
That is a really good question Itamar. I have observed different approaches being taken within different organizations and it varies within teams as well. In my personal opinion, it is good to take a robust and focused approach before you push your feet on the accelerator for building the product roadmap. If you know why and what you're building, it's like having a North Star to guide your efforts and decide prioritization for the roadmap. Recently, I took a product management course at Kellogg. The experience provided more insight into how successful companies use the structure of determining the vision, values, methods, obstacles and measures first. During the case studies, I learned how Salesforce does it well and I believe they started in 1999, with a vision of creating a world-class internet site for Salesforce automation. Once you have the down it's beneficial to draft up the product strategy, and then start thinking through the roadmap. It's a more intensive exercise when you're identifying an opportunity for a product, which is a market fit and can generate revenue. On the other hand, if the product needs to be expanded, then the roadmap is more along the lines of including improvements, fixes, and new features, or sub-products, keeping in mind the vision for the product. One of the products I enjoyed working on the most was the PlayStation 5. As part of features with mapping, I went through an exercise of putting together the list of improvements bug fixes near term, and long-term plans.
13:09 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Well, so obviously, PlayStation 5 is a product I greatly admired product and I think a lot of our listeners obviously enjoy that product very directly. So, it's beautiful to hear about that and these are, you know, it's very interesting to hear how, you know, the sausage is made, so to speak, right? Because there's a lot of these different approaches there. A lot of balance that you really need to take care of, which I think is a kind of a key element of product management. So, we would love to hear, in your opinion, how much should companies really listen to their customers, versus relying on their gut instincts and, you know, strategic vision to really shape the future of the product because these things you know, can be not always inherent harmony, right? Customers may have specific desires, and obviously, the customer is always right. Why would the customer doesn't really know the value of the company or where the technology can lead or what even is possible, if you think about, you know, highly technical solutions like the one that you worked on? So, how is it done? Well, maybe you know, there's a trick in balancing both.
14:23 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
It's essential for companies to listen to customers to know their pain points or problems. They're always multiple solutions to a problem. This is where vision is needed so that you are selecting the right solution as a product so that it lies at the intersection of the product market fit, company capabilities, and the revenue generation capabilities for business. As far as the gut instinct or intuition goes, it can be one of the factors to help identify a product opportunity. However, the product needs to fit the market, be achievable for the company as well as generate revenue. I strongly believe as you analyze these three areas, the decisions should be data-driven. It's important to listen to the customer feedback and use gut instinct for identifying a product opportunity, among other factors, but not use it as the major driving force to set the vision.
15:28 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Got it. So, I guess the answer in a way is, you know, there is a balance, but it's a question of how to apply it. Okay, let's continue to dive more deeply into that. So, you have been in a product role for a very long time and I think our audience would really appreciate if you could share some tips. You know, during this balancing act, I'm sure you've learned quite a bit over the time. So, what would be your top tips for incorporating customer feedback into the product, and really doing that without completely derailing the product roadmap?
16:05 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
Customer Support is one of the main hubs of receiving customer feedback. It forms a great input source for identifying an opportunity for a solution or a product to a problem. Recalling from one of my experiences at GE, during my Lean Six Sigma training, which is a certification for industry professionals to learn how to improve the performance of a process, or product by eliminating waste and defects. I used the voice of customer tool to gather essential insights from customer feedback. That tool is the basic building block of learning who provided the feedback and to understand what needs to be solved and why. Based on one of my reads about Amazon, and I believe it was from the book, The Everything Store. Around 1997, Jeff Bezos himself reached out directly to his customers. He wanted to expand the company and he has reached basically was to know from his customers what they would like Amazon to sell. During that process, he realized the power of selling anything through the store. That is how electronics, toys and many other categories got added over time, which was a complicated undertaking, and was very successfully done, like we can see right now in the Amazon App. The future product roadmap can be realized by leaning on the customer feedback. Although their feedback should help your strategy and not drive it. It's important to balance which voices are important to the company's goals. Some feedback can really win over the customers and that could be a small customer base and sometimes the product roadmap has infrastructure changes to scale, which are important as well. So, in short, I would say gather the feedback proactively, understand the problem and need, identify opportunities to help the goals and incorporate in the roadmap based on the priority.
18:21 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Yeah, that makes sense and I have to say, it's really impressive to hear how, you know, even in a company, I think, you know, a lot of people that, you know, if we talk about, you know, the gaming industry, and they just see that we usually work with, you know, those are kind of, you know, not a lot of them are familiar with processes a company like GE, right? And it's interesting to hear how even, you know, this type of companies, the voice of customer plays an important role, and there are tools to work with that. So, I think it's always useful to hear about those methodologies that existed for a long time and they keep improving, right? Like, Lean Six Sigma is a great example. So, it's really amazing how far back that goes and how meaningful that can be. So, thank you for sharing that, and based on your experience, what are the top three customer insights that in your opinion, can bring the biggest impact to a team?
19:21 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
Customer insights play a very crucial role in improving products and services, which in turn increases the customer satisfaction and adds to the brand value. I would say one of the top three customer insights that can bring a team the biggest impact is customer behavior and again, recalling from one of my experiences, which was during the field trips at GE, my observations of how a service call was handled helped me learn the behavioral patterns. These insights helped me find what could be done to improve the service and reduce costs for the business. Another very important insight is the path to personalizing customer experience and providing customized services. We observe this when it comes to the Amazon App, based on your search patterns, the suggestions are tailored and customized for you. Another example is a fashion retailer in Europe that I mentioned at the beginning of the talk. The company is called Zalando, and they scaled their data collection and analysis, which helped them in knowing the best and worst selling products, determining customer lifetime value, and also helping them with pricing estimation models. Another important insight is predicting churn or attrition and entering new markets. One good example of a proactive approach to it is to expand the offering of subscription-based services. You see that Amazon recently added the free Amazon music to the Prime subscription.
20:52 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
So, thank you very much for sharing and as a product manager, how do you think reports from a customer-facing team, for example, community and the support team, how do you think these things can be handled and integrated into the product strategy because you know, it's a lot of information. It's kind of hard to distill, but it's something that you obviously want to take into account. So, how do you think that can be done?
21:16 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
That is a really good question. Customer Support or subject matter experts from customer-facing teams are essential key drivers to learn about the voice of customers. Collaboration with the customer support teams helps you learn about the sources of the reports, as in where those reports collected passively for example, through reviews on services like Trustpilot, Amazon, social media, or collected actively via interviews, surveys, chats, or community channels. I have observed how Trustpilot was used by a service at Costco for a training program and how the reviews are attended to connect the users with the right people for resolving their issues. The reports help you identify the frequency and intensity of a particular program, which is important for customer retention and satisfaction. This is when your product is out in the market. The reports are also helpful for customer acquisition and new opportunity identification. It helps in filtering the must-haves and nice-to-haves as a part of the product strategy.
22:32 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and it's again, really interesting to hear how this is done across so many different companies. So, this is a great perspective. So, what determines how quickly you get to an insight? You say, you know, it's important to listen to customers, it's going to take that into account but that sounds like a lot of work. So, what is usually the most time-consuming element of that work? And how do you get to an insights actually? How does it actually look like?
23:02 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
Let me actually, when we talk about insights, let's break it down into two parts. One; insight for fixing a problem or complaint for an existing product, and two; insights to identify opportunities for a new product. With active insight via interviews, chat surveys to gather data is specific and clean. This is the fastest way to handle customer attrition. In case of proactive insights, the audience can be spread across the globe. These insights come with a lot of noise and are not segmented. This is one of the challenges with building a meaningful model for machine learning and producing a fruitful conclusion as an insight. The most time-consuming aspects are eliminating noise and categorizing it or segmenting it and finding a pattern. When I say segmenting, for example, in the case of a software or hardware product, it is really important to know more about the user, and here the segments would be what is the user's location, demographics, their proficiency with technology and devices etc. It is also important that the data collection component is embedded in the product and all the processes around it so that you have all the raw data as soon as it is launched. Those pieces of telemetry will help not only to quickly diagnose any issue but also help in building an intelligent-based model for machine learning.
24:34 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Got it. So, how do you think product managers can really combine that qualitative and quantitative data so you know, both unstructured types of feedback that you have touched on and also the quantitative stuff, the kind of data that you can measure, you know, the events, clicks, things like that. How do you combine between those?
24:57 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
If you're gathering customer feedback actively via surveys, interviews, chats, consider your query list complete, if it is both quantitative and qualitative, so that you're collecting both the whats and the whys of the feedback. Quantitative data makes the results measurable. However, the qualitative data adds description and adds more context to the feedback. This can also help understand customers' feels for the product or experience and why they felt a certain way towards the satisfaction, or what truly happened when they considered their experience of disaster. So, by making the feedback not just quantitative, but also qualitative, it helps get a complete picture of the valuable data. This makes the collected data have more relevancy and veracity. For surveys, we should include questions around reasoning instead of stopping at closed-ended questions like yes or no or multiple-choice answers and I think the service should be simple so that it is easier for customers to fill in.
I read a really good example of how qualitative data supplemented the quantitative and helped determine the response to a product. It is of a food service company, which had launched a brand of Instant Brown Rice, and the claim that the rice could be cooked within 60 seconds. The product was out in the market for a few months and had negative reviews. A survey was conducted, which included qualitative questions around lightness and satisfaction, but through the qualitative questions, they could dig deeper into the process of cooking. It was actually later determined that the instructions in the box were not clear or easy to follow. Another example is when an app isn't working well on a device while the quantitative part can help you learn information about the frequency of the issue, the qualitative feedback helps break down because in terms of what was the user flow, what were the errors that the user received and if the error was app-based or device-based, or the way the app was running on the device.
27:06 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Got it. So, that sounds a sense. I mean, you are talking about combining, you know, both feedback that, you know, you can ask for users for quantitative feedback as well. So, you have that, and you have the qualitative part and of course, whatever metrics you use, so making use of all of these together, and the examples that you give, that makes total sense and I have to say about the rice, you know, if you can, nobody should eat instant rice. Hopefully, everyone one cook their own rice or get their hands on a rice cooker and I don't wish instant rice to nobody. But I guess that's a separate question. So, thank you for sharing and for the last question. If there were a dream insight, something that, you know, in reality, this is very hard to get but a dream insight that you could get from your customers or from your users. What would that dream insight be?
28:02 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
Well, it's almost at the end of the podcast, but that's a great question to end on. Dream insight would be how to create dream customers by identifying the target audience for a new product. Apple is one of the best examples of a company who has a loyal set of dream customers that are targeted. Apple also does a really good job at providing a well-appreciated customer experience. The Apple Watch is one of my favorite Apple products and is a great example where it solutions in terms of fault detection to address the problem in the form of an accident is provided to the users.
In short, dream insight would be connecting with the target customers and learning about their behavior patterns, to proactively know their pain points and help arrive at solutions which are novel. One really good example that comes to my mind is of a startup called Pillpack. The startup was actually bought by Amazon, and it was a billion-dollar acquisition. Pillpack is a prescription home delivery system, which helps address common inconveniences and the patient experience like standing in long lines, keeping track of expiration dates, details around taking the pills on an empty stomach or otherwise, imagine going through all that while you're not feeling well. But Pillpack provides a seamless cycle for the user where all the communication and transaction happen from doctor to pharmacist to Pillpack, making customized deliveries for all your medication and leaving it at your door with well-designed instructions and the details like travel packs.
29:50 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Yeah, that has been a great in recent years and hopefully, we will see more innovations in the coming years right because a lot of companies are trying to solve both for, you know, the value chain for drugs, for pharma, especially in the US, it's pretty contrived in the, you know the issues around pricing and access to, you know, to really across different segments of the population and also making sure that people are, you know, actually compliant with whatever the doctor prescribed, right, because of pricing and access issues, and also really just understanding how exactly you should be using whatever the doctor prescribed. That's actually very tricky. So, hopefully, we'll see more innovations around that. So, there's a lot more people take whatever it is that they need to take in their health improves as a result. So, that's a very interesting example.
Well, Rizwana, I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to participate in today's podcast and sharing with us and our audience so many great insights, I think you have, you know, really wide experience than you worked on, you know, very technical things that are, it'd be great joy and great value to a lot of people. So, thank you for your work and it was super interesting to hear from you and learn from your experience on how to balance customer needs in the product strategy and roadmap and we really appreciate you taking the time.
31:16 | Rizwana Rahman: Technical Lead – Product Manager
Thank you again, for the wonderful time, Itamar.
31:18 | Itamar Rogel: Affogata's CPO & Co-founder
Our pleasure and for our listeners, thank you so much for joining us today and we'll see you in a future podcast where we continue to talk about how to listen to your users, your players, and to make great quality decisions. Thank you and have a great rest of week.