User Research for Insights that Count with Director of Product

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When the people who build products are not in tune with the people who use them, big mistakes are made. This is why good Product Managers make knowing the customer their top priority. Ben Babcock honed his user research skills while at Microsoft and Amazon. Now, as the Director of Customer Research & Insights at, he is responsible for making sure that his company is fully orientated towards the customer at all times. Here are some of Ben’s most powerful tips for getting inside your customer’s mind.

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Find Out Where You Stand Now

If you already run a product team, then make it a priority to check-in regularly and find out how well each and every member of your team actually knows your customer. This isn’t just important for marketers, it’s essential for everyone who builds something that the customer will one day use.

To evaluate where your team stands, ask them the following key questions:

  • Who is our customer?
  • What do they love or hate about us?
  • When was the last time you spoke with a customer?
  • How are you improving the customer experience?
  • Where do you go to learn about your customers?
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You should expect your team to be able to respond to all of these questions with clear, consistent and specific answers. If anything is vague or negative, or they haven’t spoken to a customer in years, then you may have a problem. 

One way to solve this is to simply get one of your customers in the room. 

Get the Customer in the Room

Even if your team’s customer knowledge is pretty good, doing this is not optional. You have to do it. People who work in the corporate world are often insulated from immediate customer interactions. You work and think in a comfortable office, not outside in the real world where your products are actually used.

The real world is busy, stressful, messy. People are not going to sit down and use your product with the luxury of time in an air-conditioned conference room. You are not your customer. 

This is why you need to bring your customers into the room.

  • Learn from your customer service team. They are on your frontlines. You should go visit them at least once a month. Understand the concerns they face. Receive frequent summaries. Listen along to some calls. Consume their insights.
  • Bring customers in and have them use your product in front of you! Ben created an apartment style customer lab in the Jet office where customers can browse as if at home! Ben uses eye-tracking which is quite easy to use these days and requires only a sensor on the computer.
  • Visit people in their home. Set up a time to go out into the wild and understand the triggers and environment that guide their use of your product. 
  • Have an empty chair in the room. Imagine the customer is sitting there in your next meeting. It’s a gimmick that can guide thinking, but this works only if you have already done some of the above and have a good sense of who your typical customer is.
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Each team member may only be part of one step in the journey, but they need to understand their role in context.

Examine the Customer Journey

Your team is part of an entire journey. Each team member may only be part of one step in the journey, but they need to understand their role in context so they understand the state of mind, expectations, and needs of the customer as they reach that specific part of the journey map.

Use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to Measure Customer Satisfaction

This is a simple survey that says something like “How likely are you to recommend [company name] to a friend?” People answer on a scale of 0-10. You’ve probably received emails like this in the past from services you use. It gives you a sense of how many users are out there promoting your brand, versus how many are detracting from it. If you aren’t using this tool already, you should be.

How to calculate NPS score

  • Ask your users  “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [Product or Company] to a friend.”
  • Those who answer 0-6 are detractors. 
  • Those who answer 7 or 8 are neutral.
  • Those who answer 9 or 10 are promoters.
  • From your responses, add up the percentage of detractors, and the percentage of promoters. 
  • Subtract the number of detractors from the number of promoters. For example, if you had 100 answers with 20 detractors, 20 neutral, and 60 promoters, then your NPS would be 40.

You should be aiming for an NPS score of over 50. Anything under this and you are doing something wrong.

Conclusion: Voice of Customer (VoC)

“There is only one boss. The customer. And [he or she] can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending [his or her] money somewhere else”. 

— Sam Walton

Uses the tools explored above to engage with your customer, and learn about their authentic wants and needs. When they talk, listen.

Meet Ben Babcock

As the Director of Research and Insights at, Ben Babcock has had a long and successful career helping bring delight to millions of customers through quality products and experiences. His professional career includes working for paradigm shifting companies like Jet, Amazon, Microsoft, as well as being an Instructor at Columbia University

His exciting career has spanned the video game industry, eCommerce and retail, new technology and innovation, and academia. He also boasts an impressive array of experience in quantitative and qualitative research and analysis methods. 

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