Recently Bill Cushard, Director of Marketing at ServiceRocket, led a panel discussion on how Product Management (PM) and Customer Success (CS) work together (or against each other) in a recent monthly meetup hosted by the Customer Success Leadership Network (CSLN). Nils Davis, author of “The Secret Product Manager Handbook,” and Bobby Brown, Global Head of Customer Success at Twilio, squared off in what promised to be a contentious and acrimonious battle. Well, sparks did fly but for many who attended, it was clear a new power couple was born.

Here are just a few of the topics Nils and Bobby explored while answering questions from the audience:

  • How do you get Product to join customer meetings?
  • Why don’t you believe what a customer tells you?
  • How does CS get PM to work on customer requests?
  • How should we prioritize requests?
  • Do CSMs rely on Product too much?
  • How can CSMs become an extension of the PM team?
  • Why wouldn’t you want CSMs to act as an extension of the PM team?

Bennifer? Brangelina? ProductSuccess?

Having Product Managers (PMs) in customer meetings helps all stakeholders. It helps PMs understand the challenge the customer is experiencing more fully. The customer values working and speaking directly with Product, and really appreciates that the CSM is acting as a strong advocate on its behalf–a nice boon if the CSM service requires an extra fee. A CSM can also learn more about the product, and competitors by working closely with the PM.

That Product and Customer Success make such an amazing team is very obvious. But why doesn’t it happen more often? Why doesn’t Product join more customer meetings?

We asked Nils pointedly, “Why don’t you want to attend?”

Nils answer was simple, “You don’t ask.” While he may have been mildly joking, the underlying message was well received. PMs love being in customer meetings, but of course, they have many things to do. If a PM can’t attend a meeting, ask again, or rethink the approach. Are you relying an ad-hoc swipe right requests at the last minute?

I believe a more common experience is to introduce customer programs that Product supports in order to provide a more systematic approach to getting PMs involved in customer meetings.

Getting PMs to Share Roadmap More Freely

At one company where I launched the CS function, the company was already public and had robust technology. However, it had taken a reactive, support approach to customer engagement so there were few planned customer outreach meetings. Fortunately, the product roadmap process was very ingrained in the operational DNA of the company. I felt confident the roadmap was taken seriously, would not disappear next quarter, and informed the delivery of features and improvements in the product. I proposed as part of our new enterprise onboarding program we include a roadmap discussion with the customer that let our PMs share our roadmap, and learn about customer’s roadmaps/priorities. This allowed PMs to participate in high value conversations, and made our customers feel much more valued.

We also added a quarterly webinar in which a PM leader would share the roadmap, take questions, and discuss ideas with enterprise customers. These programs became part of the service plans for which we charged.

Both programs were well received by both customers and Product. Overall, these programs didn’t add much more time to the PMs schedule. They were already spending time on developing the roadmap and were having some informal roadmap conversations. With a structured program, they could plan for and budget time in a more structured way.

What about you? Where did you and your Product team first connect?

Please enjoy a recording of the excellent hour-long event: