PRODUCTHEAD: Trust and customer success

PRODUCTHEAD: Trust and customer success

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

like spinning products


Keeping your users’ attention means minimising cognitive drain

Customer onboarding is a continuous process

Video games use contextual nudges to teach players how the game works

A new customer success team builds trust by prioritising people, then process

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every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


I was recently evaluating some software for Product People, my consultancy and training firm, as a replacement for a system I’d been using for over eight years.

Things started well: the cofounder himself made himself available to show me around the product and answer my questions about the service. I thought to myself, “that personal touch probably won’t scale,” but I was happy all the same for the gesture.

I explained my needs, and they answered the main questions I had, so I started the free, 1-month trial. At this point, I was pretty enthused — it was looking like I could shift to a decent alternative to my current setup, and save a fair chunk on annual costs.

With that goodwill, I was comfortable with the compromises on capability I’d have to make in shifting from a mature, tried and tested system to a relatively early-stage startup’s product. “I can work around these missing features until they turn up in the product,” I thought to myself.

So I wasn’t put off because the startup’s product had fewer features than the my current system.

Where they lost me was around the customer relationship.

I use this particular piece of software to help me run my business every single day. I need it to be reliable and streamlined, so I can spend my time serving the needs of my own clients, rather than having to focus on the needs of my business.

But the software was secondary to the trusted advisor relationship I needed to have with the startup. I needed to be confident that they’d be working in my best interests, reliable and fulfil their promises.

I was actually buying a human service I could trust that happens to come with some good self-service software.

Then they made a dumb mistake. This had a knock-on effect with one of my suppliers, which meant I needed to devote time to calm things down again. The startup was very apologetic for their error.

I was mildly annoyed, but they still hadn’t lost my business quite yet.

They lost me because, just at the point I was beginning to become more familiar with their product and use it in earnest, they stopped engaging with me.

Whether this was because they were now keeping their distance because of embarrassment, or they were simply stretched to thinly to support me through the remainder of my evaluation, I don’t know.

Whatever the reason, every day that passed where they ignored my questions seeded doubts in my mind.

With the end of my evaluation now fast-approaching, I now had to make the rational decision whether the money I would be saving each year with their service was enough to overcome:

  • the compromises I’d have to make on functionality
  • the fear of further slip-ups / lack of responsiveness once I become a customer
  • the effort (=inertia) of making the change from the system I was familiar with and had been using for 8+ years

And the conclusion I came to was: no, not yet.

Trust is hard to regain once you’ve lost it, and potential customers have a limited amount of goodwill.

If and when you make a mistake, it’s how you put it right and deal with the aftermath that will define your customer relationship, not necessarily the mistake itself.

So this week I’ve pulled together some thoughts and experiences for you from experts in customer success.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Building badass users

Kathy Sierra, who created one of the largest (and friendliest) developer communities, and the bestselling Head First tech book series for O’Reilly, talks about the sociological side of the product development – how to build badass users, not just badass products.

Keep your users’ eyes on the prize


Not all onboarding is created equal

In this talk Andrea Saez will cover how ProdPad has used beta testing, gamification of in-app messaging and persona based emails to create a multi-channel, multi-touch onboarding approach that speaks for itself day after day.

You’ll learn how to put these tests in place to find out what works for your customer base and how you can put your product’s best face forward to turn those new customers into loyal customers.

[Free sign-up required to access the talk]

Everyone learns in different ways


Product Management Coaching

Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.

We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.

A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity. Just reply to this email if you’re interested in finding out more.

How video games introduce their mechanics

Game designers are teachers. Every game, from the simple Pong to the city-spanning Grand Theft Auto, is created with rule-sets and lessons in mind. Designers want the player to learn those rule-sets, interact with them in interesting ways, and master them without losing interest or succumbing to controller-throwing frustration along the way.

The game itself teaches you to play it


Not just support on steroids: How to build a Customer Success team

Customer Success teams arise out of the need to provide high-touch guidance to your most valuable customers – without disrupting your Sales and Support teams.

There’s no one way to build a Customer Success team


recent posts

How to start a new product manager job

Starting a new product manager job can be daunting, particularly if you don’t change jobs very often. I work freelance, so I find myself in a new organisation roughly every 3-6 months. Let me share with you my tips for your first few months in a new role.

What to do in the first 30-90 days


The product leader’s guide to interviewing

Because I tend to help organisations build up their product team from scratch, I’m often involved in the interviewing and hiring process, so I’d like to share with you my product leader’s guide to interviewing product managers.

Countering unconscious bias in recruiting


Mission to Mars

Imagine you’ve just been told that you’ll be a member of the team responsible for the first manned mission to Mars.

Now imagine someone asks you how much the mission’s going to cost. The whole thing. There and back. By close of business on Thursday.

Aaaaaarrrrrrgggh. It depends


upcoming talks and events

5th May 2021, 16:00 GMT


Online product management round table discussion (topic TBC)


can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from the cuttings of a post-lockdown haircut.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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