10/8/2021

Communicating Your Product Designs

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Mastering Effective Communication as a Product Manager

Communicating Your Product Designs Pdf

The process of creating a customer is a process of communicating your vision and values to the right set of customers in the market. Strategic messaging facilitates this communication. Communicating via design The same principles that are used when communicating with an interlocutor can be applied to interface design. Just like a writer or speaker chooses the right words to engage with their audience, a product interface should feature the right elements and interactions to clearly communicate a message to its user base. The product manager’s role is so much about effective communication —and yet those “communications” courses you took in your MBA program probably didn’t prepare you for this. That’s Roman Pichler’s diagram of the many responsibilities often assigned to Product Managers.


Product managers spend much of their time communicating ideas, plans, designs, and tasks to their teams. This includes everything from emails communicating decisions, to presentations communicating product roadmaps, to specs communicating product designs, to bug tickets communicating errors in the product.
Mastering effective communication is known to be an accelerant to the dissemination of ideas, to team cohesion, and to even the motivation and inspiration of team members. Given this, it’s worth spending time as a product manager thinking about how you can improve the various communications you have with your team.
I wanted to share some of the best practices I’ve observed on effective communication around the three high level responsibilities of product managers: vision, design, and execution.
Communicating the vision
A compelling product vision communicates the audience you are targeting, the distinct problem you are solving, and the unique solution by which you’ll win the market.
It’s important to come up with a succinct version of your vision that is no more than a quick elevator pitch. In doing so, you’re forced to carefully consider each word you include to understand if it’s really tantamount to what you’re trying to accomplish. This vision statement can then be used anytime you are asked to describe the product. I tend to include it at the beginning of most of my written specifications as well as in most of my product decks as a brief introduction and reminder to everyone what exactly it is that we are trying to achieve. While it may seem repetitive to do so, it’s extremely important to be consistent and constantly remind all stakeholders of it to ensure everyone stays on the same page.
Beyond the elevator pitch, I find it helpful to also prepare a more detailed presentation that answers the three vision questions of target audience, problem, and solution in greater detail. When I first engage with new team members or partner teams, I walk them through this presentation so they can quickly understand what we’re trying to accomplish. I also refine and review this at least quarterly with my own team. This helps ensure that the entire team is constantly making day-to-day decisions with our overall vision in mind.
Communicating product design
Much of your time as a product manager is spent designing product interactions with your design team and then communicating that product design to your engineering team.
When working with your design team, speed of iteration is most important. I usually start at the wireframe level to explore various information architectures and interaction flows. I then move quickly to high fidelity mockups with real user data (as opposed to lorem ipsum filler text). With high fidelity mockups you can really communicate the actual product experience which is important when designing interactions. However, given the skills of your design team, sometimes staying at the wireframe level longer enables faster iteration, which could be a valuable trade-off.
When communicating finalized product designs to your engineering team, it’s important at that point to definitely have high fidelity mockups with real user data as well as design specs that provide details on the UI as well as interaction behavior.
The level of specificity you communicate within your design specs really depends on the engineering team you are working with. I’ve worked in organizations like Microsoft where it was typical to author 30 page specifications detailing all of the interactions and error cases for the developer to implement. I’ve also worked at startups where the design specs were nothing more than the high fidelity mockups with no details beyond that. I tend to prefer a level of specificity that’s somewhat in the middle, with a bias towards lighter weight specifications. The best model I’ve seen for this is the Eric Ries model of converting the spec writing process from push to pull. The idea here is to start with a lightweight design spec, present it to the engineering team, and see what questions they ask. Then quickly iterate with them and document the discussions that come out of the process.
Communicating day-to-day execution
The vast majority of your time as a product manager is spent in day-to-day execution. This is where I’ve found it most helpful to have a formal process to ensure no small task or bug gets forgotten and to ensure effective communication of the highest priority tasks to the team.
The best way to do this is simply to use a task management tool and enforce a process around it. My personal favorite tool is Asana, as I find it an extremely lightweight way to create, assign tasks, and add additional details as necessary. We currently use JIRA at LinkedIn, which is more appropriate for larger teams where the custom filters and dashboards become more helpful. Regardless of what tool you use, the most important part is ensuring the rest of the team understands that’s where they go to find out what they need to work on, to report bugs, and to understand the team’s progress.
Beyond this, I find it's sometimes helpful to also send out weekly or monthly status emails to provide a summary of progress and more importantly to communicate how that progress fits into the larger picture of overall execution against the roadmap.
These tips should arm you with ways that you can improve your communication across the core responsibilities of vision, design, and execution.
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Customer experience is critical. Getting it right is more than just a tech fix, success extends to the very language you use.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Communication is at the heart of human interaction, and it can make or break a business. Being able to communicate effectively with customers can lead to increased sales, repeat business and referrals. On the other hand, not being able to can quickly lead to decreased sales, frustrated customers and negative word of mouth.

So one big question facing businesses in this ever-more-connected society of ours is: How can businesses improve their communications with customers in order to grow and thrive?

Well, the place to start is to improve the experience people have when they call your business. Because, whether you realize it or not, while phones may feel like an outdated way to communicate, one study concludes: “Phone calls are still the primary channel for customer communications: Social media channels handle just 3 percent of all customer communications, compared to 68 percent who contact customer service by phone.”

That means even in an increasingly tech-savvy world, the telephone is still one of the most important mediums of communication between a business and its customers and prospects.

Communicating Your Product Designs Using

With that in mind, here are four ways to improve customer experience and communication over the phone so you can drive business and improve customer happiness.

1. Nail the first impression.

We’ve all heard that first impressions are everything, and business is no different. In fact, first impressions are even more important for businesses because prospects can easily send their business to your competition if they decide they don’t like their initial interaction with your company.

One of the easiest ways to botch your business’s first impression is to simply not answer your phone correctly. More specifically, if you’re getting a decent amount of calls on a daily basis and you don’t have an automated system that communicates with callers effectively, it can damage your business more than you may know.

Another study found that “more than eight in 10 consumers (83 percent) say they will avoid a company or stop giving it business after a poor experience with an automated phone system.”

Related: 5 Phone Answering Mistakes That Drive Away Customers

For many businesses, the first point of interaction with a customer will occur over the phone, so the most effective way to ensure better communication with customers is to put a professional automated answering service (called an auto attendant) in place.

Communicating Your Product Designs Online

A quality service will answer your customer’s calls quickly, with a friendly and professional voice, and route them to the appropriate extension so they’re connected with the right person the first time.

This takes a huge burden off the shoulders of office personnel, makes for a much smoother and effective communication experience and leaves first-time callers feeling good about their initial interaction with your business. Of course, the key to achieving the benefits of an automated answering system is to make sure it’s developed with customer experience in mind.

2. Keep hold times to a minimum.

Consider two research findings cited by Help Scout: “75 percent of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent.” And, “In the last year, 67 percent of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration they could not talk to a real person.”

This isn’t exactly a revelation, it is something many businesses still struggle with. The bottom line is, people hate holding for longer than a couple of minutes, so take steps to ensure all calls are being routed to the appropriate person or voicemail in a less than that.

Again, a good automated answering system will help limit hold times when setup properly. Another step to take is to use a phone that makes a sound to signal when someone has been on hold for a certain amount of time. This may seem like more of an annoyance than a useful business practice, but it will help ensure no caller is left hanging on the line too long.

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Related: The Indispensable Features Your Business Phone Must Possess

Designs

So work on putting the right processes and technology in place to ensure callers aren’t placed on hold for long periods of time. It’ll help your business in the long run.

3. Make customer service calls a priority.

Customer service is one of the main forms of communication between a customer and a business, so your business can’t afford to drop the ball. A recent survey found that 78 percent of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

In other words, when communication breaks down over the phone, people take it personally, and they tend to not give you their business.

4. Speak to your customers like real people.

Improving communication with customers extends to the language your company uses in conversation with them -- even to having real conversations at all. That means having telephone interactions that are less scripted and that use less transactional language. To start, try to frame your language in a positive way rather than a negative one.

For example, the site Help Scout cites the following routine customer service statement as negative language: 'I can't get you that product until next month. It is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.' To recast the same information in a more positive light, the site recommends something like this: 'That product will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!'

Related: Language Barrier: How Words May Impede Problem-Solving

Customer service departments should also give teams the right tools, ones that offer better customer insight. Phone systems nowadays have the ability to sync with customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce, giving your support team access to customer information, such as their purchase history and recent interactions with your business online and over the phone. All will help them better serve your customers in the moment.

Companies should refocus their customer service teams on becoming a customer's ally in resolving their issue, rather than on trying to hit metrics. Businesses often let metrics get in the way of actual problem solving. Instead of trying to beat the fastest support time, focus on engaging customers in a meaningful way, ask them what their problems and expectations are, and go at the problem as a team rather than working against the customer to solve their issue.

Communicating better with your customers will co-create better experiences that leave them more likely to buy from you and refer business to you.

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