How to Self-Advocate for More Customer Face Time (and why it’s important)

There are many stories of design successes attributed to the right level of understanding of the customer. Product designers make decisions, daily, about how a product is going to look and perform. So, we need to really understand the customer. And, to really get the customer, engineers need to spend time with them.

Sometimes, the business doesn’t want us to interact with the customer or doesn’t think it would be valuable. Objections include that we're not prepared for the user's environment, that we're too blunt or honest, or that we just overgeneralize what we learn, anyway. Or, there's a reluctance because of costs. Besides seeing these objections first hand, someone also listed them out in a published book! This shows that this is common across industries.

Is that fair to design engineers? No matter if it’s fair or not. We can prepare ourselves to address those objections. We talk about how we can prepare ourselves to self-advocate for more customer face time. 

All that’s left to do is to prepare ourselves to talk with customers, and then self-advocate and volunteer for customer-facing opportunities. 

  • We can prepare for the environment by asking questions to understand how we’re being invited into someone else’s space: do we need to prepare anything special or wear certain protective gear? 
  • We know to get involved in the meeting planning and to understand our role in the meeting and its objective. 
  • Our approach is of service to the customer, that the customer is always right. And,
  • We'll make sure we have a download meeting with our team and management with lessons learned from the customer-facing meeting, even if we need to be the ones to set it up. 

Want to know what book listed out some of these objections?

Smith, Preston G., and Donald G. Reinertsen. Developing Products in Half the Time: New Rules, New Tools, 2nd ed. Germany, Wiley, 1998.

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