The truth is all companies want to be customer focused, yet they do not clearly define what that means. Are you identifying market needs and testing your hypothesis along the way? Are you constantly testing your product against the market and pivoting as needed? When product managers have to juggle multiple responsibilities-- customer visits, requirements, and working with engineering/ support/ sales/ marketing to name a few-- their plate is full. Pragmatic marketing’s recent PM survey claims there is one product manager for every 5.6 engineers and 5.6 salespeople. This is part of the reason why so much of PM’s time is spent dealing with internal activities at the expense of customer focus.
So, how should one get a handle on the situation and become more strategic? One way I have used successfully was an MBO that required each product manager to engage with at least four customers per month. This task requires better time management, but allows for customer input and feedback. Ideally one should meet with the customer face-to-face, but in a time crunch a phone call or video conference would do.
As a product manager, set at least 20% of your time to understand the market. You cannot innovate from the inside out, so get out in the market and find what your customers need. Armed with that information, design the best solution and develop it. Keep checking back with your customers to make sure you are addressing their needs and don’t be afraid to change your product. In the long run you will save money if you focus on your customer, even if that means changing your product.