Building a User-Centered Product-Management Culture

June 17, 2024

If you’ve built an innovative product with a beautiful user interface and high-tech features, but it still isn’t selling well, the reviews aren’t satisfactory, and you keep losing customers, it’s time to reevaluate whether UX design and product-management operations are keeping users at the center of your product-development efforts.

A user-centered product-management culture ensures that your services align with customers’ needs and add value to their lives. Customers should feel that you’ve designed every interaction with your product to address their needs and challenges. Plus, a user-centered culture builds loyalty, improves customer retention and conversion, and enhances brand value.

Wondering how to create user-centered culture at your company? In this article, I’ll consider some proven strategies for building a user-centered product-management culture.

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Strategies for Building a User-Centered Product-Management Culture

To build a user-centered product-management culture, you need to implement a range of strategies. Let’s consider ten strategies that can help your company to become user centered.

1. Fostering Empathy for Users

Users choose your company over competitors when they see that you understand their needs, desires, and painpoints. Empathy must be a core element of your product-management culture to achieve the necessary level of understanding.

Fostering empathy lets you put yourself in the user’s shoes. It reveals what challenges users have and what you need to do to address them. With empathy for your users, you can create contextually relevant products that not only help them perform their tasks but solve specific problems, too.

What could be a better source of knowledge about what users want than the users themselves? Conduct user interviews to gather the knowledge from which you can derive insights about your users. Look for response patterns and detect where users face the most friction.

Conduct journey mapping and create user personas and empathy maps for your different customer segments. The personas should include demographic information, user needs, goals, behaviors, and painpoints. Identify the touchpoints and the associated challenges that users face at each stage.

To better understand your users’ emotional reasoning, create empathy maps. The four primary components that you must consider include the following:

  1. Says—This box contains quotations from usability testing, surveys, and user research.
  2. Thinks—In this box, you should capture the user’s thoughts during each stage of the customer experience (CX).
  3. Does—Record user actions such as reloading a page or comparing the prices of competitive products.
  4. Feels—Examine users’ feelings and emotional state within the context of their actions, thoughts, and feedback. For example, if a user reloaded a page several times in quick succession, this probably indicates frustration with a slow page-loading time.

Figure 1 shows an example of an empathy map.

Figure 1—An empathy map
An empathy map

Image source: InVision

Based on your user-journey data and empathy analysis, shortlist the most critical challenges and areas for improvement. Develop specific strategies to address each of them.

Make doing user interviews, journey analysis, and empathy mapping the norm in your organization. This ensures that your product-management team has the most recent data and can adjust the product’s features and functions to suit users’ current emotions and challenges.

2. Prioritizing User Feedback

Jonathan Shariat, product designer and the author of Tragic Design, has said, “From my experience, the only way to keep user needs at the center of your process is to center your process around users.”

How can you do this? By knowing exactly what users expect from you. So why not ask your users directly?

User feedback offers invaluable insights that let you ditch assumptions and align your product with real customer needs. It ensures that a product evolves with its customers and you continue to offer relevant solutions. Users can also suggest new features and improvements to the product that your product-management team hasn’t considered and pave the way to greater innovation.

You should collect and analyze feedback consistently using in-app feedback tools. This requires a systematic approach and effective feedback mechanisms.

To gain holistic insights, combine user surveys, in-app feedback forms, and usability testing. Integrate a feedback widget and feature-request function into your product to capture user suggestions in real time. For example, Microsoft has a feature-request page on their community hub, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2—Microsoft’s Feature Requests page
Microsoft's Feature Requests page

Of course, it is impossible to accommodate every feedback request. So how can you prioritize them? Use RICE scoring, which comprises the following factors:

  • Reach—How many users would act on the feedback?
  • Impact—How significantly would a change affect users?
  • Confidence—How confident are you about the feedback’s reach and impact?
  • Effort—How much effort would implementation of the suggested change require?

This framework quantifies the importance of each instance of user feedback and lets you make the most impactful, user-centric changes.

3. Encouraging Cross-functional Collaboration

Involving multiple teams in product management leads to quicker problem identification and resolution. Push for cross-functional collaboration so your team can create a pool of diverse, innovative insights. This lets you understand different users’ perspectives and implement holistic product-management strategies that perfectly meet their needs.

For example, members of Support teams can provide first-hand intelligence into the user’s expectations and journey roadblocks and validate your survey insights. Your Marketing team can identify industry trends and current customer needs. Product designers and engineers can collaborate—the former designing prototypes that are based on their understanding of users’ needs; the latter assessing the feasibility of the suggested changes.

At the beginning of a project, you can collaborate with your team to decide where to host your Web site. For example, you might list the pros and cons of Wix versus Shopify or other platforms and choose one platform together.

Conduct regular cross-departmental meetings and workshops. Create a culture in which people respect and appreciate different opinions and suggestions. Host workshops on cross-functional collaboration and adopt its best practices. Maintain a dedicated communications channel on which employees can instantly share their findings and suggestions.

You could also run monthly brainstorming sessions with two or three representatives from each department to discuss user feedback and potential improvements to your product.

4. Making Data-Informed Decisions

It is impossible to build a user-centered product-management framework based on assumptions. You need data that quantifies users’ needs, expectations, challenges, and usage patterns. Only then can you identify product gaps and make evidence-based changes that keep the user at the forefront.

In Figure 3, Luke Wroblewski explains why UX design should be data driven.

Figure 3—LukeW on the role of data in UX design
LukeW on the role of data in UX design

Image source: LukeW

In addition to analyzing customer feedback, integrate AI-powered analytics tools into your Web site or product to track real-time user behaviors and assess user satisfaction. How frequently do users engage with your product? Are there any specific pages where users frequently drop off?

Run a competitive analysis to detect gaps and evaluate your product against industry benchmarks. Use social listening to better understand your users’ thoughts about your brand and what they expect from your product niche.

Before finalizing your UX design changes, conduct A/B tests to improve your designs and validate different variations of features. The data you gather can tell you which variant better meets users’ needs.

5. Cultivating a User-Centric Mindset

Every decision your team makes and each step your team takes must resonate with users. How can you achieve this? By cultivating an organizational culture that focuses on user-centricity.

Communicate the importance of user-centricity through regular workshops, Webinars, and training sessions. Develop user-interface modules in code, and provide guidelines that enforce prioritizing user needs above all. Teach your teams ways of tracking market trends and resolving users’ painpoints.

Consider launching an internal campaign to share success stories in which user-centric decisions have yielded positive outcomes. Show your teams how you analyzed and implemented users’ requests and the subsequent results.

Have different teams sit in on customer calls to understand customer issues more deeply and address them through their departments. Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate a strong commitment to understanding and accommodating users’ needs.

6. Creating User-Focused Goals and Metrics

How can you ensure that your user-centric product-management strategies work? Devise an objectives and key results (OKR) framework for user satisfaction, customer engagement, and loyalty. Your goals should be specific, time bound, and measurable—for example, reducing customer-support tickets by 20% in the next two months.

Some important metrics that you must monitor include the following:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)—This lets you gauge customer loyalty.
  • Customer Satisfaction Score—You can examine how relevant your solutions are.
  • Customer Effort Score—This quantifies the navigational ease of your user experience.
  • Error Rates—These measure how many times users fail to complete a task.

Review these metrics to measure your progress toward your defined goals. For example, your objective might be increasing user retention by 35% over the next quarter. In this case, you would track the churn rate, retention rate, NPS scores, and satisfaction rate every week and adjust your approach accordingly. Finally, tweak your goals to adapt to customers’ needs.

7. Empowering Product Teams with User Insights

Dedicating just 10% of your development budget to User Experience can increase conversions by 83%.

Give your product teams access to user insights to ensure that you bake their needs into your product. You can know exactly what users want and make data-informed product decisions. A product-development team that is armed with customer data can address design issues before they escalate. Using data reduces instances of trial and error and enables you to finalize a product that resonates with users perfectly.

Grant product teams access to a centralized customer-data repository that gets updated regularly to keep everyone on the same page. For example, you could implement a shared dashboard that does the following:

  • visualizes trends, usage patterns, expectations, and challenges
  • displays key metrics and goals
  • showcases the most important user feedback

8. Iterating Designs to Meet Users’ Needs

A user-centered product-management culture consistently upholds users’ needs. That’s why iterating designs based on user feedback, analytics data, and behavioral trends is crucial.

As your customer base scales, you must use agile methodologies to capture rapid changes in user needs and implement regular product updates.

Start small, making minimum viable changes to minimize the risk of mishaps. Run A/B and beta tests to evaluate user resonance. Implement incremental changes based on user feedback to ensure that the product remains user centric throughout the iteration process.

9. Celebrating User-Centered Successes

Highlight your commitment to user-centricity by celebrating every success deriving from user-centered approaches. Share case studies and detailed analyses that show how you identified a specific challenge users were facing, the process of validating and addressing it, and the positive business changes it drove. Feature case studies and analyses in company newsletters and promote these stories across various social-media platforms, using social-media management tools to schedule posts, track engagement, and analyze performance.

Provide opportunities for teams to suggest and implement user-centric product changes successfully. This keeps team morale high and nudges everyone to continue their efforts in this direction.

10. Investing in User Research

User research is the backbone of user-centricity. So invest generously and dedicate resources to understanding user preferences.

In “The ROI of User Experience,” Dr. Susan Weinschenk shares this fact: “The cost of fixing an error after development is 100 times that of fixing an error before development of the project is completed.”

So build a team specifically for user research. Hire specialists and assign employees with impressive skills in deciphering users’ expectations. Train user researchers and equip them with AI-powered analytics technology.

You could also conduct in-depth studies quarterly, during which the user research team could brief other team members on new user insights and market trends.


While building a user-centric product-management culture doesn’t happen overnight, attaining this goal can empower your teams to build resilience and agility into your products so you can overcome even the harshest market conditions.

Your customers will appreciate your dedication to accommodating their needs and fostering greater trust and loyalty. User-centered approaches also grow your brand value and market position, giving you a competitive edge.

Follow the strategies I’ve outlined in this article to build a culture that can adapt to users’ needs and create a superior product experience. 

Founder at Ranking Bell

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Mehdi HussenAs the founder of Ranking Bell, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketing and organic-growth agency, Mehdi helps SaaS businesses drive organic growth and customer acquisition through search-engine optimization (SEO) and data-driven, content-marketing strategies. Mehdi spends his spare time musing about startup growth strategies, personal productivity, and remote work.  Read More

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