In this Mind the Product APAC talk, Jennifer Choi, Head of Product Strategy at Grab explains what she and her team do to better understand their customers whose lives can be very different from their own.
Watch the talk in full or read on for a detailed overview.
Her key points include:
- Work hard to understand your customers’ values over preferences
- Know your value and allow this to help you overcome impostor syndrome
- Always create more value than you take
Jennifer begins by identifying the three main areas her talk will cover. “The first one will be about customer values,” she says, “the second one will be about your value, and the third one will be about my values.”
Beginning with customer values Jennifer explains that, to her, one of the most important and powerful ways you can begin to really understand customers values is through experiential research.
“Part of it is being able to live and breathe the experience of your customers and uncovering the values that are important to them,” she says. This is important too, especially when you work at a place like Grab where, Jennifer says, “the people that are using your products – your customers, your drivers and your merchants, don’t look like you and they might not speak the same language as you. But you need to put yourself in the position of someone that’s completely different to you.”
The way teams at Grab go about this is via product immersion and Jennifer shares an example of a 15-hour immersion with one of their Grab delivery drivers called Akbar.
“We sat on the back of bikes and followed our driver from 4am in the morning,” she said. “Just experiencing where he’s living, his work, his housing conditions, how many people are in his family – you just start to understand more about his background and where he’s coming from.”
The team took breaks, only when Akbar took breaks, stopped for lunch only when Akbar stopped for lunch and took restroom breaks only when he did. “We did this because we really want to experience the full journey and all of the pain points along the way.”
In doing so, the team learned more than they might have expected and not about Akbar but about his understanding and perception of the product for which he is an end-user. They saw how Akbar, one of their top-performing delivery drivers became frustrated with the process when at one restaurant, he was unable to get a job for over an hour. “We saw how a different driver from part of our dedicated food fleet that came in and was able to get a job before him. They were both wearing the same jacket and so, to him, it seemed so unfair.”
The team realised that because the driver was from the other fleet, they got priority over Akbar on this particular job. But, as the end-user, the driver, Akbar didn’t understand. “For him, the system feels incredibly unfair. And it’s frustrating. He was so frustrated to the point that when after two other drivers were able to get an order before he was, the expression on his face completely changed. He was ready to go home.”
Because of this research, the team realised an issue they might not have realised otherwise. “We had to really think about how to communicate that, because if a driver’s feeling that things are unfair, that he feels helpless against the system, then he’s going to be unmotivated. He’s not going to want to do as many rides, and that’s going to affect our business.”
Moving to her second point, ‘your value’, Jennifer talks about psychological safety. “The reason why I’m bringing up psychological safety,” she says, “is that oftentimes to do the best work and to do the most creative work, you have to feel psychologically safe. You have to feel like you’re adding value and that you are valuable.” For many Product Managers, she continues, this means being able to overcome imposter syndrome.
“I think overcoming imposter syndrome is something that not a lot of people, especially leaders, are willing to talk about,” she says. “and I think the more leaders I talk to, the more I realise that everybody’s going through this.”
Jennifer shares something she has found to be useful – an exercise provided to her by a coach:
Write down answers to the following questions:
- Why am I the best person for this job at this moment?
- How does this experience serve me for the better?
- Why am I grateful for it?
- What do I have to let go of (emotions, thinking of others)?
- What do I have to focus on right now?
- What do I look forward to?
Jennifer explains that the first time you do this, it might take 20 minutes, but the next, it might only take you five. What you’ll also notice is that you’ll find yourself redirecting your negative wiring and empowering yourself.
“You’ll notice that you are in the job for a reason and the more and more you do it, the better you’ll be at it and the more empowered you feel. And when you’re empowered, then your team will be empowered.”
Jennifer’s last topic is around her own values.
“Hopefully the values that I share will also help you as you’re thinking about developing products,” she says, “and when I think about that, one of the values that I hold deeply is – don’t be a thief.”
She tells us about a speech given by one of the professors at Harvard Business School when she graduated. The professor spoke about the value of an MBA and explained it with some examples.
“He said, if you ask the value of a doctor, it’s quite clear, you know, they heal people. If you ask about the value that a lawyer brings, it’s also quite clear – a lawyer will interpret the law.” However, Jennifer continues, when you ask people what value an MBA brings, “they’re stumped because the answer isn’t straightforward”.
“In his mind, the value of an MBA is to create value. And what is creating value? It means that you’re creating more value than you’re taking. And if you’re taking more value than you’re creating, that’s being a thief.” As a product leader, Jennifer says, this means creating more value than you take from your customers – do this, and your products are more likely to be successful.
“And when I think about properly,” she says, “when it comes to technology. I believe that technology is the ultimate democratizer. It enables you to enable millions of people to change their lives for the better. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m so thankful to be at Grab. We have the opportunity to empower so many entrepreneurs, we’re giving them the ability to make more money provide for the families than they would have elsewhere through our platform.”
Her main takeaways?
To find ways to better understand your customers’ values over preferences, to know your value and allow this to help you overcome impostor syndrome, and to always create more value than you take.