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Why is Empathy a “Must” for Product Managers?

Why is Empathy a Must for Product Managers

A product manager most certainly has a way of dealing with products, and the secret recipe to that is “empathy.”  What really is the way to ignite empathy in product managers?

Empathy is the process of understanding and feeling the exact way others are feeling. Looking at the picture from someone else’s perspective is what defines empathy.

Understanding the need for “Empathy”

In my experience of being around PMs for all this long, I have known one thing about them; they are smart, wicked, and know their way around. 


Steve Jobs counts as one of the biggest software product managers. Not only was he a visionary to look forward to the future, but he knew what would work in the future that would reap benefits. This is the reason why Apple is the most valued brand today.


Being smart as a PM is no problem at all. That’s what grows more enthusiasm in you to finish everything as soon as possible. When you know the answer, it is convenient not to pay heed to what others are talking about. That is the thing with product managers, too, who are hired to know it all. 


This could become one of the biggest challenges to knowing and intercepting what others are thinking and feeling.


Empathy may sound far-fetched in product management, but it isn’t. Empathy is the ability to understand, slow down, observe, understand, and be humble enough to adapt and change. It is not only a way to mutually feel how others are feeling but also to decode what they are dealing with. 

Decoding - Empathy & Product Management

Have you ever had to go through a phase where you feel exactly what your customers are feeling?


Well, that’s what empathy is. In product management, it is significant to locate yourself in a situation where you can think from the customer’s perspective. “Customers are the king” is a common phrase, but what does it mean?


From person to person, the definition might vary, but ideally, it is about keeping your customer first and going away from your experiences and needs. The difference in opinion for a product should reflect the ideology. 

As a PM, it is extremely crucial to come out of the cocoon and learn about the different kinds of customers who are extensively using the products. 


For example, in countries like India, customers are financially vulnerable. This means at the bare minimum age; they have zero or no savings. This is where as a PM, I can put my empathy to know what am I doing wrong or whether my product is easily being understood by the customers. 

Want to become more empathetic? Here’s How!

If you look back at history, you will be surprised to notice that companies build products for themselves, not for their customers. 


The sole motive of companies is to shred their focus on making the numbers and disregarding how the customers might feel. This makes it difficult for PMs to empathize.


Thankfully, to become more empathetic, there are tools available to help you out as a PM. Let’s have a look at a few that are super helpful.

1. Differentiate Well

There are three phases of customers that you meet along the way. The way you talk can either make it or break it. 

When you are working in a corporate office but are miles away from the “users”, there is an unsaid void that takes over. I recall so many situations in a meeting room where product owners knew what they were talking about, but that wasn’t the case for everyone in the room. *Sadly.*

Qualitative data is a handy tool to build empathy and differential well between users, customers, and humans. Visiting outside your office and speaking to your customers could enlighten you so much on what they know and how much they are aware of the product. 

Do whatever it takes to understand the feedback that your customers are leaving. Simultaneously, you can elasticate your thinking. This will take you down the road to building excellent products.

2. Get Input & Listen to them

Although there are different approaches that are used to understand the way customers work, customer testing is also one of the best ways to get to know your customers better. 

Once a month, extracting a customer testing phase works best. 


Also, when the entire team is present in such a meeting, it adds more energy to the process. Be it business analysts, testers, developers, or designers, everyone can be a part of customer testing. 


Being “empathetic” is expected of product managers. But think about the way designers or developers build their products with empathy. Don’t the results look glorious already?


There are so many learnings to take from a customer or usability testing. Try it once if you haven’t given it a shot.

3. Create & Build Personas

One way to get a shallow understanding of the customer base is by identifying them through personas. It could be a tricky thing to do, but the personas are vivid, illustrating various shades of the customers.


This also is helpful for the team to put their idea on the table. However, their visibility is expected to create value. Use your team to get to the bottom of all the different kinds of customers you are dealing with. When you know the ins and outs of your customers, the process becomes merrier. 



When you surround yourself with the energy of empathy, you can simply let go of the other part of your soul dealing with arrogance.


With the help of empathy, you can build products for human beings. Product managers truly aim to solve the problems of the customers and to solve a real problem is something they definitely want. Empathy is the right way to build an impact through your product and showcase the way you work. 


Building products should always be an empathetic process. To best dive into the whirlpool of this, place yourself in the shoes of the customers who are actually going to use the product. Therefore, creating value from their perspective makes more sense, doesn’t it?

Photo by 祝 鹤槐 from Pexels

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Mayuresh S. Shilotri writes on Product, EdTech, UX, Customer Development & Early Stage Growth. 2,000-Word posts only. You can discover more about me here

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