Bright ideas: How to foster customer-focused innovation and product development

The world’s best products start with the seed of an idea. Yet where are these seeds found? According to Steve Johnson, author of the aptly-named Where Good Ideas Come From, the best ideas come to life through social interactions. We couldn’t agree more.

In today’s hypercompetitive market, in which businesses are grappling with a range of pressures, great ideas and innovations are fundamental to success. As a Forbes article recently pointed out, “The COVID-19 pandemic influenced every niche and significantly increased competition among businesses across all industries. Rapid transformation brought prosperity to agile companies while overthinking, conservative leaders were left behind.”

It’s why we take innovation and the incubation of great ideas seriously. Tanya Faddoul, Docusign’s Vice President of Product Management, leads a global team located in North America that works with some of our biggest customers to find solutions that eventually help all our customers.

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a series of conversations with Tanya, which we’re delighted to share with you here. Today, we’ll explore what her team does and why it matters. Watch out for more insights and observations from Tanya in coming weeks. 

Always listening and learning

Tanya calls her team a “phenomenal, customer-obsessed group on a mission to build better products by co-developing with our customers.”

And the way they achieve this mission? They listen. According to Tanya, her team stands between Docusign’s product and customer teams – with one foot planted firmly in the problem domain and another firmly in the solution domain. Their goal is to learn from our largest customers, recognise new market opportunities, and incorporate new capabilities into our platform. 

“We produce solutions that help customers realise the most innovative Docusign experience. If we have an army in ProdDev, our team is Special Forces,” says Tanya.

Tanya cites LEGO and Amazon as examples of companies that excel at listening and learning from customer feedback. LEGO, for example, nurtures a passionate, powerful customer community that not only provides a source of revenue, but also contributes to ongoing innovation and inspiration for where to take the humble brick next.

As Tanya says, “By inviting customers to become participants in product feedback, the product matches their needs more closely. In a saturated market, where it’s harder to retain customers, the benefits are huge. At Docusign, when we co-develop, it creates mutually beneficial partnership, is a better use of our resources as we’re not focusing on rarely-used features, and it helps us stay ahead.” 

Solving one problem benefits all users

To illustrate the benefits of a customer-focused approach to product innovation, Tanya gave the example of work her team did with T-Mobile in the US a few years back. The company was subject to the regulations of the Federal Truth in Lending Act, which requires that all information in a financing agreement is clear and conspicuous for customers. The problem for T-Mobile was that its agreement process was long and complex, creating friction for customers trying to sign a contract. 

“Our team worked closely with T-Mobile to look at their data. We saw that their users were predominantly mobile-first, and that their agreement process was far from mobile-friendly. So we built a responsive signing solution that included smart sections, so the contract becomes so much easier to read – while still complying with the Act,” said Tanya.

For T-Mobile, the responsive signing solution helped boost close rates for in-store sales by 20% and delivered a far superior user experience. And for the rest of Docusign’s customers? The innovation was rolled out for all users, so everyone benefits. 

Working in partnership with other teams

A team like Tanya’s doesn’t work in isolation. At Docusign, the Tanya’s team is regularly involved in other sessions, such as our Product Advisory Council, where we team up with customers to gather strategic feedback and ensure product innovation aligns with future needs. 

“Bringing customers together cultivates a sense of loyalty and community. It’s an opportunity to talk openly about the art of the possible, and start to see patterns in feedback,” says Tanya. 

We love Tanya’s thinking, and the work her team does in building a better product and better customers. What about you? How does your business listen and learn from customers?