Example of a Very Good Customer Obsession Interview Answer

customer obsession product manager Jun 23, 2022

I have been asked by customers and channel watchers to post more videos of great interviews. The hard part is that these are harder to surface because they are so rare. Most people seek out the mock interviews with InterviewAt because they are looking to improve. It's rare that they are incredible out of the gate. For this video I selected a candidate who was very high quality and managed to overcome major issues with their interview and still present as a top candidate.

Understanding the Amazon Leadership Principles is a great way for anyone to prepare for any interview at any company. In this interview and analysis I'm talking to a candidate for a mid-career Product Manager role targeting Amazon specifically, but big tech in general.

The leadership principle at work here is Customer Obsession. Question asked: Can you give me an example of when you’ve been able to see around the corner to meet a customer need or delight a customer with a solution or product they didn’t yet know they needed/wanted?


00:15 - Candidate Introduction
00:59 - Things to Watch Out for #1 - Poor Structure
01:31 - Things to Watch Out for #2
02:13 - Things to Watch Out for #3
02:55 - Interview Start
03:08 - Feedback #1
08:13 - Feedback #2
11:33 - Feedback #3
14:56 - Feedback #4
17:32 - Feedback #5
20:30 - Feedback #6
23:20 - Feedback #7
26:12 - Feedback #8
32:30 - Feedback #9
34:12 - Candidate Assessment



Interview Notes:

  • Q: Can you give me an example of when you’ve been able to see around the corner to meet a customer need or delight a customer with a solution or product they didn’t yet know they needed/wanted? [Customer Obsession]
    • A: The first thing is how to identify those wins. I like to have the opportunity to grab those whenever possible. I put my time in a position to do that by having a firm grounding in the customer - who they are, what they need, their short and long term goals, how they make decisions. I want to be knowledgeable about all of those things so that we can make great calls for our customer. At YouTech we had a retail tech platform primarily focused around grocery. This was B2B2C. We had brands creating advertising and promotion coupons for applications at various retailers. We used what we knew about the end customers tied to a relevancy algo to generate and present the offers. Those would be stored on the loyalty card. At check out the POS would call our APIs with the data about the basket and apply any promotions and discounts (within 50ms). The customer would then get their discounts. Prior to our solution, the ability for the retailers to create and deploy promotions was very archaic. They would look at very old data, score their list, sell it to a brand, who would make a purchase decision, which would cause a new flow to create the set of promotions and deploy to the store. Our system was causing customers to buy more, which caused brands to purchase the service more often, which created better promotions, which were seen as higher value to  the end customer. No one asked for this feature. Everyone thought that this was too hard of a problem to solve. We were able to build it. This was a key differentiator in pitching to retailers about how they could build a better set of offerings. We saw a dramatic increase in our close rates, and ultimately led us to the opportunity to present to Walmart. We are still in legal, but we won the bid.
      • [note during the interview: this answer also became a very long answer without tight structure. A lot of set up, with no logical beginning, middle or end. This specific answer is somewhat more complicated thus requiring more content to get the interviewer to a place where a useful discussion can occur.]
    • FU: That 50ms requirement is very specific, and IMHO a very tight window. Do you think this was appropriate metric? [Customer Obsession]
    • A: I do. The processing of the data and the targeting happened in the background. The perception was near real time. The 50ms came from one customer, and we turned that into an SLA. Our rationale was we were working to reduce time in lane for an end customer.
      • [note: This answer got away from a point which gets made later, which is the right one, that the 50ms became a differentiator in a market full of me-too copy cat features. That's the correct answer here. It mattered to the customer for the reduced risk of lane time expansion, and it was a moat around which the company could base their sales discussion.]
    • FU: Sure, but if you could have doubled it to 100ms, the perception to the end customer would be impossible to detect? Why roll this out as an SLA without much wiggle room for your system? [Customer Obsession]
    • A: Let me clarify a couple of things - for those who didn't request it we didn't update the SLAs when we rolled it out. This was a perf requirement across the system. The way that we pitched retailers for them to sign up for this tech stack we are often responding to an RFP or some set of specific requirements. This was customer driven. In this instance, being able to say that you had a 50ms return time as an SLA was a checkbox item which would be used as comparison to other potential providers. The in-lane performance is incredibly important for winning retail customers. It's something to which a lot of attention is paid.
      • [note: This. This was a great answer. High degree of Customer Obsession, clear understanding of the metrics which matter to the customer (would have been great to share how seconds translate to lost sales or reduced basket sizes if known), and mapping the feature to increased sales team performance.]
    • FU: How did you measure the impact of your broader solution? [Customer Obsession]
    • A: When talking about medium to large size, there are a small number of potential clients, and the terms are long. It doesn't provide a lot of pitch opps. Prior to have this feature we were getting ask backs a low 10s times per year. When we released this, we were in most all conversations and asked back with almost all cases, and winning 60% of the cases. From feedback it was a top 3 reason why we were selected. It's very difficult to replicate and turn into a me-too feature. It was a clear differentiator for us and meaningful in the conversations with customers.
      • [note: there is so much Customer Obsession to love here. The structure needs help, but candidate is a high Customer Obsession leader.]

Candidate Assessment:

Customer Obsession - Little discussion required here save one point. It's easy to love customers in a space a candidate loves. It's another thing entirely to demonstrate Customer Obsession across wildly disparate verticals. The retail grocery business owner/decision maker is very different than the rental property entrepreneur. Regardless, candidate demonstrated with a high degree of excellence that it does not matter who the customer; candidate will know and understand them and build accordingly.


[coming soon]

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