As part of our Career Development series, we spoke to John Puts, Product Manager - Customer Excellence all about his career growth with GetYourGuide.
Customer Excellence (sometimes also known as Customer Success or Customer Experience) is a new initiative within GetYourGuide. As the Product Manager of this mission team, I work with a group of very talented engineers, a designer and a data analyst/scientist (with more members to join the team soon). My task is to envision how GetYourGuide can provide the most seamless experience possible for our customers, allowing them to interact with our platform throughout the entire customer journey without running into any issues, unclarities or questions. We use an agile approach to make sure that we execute in an efficient and iterative way, and our prioritize framework ensures we do the things that will have the biggest positive impact for our customer first.
Customer Excellence is a new initiative in GetYourGuide which is being shaped from the ground up. This means that, in the beginning, we're focusing a lot of our attention on defining the scope, plan, and mission.
I joined GetYourGuide in April 2016 as the Senior Account Manager for The Benelux, Poland, and Norway, and was in this role until July 2017. That’s when I transitioned into my current Product Manager role where I started to set up the new Customer Excellence Team. This transition definitely brought along a lot of change. Previously, I was involved in a lot of traveling to our partners, optimizing the way we work with existing partners, acquiring new partners, managing relationships, and growing the destinations I was responsible for. Now a big part of my day involves defining product features, estimating tech resources with our developers, running (A/B) tests or experiments, setting up and improving data channels, extracting patterns from data with our data scientist, and rethinking UI/UX on our key customer touch points with our designer.
Also making sure the team is aligned, motivated and engaged, and that we are executing efficiently is a relevant part of my work. My background is Business Analytics and my previous working experience has also been rather technical and analytical, so I see my time in Sales more as a deviation from my broader professional path. I would say this recent transition to Product brought me back to where I feel more at home.
Product Management is a very interesting role within organizations that is not always clear to everyone. This also has to do with the fact that different companies approach the role in a different way, mixing up terminology like “Technical Product Manager”, “Product Marketing Manager”, “Product Owner”, “Project Manager”, etc. Looking at how some of the industry tech leaders approach and explain product management, I think the way the Product Management role is set up in GetYourGuide reflects the way the role is meant to be in a very good way. So, with this clarification in mind, I believe product management requires a broad range of skills. One of the key skills is stakeholder management since you have to collaborate and sync with many different people within the company. Being able to converse on different levels (business/tech/executive) is key.
Also, a healthy mix of technical, business and people skills are required to be successful. My previous experience equipped me with some of these, whereas for other parts I am learning more about every day.
For me, it was clear that tech is the industry I am most passionate and excited about. Having worked in a larger tech corporation before, I wanted to experience being part of a smaller tech organization, being able to be part of a (relatively) small group of people building something that is not yet established and disrupt an industry to make people’s lives easier. I think in GetYourGuide I have found a family-feel working environment with a lot of wonderful, authentic people that inspire me, and where I see many colleagues as friends. The culture is very open and there is a lot of internal possibilities to take on new challenges. This allows many people to explore what part of the organization they can really excel in and work on things they are passionate about.
For a Product Manager, I would say two of the biggest challenges are Prioritization and “Leadership by vision." Being able to very clearly identify the best possible things we should try and test first (out of countless options) is not always easy. It requires a solid vision, lots of data analysis, industry understanding, implementation costs estimates and understanding of available resources.
Leadership by vision is a challenge because as a Product Manager you have the final responsibility for the things you try to accomplish with your team, but at the same time, you do not manage your team in the format of a people manager. You don’t just tell people what to do. You need to earn the trust of the team, make sure they believe in your vision, empower the team to bring their ideas to the table, and make sure everyone is motivated to execute on the chosen path. I think this is actually a very natural and positive thing because in a situation where a team is simply told what to do can quickly result in a demotivating and frustrating work environment.
I touched on this briefly before. Firstly, for me, it is very important to work with people I can relate to, respect and have fun with. So, working with inspiring and authentic people and having the right culture are some of the key aspects that really motivate me. This is absolutely the case with GetYourGuide.
Another important part is getting the opportunity to work in a role where I really feel I am creating something good and meaningful. Again, this is very much the case, since working on creating a seamless experience for the millions of GetYourGuide customers, and taking as much “pain” away as possible in their process of using our product, is definitely a very fulfilling thing to work on.
If you feel strongly about applying technology to make people’s lives easier and building an experience that is so seamless that it leaves no questions, remarks or unclarities then you have a big part of what I believe is the right motivation for being on the Customer Excellence Team.
Also, it is relevant to come from a rather selfless place, really aiming at helping the users of our product. Additionally, Customer Excellence is a relatively new initiative that has not been shaped yet so if you think you would enjoy working in undiscovered territory where the options are endless, then the Customer Excellence team might just be for you.
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