Friday, February 8, 2019

Engineers + Customers = Better Mobile: A Conversation with DroneDeploy’s Eric Hauser

Something I loved about my conversation with DroneDeploy’s VP of Engineering Eric Hauser was learning about their customer-centric approach to…well…everything! It’s rare that companies encourage their engineers to sit on sales calls or go on field visits to their customers, but Eric’s team has seen major successes in doing so. And why wouldn’t they? With engineers interacting directly with prospects and customers and hearing their wants and needs firsthand, they get a better grasp on the solutions they can provide, and are able to build better mobile even faster. Here’s a peek into Eric’s teams processes, and a few takeaways he’s seen with their customer-first approach to mobile engineering.

Lumavate’s VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: Over the past 15 years, how have you seen technology change the ways in which businesses engage with customers?

DroneDeploy’s VP of Engineering, Eric Hauser: Today’s clients have different expectations. They expect to have a great user experience. They expect your web applications to work fast. They expect when they’re searching to have type ahead search, and all sorts of other stuff. So I think we’ve seen a huge change in the expectations of users because over time the complexity of front ends has gone up and the functionality available to users has gone up. So I think it’s a fun time because the web is always changing, and the technologies available are always getting better, and it makes it so that you can actually put better apps in the hands of your users.

SC: So how do you guys involve your customers in that process of putting better apps in their hands?

EH: We try to do as many things as we can to get the voice of the customer involved in everything that we do. I think it’s really easy to get an internal echo chamber going about what things you think are the most important in your application, and if you lose the voice of the customer in that process, you can end up going in the wrong direction pretty quickly. At DroneDeploy, we get our engineers involved with our sales team and have them participate on sales calls so they can learn a little bit about what those prospects are trying to accomplish. We look for interesting and innovative ways to introduce customers into the process for people who normally wouldn’t be customer facing.

SC: I love hearing that, because I think it’s so different for you to hear directly from a customer versus hearing it from someone else internally who’s heard it from a customer. They’ll inherently care in a little bit of a different way.

EH: And it’s interesting, a lot of people have said that one of the worst things that you can do is as a product team is develop exactly what your customers are asking for. If  you don’t dig a little bit deeper with the customer, you’ll likely end up developing the wrong thing. And so it’s great to have engineers talk to those customers in that case, because it’s really all about getting a diverse set of thinkers involved in the process.

SC: In that process of building mobile experiences that will be useful for your customers, what’s been one of your biggest lessons or takeaways?

EH: Making sure that you’re always testing your software in the environment that your users are using. We can go out and test our drone software a hundred times in our QA environment and it will work the same every time, but if we then go release that software out to our users, we’re now using it in scenarios where they don’t have great connectivity, scenarios where they’re potentially using a different device than we were testing with. So we’ve invested a lot of energy into our QA processes, making sure that we’re testing in different climates and scenarios.

Mobile Conversations are excerpts from Lumavate’s Mobile Matters podcast. You can listen to their full conversation here, and find more episodes with other mobile experts here.