The Art of Asking the Right Questions: How Product Managers Uncover Hidden Customer Needs

Zigmars Rozentals
4 min readJun 4, 2024


No 🧐
Customers are NOT experts in solutions

As product managers, our success isn’t about what we know, but how well we understand our customers’ problems — even the ones customers can’t articulate.

Unlike salesmen, who tailor pitches to sell existing products, our role is to delve deeper and design solutions that truly resonate.

In my latest article, I explore the critical skill of asking the right questions and how it helps in uncovering hidden customer needs.

In the world of product management, success is not about what you know, but on your ability to uncover and understand the needs of your customers. This requires a delicate balance of knowledge, curiosity, and empathy.

Unlike salesmen, who aim to close deals by tailoring pitches to customer needs, product managers must delve deeper, constantly seeking to understand the underlying problems customers face — often problems that customers themselves may not even be aware of.

In this article I explore the “art of asking the right questions” and the unique role of product managers in uncovering hidden customer needs.

The Role of a Product Manager

Product managers play a pivotal role in the development and success of products. They are not merely pushing an agenda or trying to sell a finished product. Instead, they are the architects of solutions, opening their minds to the problems and challenges their customers face.

The primary goal of a product manager is to deeply understand these problems and to design value propositions that address them effectively.

The Importance of Continuous Learning

As a product manager, your journey consists of continuous learning. And the focus on your learning should be on the customers’ needs and problems. Remember the saying “fall in love with the problem, not the solution”. This way of learning should make you obsessed about customer problems and build a depth of understanding that allows you to anticipate needs, innovate, and create products that truly resonate with your customers.

Asking the Right Questions

One of the most important skills for a product manager is the ability to ask the right questions. This skill differentiates a product manager from a salesman.

While salesmen ask questions to better pitch an existing product, product managers ask questions to gain a deep understanding of the customer’s world.

The aim is not to guide customers to a preconceived solution but to genuinely understand their context and pain points.

Examples of Effective Questions:

  • What challenges do you face in your daily operations?
  • Can you walk me through a recent experience that was particularly frustrating?
  • What tools or solutions are you currently using, and what do you find lacking in them?
  • How do you currently solve [specific problem], and what are the limitations of this approach?

Understanding Customer Problems

Customers often cannot articulate their own problems clearly.

They might feel the pain but struggle to pinpoint its source.

This is where observational skills come into play. By observing customer behavior, product managers can identify unspoken pain points. It’s essential to listen not just to what customers say but to what their actions reveal.

For example, a customer might not explicitly say they need a more intuitive user interface, but if you observe them struggling with the current one, the problem becomes evident.

Your role is to read between the lines and understand the context in which these issues arise.

Developing Solutions

Once you have a clear understanding of the problems, the next step is to develop solutions that address these needs effectively. This process involves synthesizing the insights gained from your questions and observations into actionable ideas.

Empathy plays a crucial role here; understanding how customers feel and what they experience helps in designing solutions that truly meet their needs.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

A common mistake in product management is asking customers directly for solutions.

Customers are not experts in solutions. Asking them what solution they want can lead to confusion and may result in products that miss the mark.

Instead, focus on understanding their problems and use your expertise to craft solutions.

Strategies to Maintain Objectivity:

  • Use customer feedback to identify patterns rather than individual requests.
  • Test hypotheses through prototypes and gather feedback iteratively.
  • Stay open to unexpected insights and be willing to pivot based on new information.


The art of asking the right questions is a cornerstone of effective product management.

By focusing on understanding the problems customers face, product managers can design solutions that truly resonate and add value.

Remember, the goal is not just to create products but to solve real problems and improve the lives of your customers.