The Frustrating side of Customer Discovery

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What is customer discovery and why can it be so darn frustrating? Discovery seems like a fun exploration, right! Painless, easy, exciting!! Well…it can be, but customer discovery involves well, a lot of work which often times can frustrate the facilitator. It can be exciting, but it can also be frustrating. I know that sounds less than optimal, but actually frustration is a natural part of the process.

A couple of reasons that frustration is an important part of Customer Discovery is that you are attempting to capture, crystallize and clarify the frustrations of your potential customers. Knowing their frustrations inside and out are extremely helpful to developing products that address their needs and satisfy their wants. While it’s true that hearing an endless list of unrelated complaints is not what you are after, don’t be too quick to stop your potential customers from sharing more about their experience than you originally planned. Digging deep and also wide is important as you do not know what helpful nugget will come from your interactions with your potential customers. It’s important to get the whole picture in order to address the other form of frustration that comes from Customer Discovery…

Your own personal frustration. Why might you be frustrated during customer discovery? The reason is that while many of the interactions and conversations that occur during customer discovery are actually quite pleasant (you are, after all attempting to solve their problem), you will be wrong. That’s right. There is a 100% chance that the hypotheses of pain points of your customer will be inaccurate, askew or flat out wrong. This is an important concept to become comfortable with. If you are not open to being wrong, you will not be able to see the real pain that your customer is experiencing. Or the real solution that is possible to solve that pain. Perhaps you know their pain, but your solution does not address it in the manner that is needed. You can only know that by having a successful (which means frustration-filled) customer discovery process. Essential for having an amazing (and informative) customer discovery process is (1) consistently accessing or finding your potential customers and (2)asking the right questions.

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Consistently accessing or finding your potential customers

Step 1: Have a few different processes for finding to your potential customers. Test them. Repeat the best one. Ditch the ones that don’t work.

It’s important to track where you are getting your best conversations from so that you can have more of them. This might seem easy — “oh, I’ll stand on a street corner and ask people if I can talk to them.” It doesn’t really work that way. Having an established network works well, but if you don’t here are some tips on where to find your potential customer for discovery:

Step 2: Identify where they hang out.
Social media is great, but specific groups (e.g., FB groups or Twitter #’s) are the way to find your specific target audience. Reddit is another way to find people who have the problem that you are looking to identify as they will post a question or comment on a question that thread.

Is there a physical space where you could talk to your potential customers? MeetUps are great. For more ideas on gaining access to your potential customers check out this blog, Bringing the customer to Life.

Step 3: Go there. Consistently and repeatedly.
Once you have found a social media group that represents your target audience, contribute to the group. This is important. Give information away for free. Provide advice to other members. Show them support.

Once you have become a member of the group, monitor what the other members are saying. Reach out to those people how express the problem you are evaluating. If none are there, look for those that mention related topics. Attempt to enlist help from specific people

Ask the right questions

Writing good questions is hard work. It seems easy until you start to do it. Writing bad questions will be the death of your customer discovery. Only those questions that help you to answer your goal are moving your customer discovery in the right direction. Here is the process for writing the right questions.

  1. Write down questions that come to mind when you think of the frustrations that your potential customer is experiencing.
  2. Step away. Physically remove yourself from the questions.
  3. Think about something else.
  4. Return to the questions. Think about them. Tweak them.
  5. Ask, does this question get to the root of my goal?
  6. Iterate on the questions. Review them. Tweak them. Test them.
  7. Test them by taking them out to your potential customers and asking them.
  8. Return to your questions. Do they help answer the question that you originally set out to answer? How can they be adjusted to better get to the heart of the problem you are solving? Can you eliminate any questions?

For more on how to write the right questions, read Design Products Your Customers Love

So while this process is not painless, it can be very fun and extremely exciting. The mindset that you approach customer discovery with is extremely important. Understand that the process has frustration inherently baked into it. It is important to lean into this frustration so that can uncover the root of the problem. At the root, you will then know whether your product will solve the problem that your potential customers are experiencing. If not, that will be another level of frustration. However, with perseverance, you can iterate on your product until it does solve that root problem that you worked so hard to discover.

Happy discovering!