How putting users first leads to better product development

Part 2: Build with customer needs

Becky Taylor

July 16, 2018

In the last article, we discussed getting back to basics, explaining what you need to explore in order to start the process of improving your digital product.

In this article, we’re going to focus on your customer, why they are so central to your product and how you can ensure you understand what they want from your product.

Define your customer

Any good digital product should be built around the customer needs. It’s very easy to say “We know what our customer wants, we know them inside out” – but do you? For your product to truly succeed, it needs to meet both your business objectives and those of your customers. If you don’t understand your customers’ needs, you could end up building a solution that answers the wrong problems, and that’s a costly step you don’t want to take.

Like Colgate toothpaste, who launched a range of ready meals, or Bic biros who launched disposable underwear, yes really! Their current audience didn’t understand the relevance to the brand, or to the need that the brand was currently solving for them.

So what do you do? You need to be sure you know what your customer wants, and test any assumptions you have. The best way to do this is to start with some internal discussion and follow it up with some customer research.

First, with your team assembled, spend some time defining who you think your key customers are. Focus on the ones you actually want, and ignore those who aren’t a good fit for your offering.

Start with a loose outline and base it on a real customer as this makes it far more tangible;

  • Name
  • Company or organisation, if relevant – type of company, size, sector, location
  • Role, if relevant – literally e.g. Head of Marketing, as well as things like – are they a decision maker?
  • What do they buy from you? Don’t just think of the actual product – are they saving time, reducing internal process etc?
  • Level of expertise in relation to your product
  • 5 words to describe them
  • 5 words to describe how they feel about your product and service
  • List their key challenges and frustrations
  • List their key goals
  • How did they come to you i.e. was it a referral? Was it cold via your website?
  • Where do they read / how and where can you market to them?

In a separate sitting, next focus in on the core reasons for them using your product. For each customer, in short form, list the following, in the context of your relationship to them:

  • Needs – what do they hope to get? E.g. “I want to pay my utility bill without needing my bank card or cash”
  • Pains – what makes their life difficult? E.g. “My utility app forces me to enter my card details every time I make a payment”
  • Nirvana – what would be heaven to them? E.g. “I can pay my bill with one tap”

Doing this should give you a great foundation and you will start to have a clear feel for your customers and what they need from you and your product. Examine whether this feels right, and where you think the gaps in your knowledge are, as these are the things you will need to test.

Talk to your customer

Now you’ve built a good picture of your customer, it’s a good idea to test now, and quickly so that you keep the project moving and progressing. You don’t need to see this as a long-winded research piece, but it’s important you fill those gaps in your knowledge and test your assumptions to make sure that you really are building for the direct needs of your customers. Getting real insight now will inform how you plan and build your product, and influence your next steps.

Conduct low-key telephone interviews

The best way to find out what you need to know? Ask! List what it is that you need to find out – look at the holes from your earlier work and form a set of questions around these. When we did some research about our own business, we wanted to know why our clients approached us, so we had questions such as:

  • How did you realise you needed us (or someone like us)?
  • What’s the no.1 challenge you face when it comes to your digital tools?
  • What are you trying to achieve for your business?
  • Why did you choose to work with us?

If you’re going to be talking more to a consumer you might have questions like:

  • Why do you use this product? What does it help you to do?
  • How did you make a decision to use this product?
  • What did you hope this product would do for you?
  • Tell me 5 words that describe how you feel about the product

I’d recommend you record the entire call (ask for their permission at the very beginning) – you can use a service such as Record your call – as you won’t be able to concentrate on the conversation, or respond to any interesting comments or tangents if you are busy trying to write notes! Also, nothing beats playing it back to the team (or yourself) later to hear commentary straight from the horse’s’ mouth.

Once you’re done, write it all up word for word. Doing this provides some great benefits:

  • You have a record of customer feedback that you can come back to time and again, as well as share with the team
  • You can use this for testimonials
  • You become aware of the actual language your customer uses, versus how YOU would describe your product/offering
  • You can use this language back at your customer within your product and marketing – to make it even more relevant to them
  • You gain extra insight into your customers’ needs and challenges and fill the gaps in your knowledge

All of this information enables you to build a far more user-centred product, that directly answers your customer’s needs and solves their challenges.

How have you used customer insight to inform your product development? Let us know! Tweet Becky or contact us.

In the next article, we’ll unpack how you turn your customer needs into actionable tasks that inform the product build. In rapid product development sprints, we want to move quickly into building something real so that we can test, iterate and get your product in front of your customers. Read it here.

Got a question? Need some help with your product? Get in touch with Becky.