Customer Discovery to Understand the Problem

Early on, it’s critical to understand the customer’s problem. Too often, entrepreneurs come up with an idea that’s good to them, but falls flat with the potential customer. Use customer discovery to understand the problem without trying to sell them on the existing idea.

Here are a few things to keep in mind with customer discovery interviews:

  • Don’t lead the witness —it’s all too common to try and guide the potential customer down a path that’s consistent with the existing idea
  • Ask broad, open ended questions (remember the old adage: humans have two ears and one mouth for a reason — listen twice as much as you talk)
  • Work to understand how things work currently with as much minute detail as you can uncover
  • Find out what the ideal solution would be if time and money were no issue (if you could wave a magic wand and have anything you wanted , what would it be?)
  • Never show any prototypes you might have until after you’ve asked all your main questions (don’t introduce bias!)

Entrepreneurs would do well to use customer discovery to deeply understand the customer’s problem, and work to ignore their existing ideas.

What else? What are some more thoughts on customer discovery to understand the problem?

Note: Read The Mom Test.

2 thoughts on “Customer Discovery to Understand the Problem

  1. Never show any prototypes you might have until after you’ve asked all your main questions (don’t introduce bias!)

    I challenge this assumption. The point is dollar discovery, not customer discovery. What people pay for is far different than what they talk about. Walk into a store and there’s a dollar framed on the wall for a reason….not a customer discovery interview sheet….No startup was won or lost on a customer survey…it was the other way around. A great product was built, show to people, people loved it, people paid for it…

    1. The point of “Customer Discovery” (or “Customer Development” as many call it) is to learn, not to sell. In your last sentence you say “A great product was built,…” – exactly! In order to build a great product, one needs to have an intimate understanding of the target customers problems, their world-view and the language they use to describe these problems. Only then you can deliberately build a product that fills a real need and also describe it in terms that resonate with your customers.

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