The Customer is Always Right, Right?

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

As Founders and Product Owners, we’ve always been told that the “Customer is always right” and we strive to bend over backwards to make prospective customers happy. But when you’re soliciting feedback on a new product concept, should you take what they say at face value? In this blog, we’ll consider five persona traits to watch for in your discovery calls and how to handle them.

Agreeable Andy - Likes What You’re Doing

Agreeable Andy is likely to go along with your product concept and validate many of your assumptions, hopes and beliefs. He may even go so far as to say “Sure, I’d buy it if it was available today.” You need to be mindful that Agreeable Andy doesn’t always do what he says. Also, people like Andy are trying to be helpful and supportive but they provide little constructive feedback. While their words may be gratifying, they could inadvertently undermine your customer validation efforts and send you in a dangerous direction.

To get past supportive sentiment and dig down to real insights, always use open-ended questions that don’t lead the interviewee to any particular answer. Try to understand what key performance metrics the person/department/company uses, and understand how your solution can support those metrics in an objective quantifiable way. Ask questions to get at what would actually trigger real action. You can also consider throwing in some provocative challenge questions that cause the interviewee to think differently about the problem.

Solo Sam - A Market of One

Solo Sam has a problem that needs to be solved and you’re coming along at the right time to help him with it. He’s happy to tell you all about it and will give you valuable feedback on what a solution might look like. He might even pay for the solution (albeit at a discount) in return for his guidance. But if you can’t find a large enough, homogenous market, you don’t have a business.

To root out people like Solo Sam, it’s important to speak with several potential customers until you are getting consistent feedback to confirm the problem is commonly applicable and the solution would fit with many other customers with little or no modification.

Seemore Sally – Likes to Learn

Seemore Sally loves to learn. She’s genuinely interested and asks lots of questions to understand what you’re doing. She’ll even give lots of praise about your solution. But the relationship is rather one-sided in that Sally doesn’t share specific insights into her real problems or how her organization would buy a solution such as yours. Don’t be seduced by her interest and praise as it can be an unwelcome drain on your precious time.

During your customer discovery calls, make sure you’re in control and leading the discussion to get your questions answered. Ask probing questions, and if you’re not getting the specific evidence you need to support your business, then by all means, add her to your marketing list and share your white papers, but move on to others who can give you the insights you need.

Mirage Mary – Hard to Pin Down

Mirage Mary is passionate about her business. In fact, Mary is a complainer who is quick to point out the inadequacies of others, but is not in a position to do anything about it. She likes to talk and is happy to expound at length about all that is wrong with the company or the industry at large yet it’s hard to pin her down to collect the evidence you’re looking for to validate your business concept.

There’s a lot to be learned from Mirage Mary with respect to the problem and although it may be hard to pin her down with objective metrics to quantify the problem, but it’s worth giving it a try. Don’t expect Mary to buy your product, but that’s fine as long as she can educate you and others within the organization or in competing businesses can corroborate your value proposition and are in a better position to purchase when the product is ready.

No Problem Neil – Problems? What Problems?

No Problem Neil is easy to spot and it will become evident within the first few minutes of your discovery call. He’s happy doing his job and likes the comfortable routine of the status quo. But don’t give up too quickly, there’s still something to be learned from Neil.

Although Neil is hard-pressed to speak to any problems he would like to solve, Neil can speak at length about the current way things are done. He may even be able to help with value questions like “If we could shrink the time it takes to do “X” from one week to one minute, what would that mean for your business?”

Conducting customer discovery calls is critical to the success of any new product concept, but knowing whom to speak with, what to pull out of the conversation, and how to pick up the right insights from the discussion is important. Occasionally, you may want to consider what not to take away from the discussion.

For more information, please contact the Evidology Group and we’ll lead you through the Concept Validation process. We’ll also share more templates, tools, and best practices.

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