If you want to build products that have a deep impact on people's lives, then KYC (know your customer) is not enough. You must KYCI (know your customer intimately), and that is freaking hard.
As someone who has led customer obsession teams, I've learned a thing or two about knowing our customers intimately. Desk research, primary studies, persona crafting, support calls, and customer data analysis alone are not enough. There is more to the word "intimately," and we don't do it as much as we should.
If we knew how to know human beings intimately, it would put an end to a lot of relationship struggles we have as well.
Here are some tips for knowing a person or group of people intimately:
- Have as many conversations as you can. The quantity of conversations improves the quality of relationships. It need not be a formal interview setup at all times. Free-flowing conversations make customers feel safe psychologically, and they are more likely to share important information.
- In a conversation with a customer, listen to understand, not to respond. Active listening helps you empathize with the nuances of their struggles, challenges, and desires.
- Rabbit hole every piece of data available out there, including social media, data points from studies, past research decks, and survey results. Ask "why" repeatedly to find the atomic truth or insight.
- Connect multiple studies, collate them together, and find patterns or the lack thereof. Continue to ask "why" to find the meta reason behind the patterns or lack thereof.
- Continuously share your learnings with your product teams as you are the translator of customer understanding to your product teams. The quality of your understanding is directly proportional to the quality of your translation. If your products suck, it means your translation of understanding sucked. That is a biggie. (How to deal with another bunch of human beings called a product team is for another day).
Research is a murky subject because it is all about human nature. There is no set time to understand human nature. It is a 24/7 job. You cannot be a 9-5 researcher. If you are one, you will be a victim of research operations, lack of support from management, budget issues, bandwidth issues, and more. Your life will be hell as a 9-5.
When you are a 24/7 researcher, everything is data. It feels like everyone is helping your career. You get paid for obsessing over your customers. You proudly can say "I don't know yet" very often. There is no end to intimately understanding your customer, as their context keeps changing. You get to truly and deeply understand them.
Continuous research helps you stay humble with your ignorance and yet help your product teams make better product decisions. Research thrives on compounding and damn! that is the hardest idea to understand.
Good researchers do research.
Great researchers compound insights.