Published August 13, 2020

Always Two There Are. A Product and A Customer.

6 min read

Learning from customers doesn’t need to be a grueling, time-consuming process.

Your trek through the Helio cosmos as you search for audiences on far off worlds doesn’t have to be an arduous one.

To paraphrase Yoda, there are always two. A product. And a customer. One cannot possible exist without the other.

ZURB, the big bang that gave life to Helio, has helped tons of companies like Hulu, Mozilla, and Barracuda.

The one lesson learned time and time again — teams need to speak with customers. Fact.

Helio was birthed from that realization.

We’re a product design company. The one thing we’ve learned is that teams need access to customers in our 20 years of helping companies like Hulu, Mozilla, Barracuda,. We believed in this so much that we built our own product that helps us do so,

Here are our top 5 tips on how you can empower your crew to learn from their audiences.

Eradicate research bloat.

1. Eradicate Research Bloat

Many companies and teams create unnecessary bloat when it comes to learning from customers. After all, “research” is a loaded word. Therefore it must be important

We’ve found that having smaller conversations within teams helps us get closer to our customers.

  • Close the gap with your internal team. It’s super awesome when team members and stakeholders invested in your research. More than 70% of our researcher audience work closely with other members of their team. First, find out what is important to your team or what they think customers need. That way you go into your customer conversations with strong hunches that help drive your research.
  • Qualitative questions through short surveys. We were surprised that many of our researchers used slower methods like in webinars or even PowerPoint presentations for their initial research. We’re not saying that these methods aren’t valuable, we’re saying these methods take a lot of upfront investment. This is a big reason why we developed Helio, see our horror story here. 😱
  • Our presentation tips. There’re many ways to present findings to your team and, depending on your process, do what works for you. For us, presenting findings along the way is a best practice, especially when working directly with stakeholders. Validating our design decisions as we go and wrapping up all the findings with our final deliverables is a great way to keep your stakeholders invested. A few tools besides Helio that help make that happen are Figma, Notion and G Suite; we love the collaborative space that tools like these provide.

2. Find Your Tribe

Then there’s the “small team” problem. When you’re a team of one (we see you), it can be a challenge to start the process of learning from customers. A lot of the time the struggle isn’t crafting the “perfect” test — it’s “Who to ask” and “How to ask it”.

  • Find your customers, or what we call an audience. This can be a monumental task, especially if you don’t have an existing group that you access to survey. We suggest partnering with the sales or customer service teams to gain access to an audience. Helio is also a great resource too because we have over 300k participants ready to go. Or cast a wider net by paying for social media ads and manually screening participants, like these user researchers .
  • Speak your customers’ language. An overwhelming 90% of researchers agree: avoid using jargon, or overly technical terms to get the best answers (unless that’s the language your customers use). For our testing needs at ZURB, we typically use more conversational language. Something that’s easy to understand.
  • Find your customers. Probably more important than the questions you’re asking are the people you’re asking. We’re surprised that our audience of researchers would utilize more expensive tactics, such as targeted Facebook ads or time consuming intensive customer research. For this series, we tapped into our audience of researchers to learn from their experiences. You could imagine that the answers we receive would be far different from our audience of teachers.
Keep it simple.

3. Keep it Simple

Talking to customers ensures we build better products. One of the hurdles that are sometimes more challenging for teams to leap is what to ask customers.

After going through the process of getting the tools and the support, we can get a little writer’s block when it comes to what to ask. We’ve learned not worrying about asking the “right” questions helps a lot to move things forward.

  • Keep situations simple. Testing in smaller sections helps your customers collect their thoughts and respond more thoughtfully. Like the majority of user researchers, we’ve found that running several shorter, more concise surveys sets our participants up to provide more thoughtful answers.
  • Volume over perfection. Learning from customers requires iteration. It’s rare when crafting questions to ask a customer we create a “perfect” question. When we are first getting started, we create 50 hunches before we even craft the questions we want to ask. We love this researchers’ process of creating qualifying tests.
  • When in doubt, get feedback. Another set of eyes on any project is always super helpful, we were delighted to learn last week and to be confirmed this week that so many of our research audience has other team members to bounce ideas off of. After all, finding out if your questions make sense, aren’t leading, and illicit the answers your team expects is always better with a teammate.
Test and Iterate.

4. Test and Iterate

When learning from an audience, seeking out strength in numbers… i.e. “more questions”. And not just the volume of questions to a small group of people but more questions to more people. It’s like the Andrea True Connection song from the ’70s, More, More, More.

  • Group your tests into themes. Being organized is super important when conducting any research. Even more so when you’re asking a lot of questions to a lot of customers. Like a majority of Researchers tested, we suggest grouping or theming your tests. For example, you’re running tests on your sign up flow. You’ll want to break the test up into specific sections: comprehension questions, usability directives, and emotional gauges. Keeping your tests concise for your customers helps them stay engaged and helps you later when synthesizing the answers you’ve collected.
  • Battle bias with more participants. Some are a little more guilty than others of not collecting enough feedback, like the 60% of researchers we surveyed. When making creative decisions, we may only rely on ourselves or the opinions of a single coworker to decide what to do. These ideas may have the best of intentions, but any answer you receive that isn’t from your customer will be biased. Talking to as many customers as possible helps build better product.
  • Iterate and create better questions. Thanks to our design roots we know iteration is the key to learning. After collecting all the answers you may learn that you have more questions! If you do like 25% of researchers, that’s awesome… but test some more. This is how we learn how to craft better questions that lead to better answers.
Make it actionable.

5. Make Findings Actionable

Making findings actionable is the first step in learning from customers, we turned to our audience of Researchers, Marketers, and Designers about the teams and projects they’re working on.

  • Timing is everything. Learning from customers should fall in line with project goals to maximize the impact of your testing. We learned 76% of our audience work with other teams on projects. You must ensure your testing is in line with what you’re delivering across those teams.
  • Making the case for customer feedback. You may be in a similar situation to the 54% of our audience who don’t have a budget for research or are unsure of what that budget may be. What helps here is letting your project leads see the learnings you’ve made from your customers.
  • Combine powers. The best way to get buy-in: partner with other teams within your company. Marketing and Sales departments usually get the lion’s share when it comes to budgets, and 54% of our audience say they are the most likely teams to work with. Finding out those teams needs and gaps allows you to more wisely invest time and resources.

Building better products and services should empower you to do research whether you’re a “researcher” or not. We think learning from customers should be a part of every team, Sales, Marketing, Design, the list goes on.

After all, those departments are the crew of your product starship as it sails through the Helioverse, meeting strange and new customers.

Test and Learn
with an Audience