«Product-Builders Need to Talk with Customers Every Week»: IT Arena Ideas

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Teresa Torres offers suggestions on how to get accurate, honest, and useful feedback from customers.
Screenshot from IT Arena

Screenshot from IT Arena

By Joe Lindsley

Thursday 7 October Teresa Torres, a product development and research expert, warned an IT Arena panel about the «escalation of commitment»: «The more we invest in an idea the more we forget other things.» This leads to confirmation bias: You might create a product based on the loudest complainer or a false narrative.

«We tend to work with one idea, or customer problem, at a time,» she said Friday.  Instead, product developers should  actively and continuously discover the needs and situations of costumes at least once a week – «continuous discovery.» By gathering multiple ideas, creating story maps, and testing assumptions, developers can design products that will be a better fit for the market.

In her lecture on «Continuous Discovery,» she said products will be better for users if those creating the product are involved in the process of discovery – acquiring and learning from regular customer feedback. Ideally, the product manager, the designer, and a software engineer should participate in this process, pulling in others – researcher, go-to-market manager, etc.– as needed. 

Torres, author of Continuous Discovery Habits, proposed practical tips for more intelligent discovery, to ensure that those with tech-know-how listen to the actual needs and life-situations of their intended users. 

How to create better discovery habits?

  1. Define a clear outcome…» Instead of indicating outputs, start with outcome. Take a step back [and say] his is the impact we expect these outputs to have.
  2. Research.  «How do we discover opportunities to drive that desired outcome?» There are two ways: (a) interviewing and (b) assumption testing. 
  3. Product shipping.

Story-based Interviewing

Torres emphasized that the first weekly activity for every product development team should be interviewing «to discover the opportunities, learn customer needs, pain points, and desires. … Wake up Monday, and have an interview schedule.»

How do you find customers to interview?

a. Recruit people while using product or service. «It will take experimentation to get messaging right.»

b. Use customer support and solutions teams, who will reach out to B2B decision makers or buyers based on defined triggers. «If you are talking to a customer experiencing x need, schedule an interview.»

c.  A temporary measure: «If the audience is extremely hard to reach,» create a customer advisory board. This should be temporary lest you design product for subset of market and not the whole market. 

Then: What do you ask the customer? Instead of asking, «Whether x is good or bad,» Torres said you should «work with three ideas that all have the potential to solve the problem and then test assumptions.» Compare and contrast to find the front runner.  

A fast answer doesn’t necessarily reflect behavior in reality, Torres said. Instead seek out specific stories about past behavior. «Get a big picture view of what we can do to see what we should do.»

Next, map the stories and test the assumptions gathered from the interviews based on «desirability, viability, feasibility, usability, and ethical» soundness. 

You can learn more at Torres’s website. And you can find Teresa Torres on LinkedIn.

More info about IT Arena

From October 7-9 Lviv hosts the city’s 8th annual IT Arena tech event. This year, it’s hybrid with virtual panels and in-person meetups and parties. During the first two days, October 7-8, there will be exclusively online lectures within four categories: Business, Product, Technology and Startup. 

On Friday 8 October, the exclusive meeting with Maye Musk a nutritionist, model, and mother of SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk will be streamed on the IT Arena web platform. 

The last day of the conference, Saturday 9 October, is devoted to in-person networking, so the meetups will take place offline in fourteen locations in the city centre, such as Mad’s Bar House and the Leopolis Hotel. The price of the tickets starts from $59 for a Standard, $199 for Senior, and $399 for Executive. 

Note that only the last two provide participants with access to the Afterparty taking place in Venue MAD bar’s house on Friday, 8 pm. Additionally there is a special networking session for executive ticket holders at the same place and time. You can buy tickets and learn more at the IT Arena website

Follow Lviv Now’s Wealth and Democracy page for reports on the panels and discussions. Topics include «Think Quick: Architecture for Real Decision-Making,» «User Obsession,» «Transforming Your Business with Machine Learning,» and «Ten Things We Learned from Running Production Infrastructure at Google.» 

By Joe Lindsley


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Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people. 



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