Custdev – Everyone Does It. Full Stop.

I see a lot of product teams try out customer development at the beginning of their product journey. But quickly the team gets so busy shipping features and they outsource customer learning to customer support, research or usability specialists, or the sales force. Those are all valuable touch points, but custdev is not a task that product teams should ignore.

Why do we do qualitative research?

  • it lets us test value (very different from usability) and whether a problem is really a problem
  • it builds deeper empathy with the customer
  • it creates shared understanding across the team
  • it tells us the “why” behind customer behavior
  • it sparks our big insights and mental leaps

Why would you ever want to stop doing any of that?

My colleague Jeff Gothelf correctly demands that *everyone* take part in customer research. Even the introverts who hate it — let them be the note-taker. Even the boss who wants to delegate everything — they only have to do a few sessions.

People only believe what they see with their own two eyes, ergo they need to directly participate in customer development. Direct learning means more belief in the learning. More belief means fewer arguments fueled by ego rather than data. And ultimately, shared understanding equals more speed, better teamwork, and more informed decision making.

Jeff, Josh Seiden and I spent last week with the teams at AutoTrader in the UK. They are already a very sophisticated product group, with cross-functional teams and advanced dev-ops. They were already talking to customers, but not usually as an entire team. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me glowing with the benefits of exposing everyone to the customer. They are feeling faster, more creative, more grounded in real needs and ultimately more effective.

Don’t outsource your custdev work, and make sure everyone takes part.

If you are interested in learning more about customer development, check out Talking to Humans