Wrestling with the Blob: Turning Customer Feedback into Insight

“Get customer feedback” is a broad, sweeping generalization. Perhaps it’s better said as “gather as much specific feedback as you can from customers at the heart of your customer segment, without expecting any customer to have deep insight across all nine boxes of your business model canvas.” Different customers have different “views” or opinions about products and services. Think about specifiers/users/payers and how differently each would view the identical product. Or the difference between heavy and occasional users.

Your job as the feedback team leader is to oversee a three step process:

  1. Gather as much feedback as possible in as many ways as possible (with face-to-face always preferred), and doing so in fluid, unstructured conversations that “go” wherever the customer wants to take the conversation. This leads to the greatest customer engagement in the conversation, and thus the best quality feedback.
  2. Some customers or prospects will have lots to say about some boxes, yet little to say about others. Never “force” the issue. Let the customers talk about what they know best, or feel strongest about. Your job is to collect roughly the same amount of feedback (call it 25 or 30 or 50 “conversations”) about each of the nine boxes by the time your discovery is done. Then you assemble or compile the feedback, box by box, so you have roughly the same density of customer input on each one. Don’t push a customer to talk about things they don’t know about, or care about. And if someone discounts herself as a “real potential customer,” don’t forget to discard her feedback.
  3. Collect the feedback in the shortest “sound bites” possible for easiest assessment. If you’re collecting “most important feature” lists, for example, list each one separately. Then assemble all the answers to each question in its own pile, or stuck on its own section of the office wall. Look for significant clusters of similar or identical answers. But assessing the data requires some entrepreneurial interpretation, and the recognition that startups often deal with imperfect or incomplete data sets. So when 7 out of 25 core target customers say “forecasting” is their favorite feature, you’ve probably learned that more discovery is required, and not, that this feature’s the winner. Look for a majority, or near-majority, or–better yet–an overwhelming majority, to tell you that the price is right, the positioning is perfect, or that you’re building the features they most badly want, and in the proper order.

The bad news: don’t stop talking or start building until you have a “supermajority” or a clear indication of strong if not overwhelming customer endorsement of each element of the startup’s business model.

Bob Dorf speaks with, coaches and trains startups in lean customer development all over the world. He blogs at dorfonstartups.com and tweets @bobdorf.


4 thoughts on “Wrestling with the Blob: Turning Customer Feedback into Insight

  1. Pingback: Peleando con La Masa (el Blob, de los X-men): Convirtiendo los comentarios de los clientes en conocimiento. | Steve Blank.

  2. Pingback: ¿Cómo convertir en conocimiento los comentarios de los clientes? Comentario. | IDNLean

  3. Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring
    on other websites? I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would
    love to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would appreciate
    your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  4. i write a lot and generally publish on my blog and linked in. feel free to borrow and republish any of the articles i publish anywhere, as long as you acknowledge that they’re written by me, co-author of the bestselling Startup Owner’s Manual, now available in 18 languages worldwide. THanks for your kind words

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