An Outline for an Effective Customer Learning Review

Well, year end is around the corner. We just talked about strategy, but what about the nooks and crannies of strategy? What we mean is one of the most critical inputs of strategy. Customer Insight!

Many product leaders fail at providing a well rounded review of customer learning. They move straight to the actions and implications to stakeholder (e.g. UX, development, marketing, operations) without the insights that drove those proposed actions. We see product managers cherry pick the data they believe supports the decisions they’re proposing. Regardless of whether the decision is right and how true your intentions are, cherry-picking breeds skepticism and a lack of trust from those who may have other data that leads them to favor a different decision. The whole discussion gets derailed and your reputation as a customer advocate and unbiased business leader begins to tarnish.

We recommend, after every major research study, you circle back to your cross functional partners (dev, ops, marketing, etc.) to discuss your customer learning. And we have a good outline for those reviews that we offer to our clients’ product managers that works every time. What do we mean when we say it works? We mean that durable decisions can be made, teams can commit to executing against those decisions, and trust in you as an unbiased leader is maintained.

Here’s the outline we recommend for most research studies:

Customer Research Review Outline

  1. Hypotheses: What were the goals of the research? What did you want to learn and how did you intend on using the data?
  2. Profiles targeted and research logistics: Provide context for who you talked to, how you conducted this research, and why it’s relevant. How many did you talk to (for qualitative research) or survey (for quantitative research.)
  3. Resulting themes & insights: These are the big Aha’s of the research. They should represent what you learned (factual observations) and how it addresses (proves or disproves) any given hypothesis (your conclusions). These shouldn’t be one-offs or interesting tidbits. That comes next.
    • For qualitative studies with low sample sizes (we believe in scrappy research, so many of our customer learning reviews are summaries of interviews with a small sample – five to seven – of participants,) report on anything mentioned across participants more than two times.
    • For bigger samples or quantitative research, these are important, statistically valid themes in the data.
    • Include any additional important themes you uncover that might not directly address your hypotheses. Just try and focus on the goals before bringing these in.
    • Bring all this to life by using the customers’ voice. Use actual quotes, pictures, or even a video from the sessions. Hearing directly from customers amps up your presentation substantially.
  4. Interesting tidbits: You can include anything mentioned that wasn’t a theme but could be a thread to tug on later through additional research. This might be a surprise finding, or a potentially new problem or segment you might explore. Tidbits don’t have to yield a conclusion or action, but they may be worth exploring later, and therefore, you want to highlight the information.
  5. Recommended actions: This is the most common thing missed if and when product managers present research findings. Recommended actions help the team with the “So now what?” question. Do we stop the dev effort? Do we pivot our design direction? Do we add that feature? Do we have to think differently about our persona? What does all this mean in terms of what I do tomorrow? Tell your audience explicitly what you plan to do based on what you (and they) just learned. If you don’t know, throw a little design thinking exercise in there to collaborate on the next steps!

Product Rebels is a product management training and coaching firm run by long term product executives for companies like Intuit and Mitchell International. We have trained over 200 companies, small and enterprise level, in the skills and frameworks that help product management leaders and product managers deliver kickass customer experiences.    We have a passion finding efficient ways of infusing customer insight into everything product teams do in pursuit of experiences that customers love …and that drive growth.  Join us in the Product Rebels Community on Facebook.

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