Customer Development and Research / Product Development

Jeff Gothelf of “Lean UX” Shares Thoughts on Customer Obsession

On a sunny summer evening, Product Tank’s Barcelona chapter invited Jeff Gothelf, co-author of “Lean UX” and “Sense & Respond” for a lively fireside chat. The discussion clearly engaged the audience. “Product people” from all walks of life came together, hungry to learn how to become more user-centric in the everydays.

With a venue at full capacity and questions from the audience flooding in, the event showed that, by now, it’s not an “optional” choice or question of personal belief to put the customer at the heart of everything we do anymore. It is now a commonly accepted guiding light for all the community. (Or, at least, I hope so!)

As an aspiring evangelist of this mindset, here is my personal recap of the most inspiring thoughts shared by product and UX veteran Jeff that night.


Customer behavior is the ultimate measure of success

Any effort you make should help trigger a change in your target customers’ behavior. For example, helping them get through a purchase journey in less time, or being able to resolve a drudging task in their job faster and easier.

But you need a clear focus. Instead of making generalizations, you should consider how you can best influence a specific user solve their goal in a specific context.

Due to the rapid fashion of the fireside chat, there wasn’t enough time to elaborate this topic. But, here is a great post by Jeff on reconciling the context (Jobs To Be Done) and Personas for a clearer picture on who is using your product and what they are trying to achieve.

OKRs should be outcome and not output oriented

There has been so much said about OKRs and how teams should use them over the last few years (here’s a classic approach by Google). Jeff believes that many companies are struggling to shape and communicate goals in a valuable way.

He recommends that your OKRs should focus on the expected outcome (again, reflecting the change in the customers’ behavior you want to achieve) instead of outputs.

Don’t simply tell your team to go build X feature. Give them the vision where to go and then let them figure out how to get there.


Credits: IronVIRES Blog

Let’s take an example. Imagine that you are a company that sells microphones.

Making “I want to be the top destination for microphones in Spain” your quarterly goal is difficult to measure and probably too abstract to turn into actionable steps for a product team.

Instead, phrase your business problem the following way: “How can we get 25% more people buy our microphones via mobile devices?”.

This gives them a lot more room to make valuable discoveries, experiment with alternative approaches and keep on learning and improving.

How to measure behavior change

Many Product Managers and UX strategists look for guidance on how to find the right balance between quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Jeff believes that there’s no clear one-size-fits-all approach. What’s important it to focus on both the “what” (what people are doing) and “why” (why they are doing it, what are their reasons and motivations). Such product discovery mindset can ultimately drive more customer-centricity in your business.

One of his favorite examples of companies with a collaborative, customer-centric approach is CarMax, leading used car dealership network in the US.

CarMax Lean Team

Credits: CarMax on Axure Blog

They continuously come up with new ideas to see how they could learn more about what their customers need. First, they collaborate with their sales representatives to find out what kind of information could help them profile and pre-qualify leads.

Then, they optimize their website, where car buyers typically start their journey browsing for options, to establish a better understand of what they want by the time they make a visit to the closest dealership.

A healthy kind of obsession

Don’t worry if you don’t figure everything out on the first attempt. As Jeff put it, the future of product innovation will likely come from “patience”.

After all, I believe it’s all about embracing that we don’t know everything and wanting to learn more. And more. And more.

This is the kind of restless “obsession” that I believe Jeff and his hosts at Product Tank Barcelona hinted at.

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