This blog is an extract from an article Phil written for the FounderCatyst's blog.
Who are your users really?
Digital products exist to provide a service to people. They make us more productive, happier, entertained and connected. Technology is in the service of people, not the other way round.
To create technical solutions that serve us, we need to know what our customers and our users really need. Products are often born from our own frustrations as customers or the belief that we can provide a better service than the current offerings. Sometimes we know our customers really well. You have coffee, work in their office, go to the pub. Sometimes, 'everyone is a customer', and you know your friends and family want it (hint: 'everyone' is never your customer).
That is not good enough! You need to know more. A deeper understanding is an absolute must; the better you know your customers, the better their engagement. Or to put it another way, what happens if your competitor knows your customers better?
"86% of customers would pay more for a better experience" - (PWC - “Experience is everything”)
You better give them the best experience otherwise, they are taking their money elsewhere.
A deep level of understanding is not easy, but acting with purpose, it is very achievable. Observing users, systematically interviewing across your customer base and testing features directly with users are all ways you can build understanding. We seek opportunities to uncover things that do not come up in 'normal' conversation, going beyond the functional aspects and understanding them as people. What makes them tick. What are they trying to achieve using your product? Is there a social or emotional reason? What pains are they trying to solve, and what will they gain?
The benefits of developing this understanding generate new opportunities that you (or your competition) will not have spotted otherwise. You will have a greater focus on what is most important, and you will avoid exploring dead ends that sap your effort and energy.
Understanding your customers is like getting a map to building a brilliant product. The more detail you get, the better able you are to plan your path to success.