product-and-design, productivity, usability

Observing People Use Your Product Reveals Opportunities

Do you know how liquid Tide detergent was invented? It was when the Procter & Gamble team decided to watch their customers using their powder-based product. They noted one customer would first fill the washer with water, pour in the detergent, mix it up with her hands, then throw in the clothes.

The team was intrigued. They had never seen anyone do this before. So they asked the customer why she had done this. She explained to ensure the powder was mixed so it would evenly clean the clothes. Even though the step was not necessary it opened the teams eyes to make a liquid detergent. Not because it would clean clothes better but because it solved the concern of whether it would mix evenly and thus clean clothes better.

When you observe customers using your product on a regular basis they’ll reveal opportunities that you otherwise would have missed.

Observe even if you think you know how people use your product

If you’ve observed people use your SaaS product in the past, or you think you have a good sense of how they’re using it, it’s still good to observe people on a regular basis. You’ll be surprised by what you discover.

Here are the five main benefits of observing customers use your product.

Understand your customer

This is the main reason why you should be observing customers. Knowing who your customer is ensures your building the right product. The core features, the fundamental problem your solving.

Customers grow with your product and it’s good to know where they are in terms of their journey. A new customer will have different needs and expectations from a customer who has been with you for years. When you observe people at different stages of their journey you’ll have knowledge you can use to help others along their way.

If you’re not observing each customer along their journey you will not be able to help others before they get stuck.

Discover missed opportunities

This goes back to the story about liquid Tide. People do surprising things and it’s your job to discover what those things are. You may have your head down developing your SaaS application based on a problem you’ve noted in the market. And that’s good but people will use your application in ways it was not intended for.

Whether it’s good ways or bad ways you need to know about them. And the more diverse the customer type you sample from the better.

Build relationships

Taking extreme care of customers builds confidence. The more positive interactions you have with them the better. The more they feel heard the better.

This is fantastic for helping word of mouth spread. If a customer knows they’re being taken care of they will be sure to tell everyone they know.

Build developer confidence

Without good data developers will not have confidence in what they’re building. It’s tempting to just tell your team what to do but when you can back it up with real customer feedback there will be no question as to whether the work should be done or not.

Developers need to understand the why something needs to be built so they know what it is they should develop. Bring vague requirements to a developer and they’ll either push back until you do the work of getting them what they need or they’ll develop something nowhere near what you need.

Save time

At the end of the day observing your customers saves you time. It seems like it’s extra work but the hardest part of development are the decision-making stages. If you’re releasing features based on assumptions rather than hard data overtime will be spent correcting the mistakes you made because of the product-market mismatch.


Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

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