Become and Expert on Your Customer
When I say the words customer journey, I'm gonna tie it now into the problem definition. I mean, what is their real life experience of solving the big picture human scale problem your brand exists to solve? So what we're gonna talk about today is how you figure out what that journey looks like so you can insert yourself in it. You cannot become the expert on their journey without doing some level of customer research. So I'm gonna say that as like a (chuckles) foundational... As a foundational proposition, because I do think some people think that they are their, "I am enough of my target customer (chuckles) "that I can just like guess at it." The number one rule of customer research, I won't even be cryptic about, is do it, (chuckles) do customer research. Now what you do for customer research, there are lots of options available to you and many forms and modalities. There's online listening, which I'll go through some in a bit, there's real world behavioral observation, which we're g...
onna talk about in like case study level detail right now. That's what I call ethnography and we do a fair amount of that. I'll tell you and I'll mention it later, but people, especially in the realm of health and food, probably in money, too. People will often will tell you one thing and do something very, very, very different than that (chuckles) in their real world behavior. So it's not really an exercise, it's at all about judgment or gotcha or catching people. It's just you need accurate information on which to base your insights. And if all you're doing is asking people, you may not be getting anywhere near the truth of what their journey looks like. So observing them in the real world or doing ethnography, shop-alongs, even, in the grocery stores, literally going with them to the grocery store (chuckles) and just like hanging out with them while they shop. Usability testing, interviews, focus groups, eye tracking studies, we do video chats with people all over the country. Diary studies, where we ask them to record their experience every day. There are many, many ways that you can do customer research, some of which are expensive, some of which are not. But, bottom line, the number one rule is do it. Now in just a bit, we're gonna actually talk to someone who just does it (laughs) for her career and livelihood. So we will come back to her in a few minutes. But first I wanna tell you the story of customer research, the story of the customer research program and project that I started at MyFitnessPal along with the young woman who will come on a bit later. So when I got there, I asked what customer research we had. Like what do you already have? And I still ask that. So even as someone who's potentially often up for customer insights, (chuckles) research jobs, the first thing I always ask is, "What do you have?" 'Cause sometimes there's a lot, there is actually in many larger companies, a lot of customer insight intelligence just locked up that no one's using, or no one has looked at. So what do you have first? I was told that we had done some sporadic customer interviews over the years. They were only with existing customers and we had always had them come into the office and just ask 'em some questions. (chuckles) "Do you like this? "What do you want? "You don't want? "What's working, what's not working?" which kind of made me apoplectic. (laughs) So the office was in San Francisco. Now we're like saying, okay, so the only people we've ever talked with about this usage of food and technology are people who live in San Francisco or really close to it. And are already (chuckles) using it. And like care about it enough that they're willing to come into the office. So they're not even probably that disengaged of users. It's like asking someone who already loves you like how to be lovable, right? So I was like, we're gonna back to the drawing board. We're gonna do something really different. And we did. We actually went to six different cities all over the country. And later they went around the world. And we talked to people, anyone who, we talked to people who fit the description of the customer that I just gave you, right? So they didn't have to be trying to lose weight. They didn't have to be using an app. Some of them (chuckles) were barely trying. Some of them were using paper to log. Some of them weren't using anything. But they wanted to be healthier in general. And we went out and talked to them. And we didn't talk with them in offices and interviewed them that way. We went to their homes. And we sat in the living room with them and we talked to them about their health journey. And then we went to the kitchen. (chuckles) And we looked around the kitchen and we took pictures in their pantries, we took pictures in their fridges. Some of them we went to the gym with or to the grocery store with, or to the drive-in, (chuckles) or drive-through, I guess you call it, the fast food drive-through restaurants. And it was a revelation. It was a revelation. I mean, some of the things that I really remember (chuckles) vividly were the times when people told us one thing and did another thing. One woman in particular was saying that she was really struggling with her weight, but she had gone paleo, like significantly before we were meeting here, but she was still not having the results she wanted. When I went into her fridge, there were some really large like mason jars of colored liquid. I didn't know what they were. So I asked here. You know, we were taking pictures of the pantry, and taking pictures of the fridge. I asked her what was in the jars and she said, "Jolly Rancher Vodka." It's Jolly Rancher vodka. All right, so this is vodka that you put like a Jolly Rancher in. And she said, "No, there's "(chuckles) Jolly Ranchers in each mason jar." And I thought that I don't think that's paleo. (laughs) (audience laughing) I mean, it might be delicious, but it's not paleo, right? So you could see some of the ways in which people were, she fully believed... She knew I was gonna go look in her fridge, she fully thinks she's gone paleo, but she's also drinking Jolly Rancher vodka, right? (audience and Tara laughing) There were just a number of surprising things that came up. There were things that we didn't know because we don't have the same lifestyle as them. So even though we think we're fitness people and we're our audience, we're not our audience. I had probably three or four people mention the Fresca Menu. I did not know what the Fresca Menu was. We ultimately found out that every fast food restaurant chain has a dollar menu, essentially. Basically like all of them actually have dollar menu. The Fresca Menu is the one for Taco Bell. So in urban, coastal settings, we kind of, many of us, expressed puzzlement when people say, "It's so much more expensive "to eat healthy than it is to eat unhealthy." And we're like, "Oh, pushah, that's just "a story you're telling yourself." Until you drive through the Taco Bell with a woman who's got four kids to feed and can feed all of them for $20. And then you're like, "I don't think she could cook "what we're telling her (laughs) she should be eating "for four people, for six people, for $20." She would not get 20 food items out of $20 worth. You know what I mean? So there were all these moments where we were like, "Huh." Like that thing that we thought was kind of just a think people say to... It is very real. That is a very real issue people are dealing with. It's a very real obstacle along their journey. And, no, we're not a food brand, so we couldn't necessarily change the prices of food. But it was important to know that that was in our customer's minds all the time. And I'll talk to you shortly about what we did about that. This is kind of the process that we went through. We started with the customer research, actually going into people's homes, doing the conversations with them. I'll talk you through some of the nuts and bolts for how you can do that sort of a process in just a second. Then we decided we would go from user research to creating some... Actually, this is the series of stages that we went through. This is also the series of stages that I'm asking you to go through (chuckles) when you do customer research, to create frameworks that help you sort of systemize and institutionalize and document the insights that you find when you do customer research. The process of doing customer research can actually be relatively chaotic in the process. You're literally in the room with people. And you're having conversation with them. And you're not trying to ask them a bunch of yes or no questions. You're trying to have real conversations so you can understand their journey. And human beings aren't cookie cutter, right? Like sometimes they'll tell you some stuff that's so relevant to you, but totally off (laughs) the questions that you were asking. And then you go there with them, because it's helpful. So the process of distilling this to this can be intense. (laughs) It looks like, for us, it looked like there was always an executive from the company. I'll talk to you about why in the room, with customers at the interviews, there was just always the research moderator. There's always a note taker that wasn't involved in the actual questions. Oftentimes that person would also be taking pictures. Sometimes we had a separate person taking pictures or video. So there'd be several people in the room. And every time we do an interview, we'd come back in a room together and just like download all of the information that we had taken in, from the notes, from the video, from the pictures, Post-its as far as the eye could see. And then we would do a process of sort of grouping insights together. And then as you bring in that same download process from one, two, three, six, 12 people, and I'm at a place in our process where we don't actually do many, what I'm talking about it qualitative research, it's not a survey, or just a data thing. It's literally talking to real people. We almost never would do that with more than 12 people at this stage of the game. We tend to find after about six or seven, (chuckles) you get the same answers over and over again. So 12 tends to be like a really great number if you wanna be exhaustive. But imagine that kind of download and Post-its everywhere and (chuckles) pattern matching for even six people, it's a lot, it can be chaotic. And you can start knowing what kinds of frameworks you'd like to come out with. By frameworks, I just mean like a way to organize and document the insights so that you can use them. And so that you can communicate them to other people in your company or other vendors you might need to. Frameworks can be personas, avatars, they can be two by two grids of your customer's motivations. And a customer journey map is one that's really foundational to the work I do, because it's specifically... journey is necessarily transformational, that's what journey is. So we tend to always do that. But some of the other frameworks you get to just come out because you hear 'em over and (chuckles) over again. Sometimes you do a two-by-two to understand a customer motivation, because so many customers mention this dichotomy between struggling and not struggling or succeeding and not succeeding. There's just all of these things that come out because your hear 'em in spot patterns. So we did the customers research process. Then we created a lot of frameworks, including a customer journey map. From the customer journey map, and other frameworks that we created, we then developed a set of almost like decision rules, or like a list of criteria we knew based on what customer insights we've seen. We predict this kind of a piece of content would be successful. Or this kind of a product feature would be successful, with success being to engage our customers. Because we know that it would remove a piece of point of resistance or it would insert a progress trigger. And I'll show you what that means systematically. And only then, then and only then, did we start sort of brainstorming ideas for specific content pieces. So this was all meant to be relatively systematic, especially because sometimes you get to one point and you need to validate. Like frameworks, in particular, often we would make sure that they made sense in the context of what we already knew about how the customers were using the app and what they were buying and what they weren't buying. At each step, if you jump straight from user research to like, "That's a great idea, we should do that." you lose the ability to apply it widely throughout the company. You lose the ability to apply it later. I see a lot of companies where they think (laughs), people basically take data and make them into stories or anecdotes and then people in the company forget what the data is, but they're still telling the story about what their customers do or don't do without there being the research and frameworks that are validated and criteria that came out of that and idea evaluation, you lose some of the ability to be systematic in the way you apply insights to drive successful and engaging content. So we did that. And we talked to a bunch of customers and we had a bunch of insights from them. And we turned them to into, this is a blank version, (chuckles) of the journey map that we created at MyFitnessPal, including inventories of, well, I'll just tell you, including an sort of systematic understanding of the stages of change that people go through. And I'm gonna repeat this stuff several times so you'll be able to catch it. At every stage, understanding how they act and feel, at every stage, understanding the points of resistance, the things that get them stuck, the pain points, things that make them quit. At every stage, and these are usually we represent these like this. At every stage understanding what triggers them to progress from one stage to the next. At every stage, understanding micro-moments, which are a certain kind of question that people ask at various moments along the journey. And at every stage, understanding what are the sort of common phrases that people use in their own words and natural language when they talk about their problem? So there was kind of surprising things that people said. The first thing that surprised us a lot was people saying the actual result was us asking them what their number one obstacle to living a healthier life was and them saying cost. That was surprising to us that that would be number one pretty much universally (laughs) that was what people said. The second was that they had all sorts of issues with cooking at home. So we had a really strong data that showed cooking as a success factor for people who lost weight or achieved their health goal and were able to sustain that. People who cooked at home lost. This was from usage data on the app, people who were actually logging their weight and logging their behavior. People who were cooking lost 40% more weight than people who weren't. 40, four-zero percent, which is a lot. People who were cooking were 60% more likely to stay on track with their goal than people who were not. Oh, people who, I'm sorry, that data point was people who were cooking, on a day that they were cooking at home, they were 60% more likely to stay within their calorie goal than they were on a day when they ate out. So we were like, okay, well, we gotta figure out how we can help people cook, (laughs) 'cause that's a big deal. And one of the things that we kept hearing was when people were cooking at home, it was really challenging for them to figure out how to build a meal that was filling, but stayed within a certain calorie range. That was a big thing. People would be like, "I don't know, "I know I'm supposed to keep my meal to like 400 calories. "I don't know how to cook 400 calories." That was sort of a repeated result that we got. And then, you know, it was also just (chuckles) some of it was trying to figure out how to cook within calorie range. Some of it was just like, "I don't like the things I cook. "Like they don't taste good." You know what I'm saying? (Tara and audience laugh) And they certainly don't taste good as the dollar taco I could go get down the street instantly. There were a number of objections like that around cooking. Like it's not tasty, it's not easy. "I know how how to cook good things, "but they're not healthy. "So if I cook the healthy things they don't taste good." (chuckles) So like people were having all of these sort of glitches around cooking. So we basically proceeded from there to make a whole... We created a whole program of content that was specifically based on solving these problems. We did recipe content. We did e-books. We optimized them, all of these content programs for their language that they had used with us. And we optimized them around real-time content performance data. So we are always very careful to pay attention to how content is engaged on as it goes out. And to do more of what's working and dial back and do less of what's not working. And then we just got really systematic about putting the content in the right places along in their journey, whether that was an email that went out on a certain day of the week for recipes, or whether that was in the app at times when you knew people were likely to be in the app and be looking for that content. We syndicated content to third-party sites a lot, kind of like what we were talking about, placing content in the right media outlets. And what was super cool was that our product team was on board. So they were working from the same journey. As we learned that cooking and recipes were important to people and we could help them do that with content, our product team started thinking about how they could help people more easily log the recipes they were cooking. Our BD team started helping us build partnerships with recipe publishers and organizations. So when I talk about like how do we get every team in the company mapped and working against the same customer journey, that's the kind of magical thing that (chuckles) happens when you do. I wanna take a pause here and go to our guest today who also, just so happens, helped build the program that (chuckles) I'm talking about and is now the Lead Customer Researcher at Goodreads. I don't know if I can go back far enough to get the title slide up. Is that all okay?
[Woman Off Screen] I think it's okay where it is.
All right, so we have Brandi Luedeman. Hey!
Hello, how are you?
I am fantastic, how are you doing?
I'm great, happy to be here with you today.
Great, so this this is Brandi. I also actually just love her. (audience laughing)
Love you, too!
Yes, I love her. (laughs) She's one of the smartest people I know. So Brandi is now the Lead Customer Researcher at Goodreads. Do you guys know what Goodreads is? Yes, I don't know, Brandi, do you guys have a one-liner that you give about what Goodreads is?
We're the place for you to come find books you love and share them with other book lovers.
Great, and Goodreads is owned by Amazon. I just have a couple of questions for you about customer journey mapping. That is one of your special geniuses and superpowers in the world. I should ask you to tell us a little bit about your background, like a really quick intro to who you are and what you do.
Sure, so my background, educationally, was in psychology and neuroscience. It wasn't too long ago that I was at Harvard in a PhD program scanning people's brains. But that wasn't for me and I've moved into industry, but bringing a lot of the skills that I learned there about how to understand people's preferences and attitudes and decision-making, which I now use to help companies like Goodreads and MyFitnessPal and Under Armor understand who their customers are and what they want.
Awesome. What would you say is the single most powerful thing that you've learned about customer journey mapping now that you've done it across multiple companies and multiple industries?
That you need it. (audience and Tara laughing) The more you think that you don't need it, the more you need it. It turns out that we rely a lot of our instincts as product thinkers, and marketing thinkers and executives, and the more time we spend in an industry or on a particular product, the more confidence that we have that we know who are customers are. But if we're not talking to those customers on a regular cadence, we're often wrong about that. And so I find that the more confident (chuckles) you are, the more humble you need to be and the more you need to open yourself to the idea that you really, really need this research. And you can't base big investments, big business decisions, on your own likely flawed idea (audio cuts) consumers.
(chuckles) Do you care to share with us how you learned that lesson? I'm curious. (laughs)
You know, it's being wrong a lot of times. (chuckles) I set up (audio cuts out) scientist background, as I alluded to, I set up every study by the idea of hypotheses we're gonna test. We come into each user interview, usability test, what have you, with an idea in mind of what we think people are gonna say. And we try to break that assumption and we try to find out where we're wrong. And we're wrong a lot. And so it's through having been wrong so many times, having tested hypotheses and then really just grateful to the people who were willing to share their thoughts and ideas and homes with us to show us how wrong we were (audio cuts) get it right before we spend a lot of time investing, or launch something that isn't consistent with user needs.
If someone who hadn't done a lot of customer research in the past didn't have the background you have were wanting to just follow your advice, (chuckles) and like go do it, do a customer journey and mapping process based on customer research, what would you tell 'em? What's the first thing they should think about or your number one piece of advice for them?
The first thing they should do, and the first thing they should think about are different. The first thing they should think about is, as I'm sure you've talked a lot about in this course already, understand what problem you want to solve and who you wanna solve that problem for. So you need to have an idea of what your research question is going to be and who your target audience is going to be. Once you have that, the first thing you need to do is get organizational buy-in. You need people, you need partners really, kind of from the top of the organization down to the executors on the ground, to believe in this with you, because as smart as you are, you can't do it all yourself. And all of your findings are going to be better and all of the applications are going to be deeper if they're coming along on the journey with you and hopefully advocating for it alongside of you. So I strongly advocate just building relationships with the people in your organization and finding the key leaders whose opinions matter to the other people in your organization. And that might not be the people who have leadership or VP in their title sometimes. Find a real influencers and thought leaders that people trust in your organization and get them on board. And another powerful thing about that is, as I said, they're smart, so getting it on board almost sounds like you're trying to sell it in, but you're also incorporating their feedback. And your project will be better and stronger. And they will have ideas about how to make you more successful ultimately as well.
I like that. Now, on the other end, when you're done, how do you actually get people to adapt or almost like buy-in after the fact? How do you get people to start working with what you find and use them?
I bring them along the whole way, so I don't think of that as adding them on the end and try to convince them to act on it, because if you walk into a room of smart thoughtful people and (chuckles) tell them, "Hey, let's do this thing." The first thing they're gonna do is poke a thousand holes in it, right? You want them to have poked those holes three months ago, so that you have fixed them, addressed them and made your ideas better and bulletproof. Then they are sitting in the room excited with you whenever you're suggesting acting on this stuff. It's like the ultimate meeting (audio cuts). And so before you even get to the point where think, "How am I gonna act on this?" Hopefully everyone's on board and now you're just collaborating with them to say, okay, what are the top priorities on your mind? What are the KPIs you're trying to move? How does your team work? Like how do we get this stuff out of our heads and out into the world? And you work with them to design and facilitate sessions that work for their unique eneds. Often that's a design sprint, offsite brainstorming session, so working sessions sort of thing.
Awesome, and then I'll just ask you for one more piece of really practical advice. What's your approach or how do you find and vet participants in your customer research studies?
It's very tactical. So it depends a little bit on how specific of (audio cuts out). So if the customer that you are going to talk to is a dentist, you might need some help (audio cuts out) them. Sometimes I (audio cuts out) going through people within your organization that have existing relationships with your customers. You have the customer support team, a sales team, a marketing team, or maybe you need to go to an external, kind of a recruiter, someone that can help find those needle in a haystack participants that are hard to get to. More often I find that the products that I work on are large consumer products, where our user base is really big. And when we think about who is the customer that has the problem we're trying to solve, the answer is like most people, people who eat, people who read. (audience laughing) (Brandi drowned by laughter) Often we are really (audio cuts out) find them and (audio cuts out) really awesome at finding people. And so I write a really engaging post that lure people and try to get them excited about the problem that you're trying to solve. That's something I'm passionate about. I like to eat, yeah, yeah, help me, (audio cuts out) eat better. And then post them in whatever metro areas around the country where the interviews or--
On Craigslist, right? You kinda cut out a little bit there. But I think you said on Craigslist.
Yes, Craigslist, Craigslist is awesome.
All right, that's all I have for you today. Is there anything else you just are dying to disseminate to a bunch of really eager uplifters who want to understand their customers?
No, just do it. I'm excited for you. It's just such a fun important and impactful process that I think you will enjoy and your company will be really grateful for. But it'll be good.
Awesome, thanks, Brandi.
Bye, all right. So I was talking about having come through the research process as at MyFitnessPal we had some really surprising sort of insights around cost, around cooking, around calorie counts for people. And we turned that into content that solved for those problems. On a blog, we distributed it in a way that we knew would be engaging to people. We experimented with all kinds of formats, like this recipe roundup. And we were thoughtful about how we did it. For example, every recipe we ever publish at MyFitnessPal had to have nutritional count information with it, which is actually an incredible amount of work, (laughs) involves an incredible amount of work to be able to do. And I'll go more into what the content strategy was in a bit. But we were able to literally, by publishing a steady cadence of content that very specifically solved for the problems that we heard our customers saying that they had, we were able to go from zero readers, the blog did not exist (chuckles), to 10 million readers a month in probably a nine-month process. And, yes, that was with some resources. But not a huge, it wasn't millions of dollars. It wasn't big agencies, it wasn't any of that. It was just really, really designed to solve specific customer needs and distribute it in a way that really got to them at the right time.