Become and Expert on Your Customer
when I say the words customer journey, I'm gonna tighten 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 going to talk about today is how you figure out what that journey looks like. So you can insert yourself in it. You cannot become the customer the expert on their journey without doing some level of customer research. So I'm gonna say that is like a foundational um as a foundational proposition because I do think some people think that they are there. I am enough of my target customer that I can just guess at it. You actually, there's the number one rule of customer research. I won't even be cryptic about it is do it like didn't do customer research now what you do for customer research. There are lots of options available to many forms and modalities. There's online listening which I'll go through some in a bit. Um There's a real world behavioral observation which we...
're going to talk about, some 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 to people often will tell you one thing and do something very very very different than that in there. Real world behavior. So this it's not really an exercise at all about like 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. Um So on observing them in the real world are doing ethnography, ethnography is um shop belongs even in the grocery stores um literally going with them to the grocery store and just like hanging out with them while they shop. Um Usability testing, interviews, focus groups, eye tracking studies. Um We do video chats with people all over the country. Um diary studies where we asked 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 is the number one rule is do it now in just a bed. We're going to actually talk to someone who just does it for her career and livelihoods. So we will come back to her in a few minutes. But first I want to tell you the story of customer research. The story of the customer um research program and project that. I started at my fitness pal along with the young woman who will come on a bit later. Um 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 you know potentially often up for customer insights research jobs, the first thing I always ask is what do you have? Because sometimes there's a lot there is actually in many larger companies, a lot of customer inside intelligence just locked up that no one's using or no one has looked at. Right? So what do you have first? I was told that we had done some, we had done some sporadic customer interviews over the years. They were only with existing customers. And we have always had them come into the office and just ask them some questions. Do you like this? What do you want? Do not want, what's working, what's not working? Um Which kind of made me apoplectic because so the office was in san Francisco, so not only are 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 using it and like care about it enough that they're willing to come into the office, right? So they're not even probably that disengaged of users there. Like it's like asking you're someone who already loves you, like how to be lovable, right? So I was like we're going to go 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 were barely trying. Some of them were using paper to log, Some of them weren't using anything, but they want to, you know, to be healthier in general. And we went out and talked to them and we didn't talk with them in offices and interview 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 and we looked around the kitchen and we took pictures in their pantries, we took pictures on their fridge is um some of them we went to the gym with or to the grocery store with or to the drive drive in or drive through, I guess you call it the fast food drive thru restaurants. Um And it was a revelation. It was a revelation. I mean some of the things that I really remember vividly were the times when people told us one thing and did another thing. Um one woman in particular, I was saying that she was really struggling with her weight, but she was, she was, she had gone paleo like significantly before we were meeting her, but she was still not having the results she wanted. Um 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 her, 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 and I'm like, all right, so this is vodka that you put like jolly rancher in and she said, no, there's 12, enjoy your ranchers in each mason jar and I thought that, I don't think that's really, oh, I mean it might be delicious, but it's not a paleo, right? So you could see some of the ways in which people were, she fully believed she knew I was going to go look in her fridge. She fully thinks she's gone paleo, but she's also drinking jolly rancher vodka. Right? Um, okay. Um, 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 where our audience were, not our audience, I had probably three or four people mention the fresco menu. I did not know what the fresco menu was. We ultimately found out that every fast food restaurant chain has a dollar menu essentially, basically all of them actually have a dollar menu. The fresco menu is the one for Taco Bell. So in urban coastal settings, we kind of, many of us express puzzlement when people say it's so much more expensive to eat healthy than it is to eat unhealthy. And we're like, oh, pasha, 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. She should be eating for four people for six people For $20. She would not get 20 food items Out of $ worth it. 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 thing people say to these are 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 customers minds all the time and I'll talk to you in the next shortly about what we did about that. Um, 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. Um then we decided we would go from user research to creating some to creating 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 when you do customer research, um, to create frameworks that help you sort of system eyes and institutionalise 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 conversations with them and it's 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 the questions that you were asking and then you go there with them because it's helpful. Um So the process of distilling this to this can be intense. It looks like for us it looked like um you know, 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 always a research moderator. Um There's always a note taker that wasn't involved in in the actual questions. Um Oftentimes that person would also be taking pictures. Sometimes we have a separate person taking pictures or video, right? So there'll be several people in the room and every time we do an interview we come back in a room together and just like, like download all of the information that we had taken in from the notes, from the video, from the pictures post. It's as far as the eye could see. And then we would do a process of like sort of grouping insights together. And then as you bring in that same download process from 1236 12 people. And I'm at a place in um Our process where we don't actually do many um quality, what I'm talking about is qualitative research, right? It's not a survey um or just a data thing, it's like 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 you get the same answers over and over again. So 12 tends to be like a really great number if you want to be exhaustive. Um but imagine that kind of download and post. Its everywhere and pattern matching for even six people is it's a lot, it can be chaotic and you can start knowing what kinds of frameworks you'd like to come out with um by frameworks. I just mean like a way to organize and document the insight so that you can use them and and so that you can communicate them to other people in your company or other vendors. You might need to um Frameworks can be personas Avatars, that can be two x two grids of your customers 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 the 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 them over and over again, Right? Sometimes you do a two x two to understand a customer motivation because so many customers mention this dichotomy between struggling and not struggling. We're succeeding or not succeeding. You know, there's just all of these things that come out because you hear them in spot pattern. So we did the customers research process. Then we created some frame. We created a lot of frameworks including a customer journey map, um from the customer journey map and 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, 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, lose the ability to apply it later. Um I see a lot of um companies where they think people tell stories, people basically taking data um and make them into stories or anecdotes. And then people forget what the 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 into this is a blank version of the journey map that we created at my fitness pal um including inventories of uh well, I'll just tell you including in a 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 um at every stage, understanding how they act and feel under, 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, in natural language when they talk about the problem. So there was kind of surprising things that people said. The first of us, the first thing that surprised us a lot was people saying the actual result was asking them what their number one obstacle to living a healthier life was and then saying cost. That was surprising to us. Um, that, that would be number one pretty much universally. That was what people said. Um, the second was that they had all sorts of issues with cooking at home. So we knew we had a really strong data that showed cooking as a success factor for people who um, kept lost waiter achieved their health goal and we're able to sustain that. Um, people who cooked at home lost as this was from usage data on the people who were actually logging their weight and logging their behavior. Um, people who were cooking lost 40% more weight than people who weren't 44, which is a lot People who were cooking were 60 more likely to stay on track with their goal than people who were not. Um, people who, I'm sorry, that data point was people who were cooking on a day that they were cooking at home, they were 64, more likely to stay within their calorie goal. then they were on a day when they ate out. Um So we were like okay, well we gotta figure out how we can help people cook because that's a big deal. And one of the things that we kept hearing was when people were cooking at home, um 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, and I'm supposed to keep my meals like 400 calories, I don't know how to cook 400 calories that was uh sort of repeated um result that we got. Um And then, you know, it was also just some of it was like 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 was saying? And they certainly don't taste good as the dollar taco. I could go get down the street instantly. Um There were a number of things objections like that around cooking, like it's not tasty, it's not easy. I don't like the thing or I know how to cook good things, but they're not healthy, so if I cook the healthy things, they don't taste good. So like people were having all of these like sort of switches around cooking. Um So we basically proceeded from there to make a hole. Um We created a whole program of content that was specifically based on solving these problems. Um We did recipe content, we did e books um we optimize them all of these content programs for their language that they had used with us, um and we optimize them around real time content performance data. So we are 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. Um and then we just got really systematic about putting the content in the right places along 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, we knew people were likely to be be in the app and be looking for that content. Um 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 um as we. Mhm. As we learned that, you know, 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. Um And that over to R. B. D. 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 in working against the same customer journey? That's the kind of like magical thing happens when you do. Um I wanna take a pause here and go to our guest today, who also just so happens, helped build the program that I'm talking about and is now the lead customer researcher at good reads. Um I don't know if I can go back far enough to get the title slide up. Is that all okay? Okay. All right. So we have brandy lumen. 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 is Brandy. Um I also actually just love her in general. Like yes, I love her. One of the smartest people I know. So Brandy is now the lead customer researcher at good reads. Do you guys know what good reads is? Yes. Um I don't know Brandy. Do you guys have a one liner that you give about what good reads is? Um We're the place for you to come to find and just find books you love and share them with other book lovers. Great and good reads is owned by amazon. Um I just want to have a couple of questions for you about customer journey mapping. That is your one of your special geniuses and superpowers in the world. Um Actually should I should ask you to tell us a little bit about your background, like a really quick um intro to who you are and what you do. Sure. So my background um educationally was in psychology and neuroscience. It wasn't too hard, too long ago that I was at Harvard and a PhD program scanning people's brains. Um but that wasn't for me and I've moved into industry um but bringing a lot of the skills that I learned there about how to understand people's preferences and attitudes of decision making, which I now use to help companies like good reads and my fitness pal and under armour understand who their customers are and what they want. What would you say is the like single most powerful thing that you've learned about customer journey mapping now that you've done it across multiple companies in multiple industries. Um That you need it, the more you think that you don't need it, the more you need it. Um It turns out that we rely a lot of instincts as product thinkers and marketing thinkers and executives. Um And the more time we spend in an industry or on a particular product that the more confidence that we have, that we know who our customers are, but if we're not talking to those customers on a regular cadence were often rock about that. Um And so I find that the more confident you are, the more humble you need to be. Um And the more you need to open yourself to the idea that you really, really need this research. Um, and you can't base big investments, business decisions on your own likely flawed idea numerous. Um, do you care to share with us how you learned that lesson? I'm curious. Um, you know, being wrong a lot of times. Um, having going into, I set up, you know, scientists background as I live into, I set up every study by the idea of hypothesis to test. We come into each user interview, usability tests, what have you with an idea in mind of what we think people are gonna say. And we try to break that assumption. We try to find out where we're wrong and we're wrong a lot. Um, and so it's through having been wrong so many times, having tested hypotheses and then really just grateful to the people who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas homes with us to show us how wrong we were to get it right before we spend a lot of time and testing or launch something that, you know, 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, um, we're wanting to just follow your advice and like go do it, do a customer journey mapping process based on customer research. What would you tell them? What's the, like the first thing they should think about? Or your your your number one piece of advice for them? The first thing they should do and the first thing they should think about our different. Um, the first thing they should think about is, I'm sure you've talked a lot about this of course already understand what problem you want to solve and who you want to solve that problem for. So you need to have an idea of what your research question is going to be in, who your target audience is going to be once you have that, the first thing you need to do is get organizational buying, You need people, you need partners really kind of from the top of the organization down to the executioners 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 uh if they're coming along on the journey with you and hopefully advocating for it alongside of you. So I I strongly advocate just building relationships with the people in your organization and finding the key leaders whose um opinions matter to the other people in your organization and that might not be the people who have leadership or BP and their titles. Sometimes you find a real um influencers and thought leaders that people trust in your organization and get them on board. Um and another powerful thing about that is, as I said, they're smart, so getting it on board almost like you're trying to sell it in, but you're also incorporating their feedback and inter project will be better and stronger and they will have to guess about how to make you more successful ultimately as well like that. Now on the other end, when you're done, how do you actually get people to adopt or or almost like by in after the fact how do you get people to start working with your, what you find and use them? Um, I bring them along the whole thing, so I don't think of it as adding up on its end and trying to convince them to act on it because if you walk into a room of smart, thoughtful people and tell them, hey, let's do this thing. The first thing they're gonna do is spoke 1000 great holes in it, right? You want them to have poked those holes like three months ago, so that you have fixed them, address them. Uh major ideas better, bulletproof and they're sitting in the room excited with you whenever you're suggesting acting on this stuff, it's like the ultimate meeting before the meeting. Um and so before you even get to the point where you think, how am I going to act on this? Hopefully everyone's on board and now you're just collaborating with him to say, okay, what are the top priority is on your mind? What are the KPI s you're trying to live? What is your team? How does your team like how do we get this stuff out of our heads out into the world and you work with them to design facilitates sessions that work for their keep me often. That's a design sprint. Um offsite brainstorming sessions, working sessions, awesome. And then I'll just ask you one more for one more piece of really practical advice. How what's your approach or how do you find in that participants um in your customer research studies? Um very tactical. So it depends a little bit on how specific of a pocket. So if the customer that you are to talk to is a dentist, you might need some help. Um making them sometimes I can be going through people within your organization, have existing relationships with your customers. You have customer support team, a sales team, um a marketing team. Or maybe you need to go to an external uh kind of someone that can help them find a needle in a haystack participants that are hard to get more often. I find that the products that I was on our large favorite products where our user base is really big. Um And we when we think about who's the customer that has the problem, trying to solve the answer. Like most people, people who eat people who read. Um and when I can often be really scrap and you find them and like um actually really awesome at my people. And so I write really engaging posts that lure people and people are excited about the problem. You're trying to solve something there pasteurized. And I'm like yeah, it's a big thing better. Um And then post them whatever metro area country where um interviews or on craigslist right? That you kind of cut out a little bit there, but I think you said on craigslist. Yeah. Yeah. All right, that's all I have for you today. Is there anything else you just are are dying to disseminate to a bunch of really like eager uplift ear's who want to understand their customers? No, just do it. I'm excited bringing such a fun, um important in the actual process that I think you will enjoy and your company really grateful for by the time you get awesome. Thanks. Brandy. Get all right. So, I was talking about having come through the research process at my fitness pal. We had some really surprising sort of um insights around costs around cooking around calorie counts for people, and we turned that into content that solved the for those problems, right? Um 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 round up, um and we were thoughtful about how we did it. For example, every recipe we ever published, my fitness pal had to have nutritional account information with it, which is actually an incredible amount of work, involves an incredible amount of work to be able to do. Um but 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 in of of content that very specifically solved for the problems that we heard our customers saying that they had were able to go from zero readers. The block did not exist to 10 million readers a month and Probably in nine months process. Um 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 um really, really designed to solve specific customer needs and distributed it in a way that really got to them at the right time.