Operationalizing Customer Discovery

How to implement ongoing qualitative customer discovery

Capture the right information, analyze what you collect for insights, leverage those insights for growth. Rinse and repeat.

First things first: lay a sure foundation

Introducing a customer discovery process is worthwhile, but it can be tricky. To orchestrate change well, you'll need stakeholder and team buy-in. You'll also need to lay groundwork around why the process matters, how it will work, and what results your company can expect. 

Here are several steps you can take to lay a foundation in your organization: 

  • Establish vision: If your team or stakeholders aren't sold on understanding the customer, you'll want to start here. Use data and evidence from this guide to explain the benefits of understanding your customer. Paint a vivid picture of customer insights ROI.  
  • Determine process: Identify what type of data teams will collect, how they will gather it, and where it will live. Define the shelf-life of your data as well. Will you keep all of it for three years? Or might some insights expire? 
  • Create organization: Provide clarity around how you'll organize and label insights. What kind of taxonomy or classification system will you use? How will you store insights in a clear and useful way?
  • Invite ownership: Decide whether one person or the entire team will be responsible for managing insights. Explain who will have access to the insights, and who is responsible for their upkeep. 
  • Plan distribution: An insight locked in a vault is hardly useful. Determine how teams will access and leverage insights for their own uses. How will teams collaborate around the collected information? 
  • Select a tool: What tool(s) will you use to interact with the customer and aggregate insights? Consider security, data structure, integrations, and features like search. 
  • Define success: If your process is working, what will success look like? And how will you measure progress along the way? Identify what a successful customer discovery process will produce for your organization. 

Once you lay a foundation, you’re ready to start collecting insights. 

Right people, right time, right information  

Engage the right people

The “right” customer will always depend on what question your team is asking. In many cases, the right customer will fall in one of three broad categories: recent sign-ups, recent cancellations, and product advocates. 

Recent sign-ups can help answer questions such as, “why are customers choosing our product?” and “what’s going on in their lives that caused them to sign up?” The responses and patterns in the responses here can heavily influence landing page strategy, acquisition channels, and onboarding flows. 

Recent cancellations can help answer questions such as, “why did you quit our product?” Insights here can help teams make strategic improvements such as improving positioning (perhaps customers cite unmet expectations) and reducing churn (by addressing major frustrations). 

And product advocates, or those who excel with your product and advocate it to others, help teams answer “who is our ideal customer” and “what job are they trying to do?” Insights here help hone segmentation and positioning, as well as feature prioritization.   

The right segment varies by company and question, which is why LearnWhy allows teams to interact with customers at custom milestones, such as first project completed or 5 consecutive days of activity. 

Ask at the right time

Imagine your team is surveying recent sign-ups. The responses your team will receive if they prompt customers within 24 hours of signing up will be very different than the responses they will receive if they prompt customers within 3 weeks of signing up. With the first group, the customer’s motivations and expectations will be much fresher and much more relevant to targeting and converting other new customers. 

Similar logic applies for any other segment your team targets. Not only do they want to select the right segment to engage, they want to engage them at the right time. The “right” time means the time most likely to deliver actionable feedback relative to the problem your team is trying to solve. 

LearnWhy provides the ability to target the right customers at the right event-driven intervals for fresh insights. 

Pose the right questions 

Once your team has identified the right people to ask and the right time to ask them, they’ll need to ask the right questions. And counterintuitively, the right question is never a leading question or one that asks the customer to speculate on future behavior (all people are notoriously bad at predicting this). 

“Always be talking to your customers. Uncover the pain, solve the problem and then build on ramps that allow customers to share more of their pain so you can repeat the cycle. Note that I don’t mean ask customers what features will satisfy them—that’s an endless and thankless dark path. Instead, focus on core needs and use the team’s ingenuity to find solutions consistent with your vision.”

– Oji Udezue, Vice President of Product, Calendly


LearnWhy provides the ability to gather valuable customer feedback at key milestones using Jobs-to-be-done questionnaires and custom surveys.    

Analyze what you’ve collected

Once your team collects qualitative data, they need a way to separate signals from noise. LearnWhy uses natural language processing (NLP) to run sentiment and trend analyses, helping your team quickly identify patterns. 

Additional tools and sorting, such as word clouds that help identify key phrases, enable teams to parse the motivations and needs of customers. An emphasis on Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) enables teams to highlight desired outcomes, identify powerful motivations, and categorize alternative solutions. Build and market products to the whole customer, in the context of their busy lives, with rich and visually represented insights. 

“The advantage we have as modern marketers is access to a wealth of data generated via online interactions. Each interaction is an opportunity to collect additional data points not only about individual prospects, but also about what the customer journey looks like overall. The key to extracting value from all this information is knowing how to harness it to reveal insights that inform your sales and marketing efforts.”

– Laura Borghesi, Senior Director, Growth Marketing, MongoDB 

Leverage customer insights for growth 

In the final stage of customer discovery, teams map customer insights to business goals or opportunities. They also begin building feedback loops into the product that deliver a continuous flow of insights for ongoing collection and analysis. This can lead to higher ROI on resources, higher feature engagement, lower CAC, greater retention, more positive future feedback, and high brand affinity. (See examples below.)

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