Image shows florals blooming during spring.

Introducing a new playbook for customer development

Learn how to talk to customers, test ideas, and validate hypotheses.

Think back to the last time you had to sign up for healthcare. Maybe it was through an online marketplace or an HR website while onboarding for a new job. Were you able to easily understand and compare the insurance plans?

Image shows a frustrated person trying to navigate a confusing healthcare website.
Bad example: US-based Health insurance websites (Image source)

American health insurance and HR websites are notoriously bad. They make it hard to compare plans side by side, especially when viewing more than three plans. The plan’s explanations are filled with jargon and are difficult to understand for everyday people. Costs are hard to calculate, such as premiums vs. co-pays for specific procedures. These sites notoriously focus on business needs over the needs of everyday people like you and me.

As a customer, I need to compare plans, see what I can afford, see what my options are with preexisting conditions… the list goes on and on. Yet I can barely understand what I’m buying.

Image shows two Lab Zero colleagues sitting together to discuss customer insights.
Two Lab Zero colleagues sit to discuss user insights (Image source)

Introducing my new Customer Development playbook

I’m currently working at Lab Zero — a lean and mean product development shop in San Francisco. When we build a product or service with our client-partners, we obviously don’t want customers to have a bad experience. That’s why we talk to customers to learn about their needs.

To conduct meaningful customer development, I wrote this Customer Development Playbook. I based it off of my discovery process from my last four projects in 2019 and 2020. We are thrilled to share some of our strategies for setting up hypotheses and learning goals, conducting interviews with customers, and making sense of insights. There are two main sections:

  1. Principles: These guiding principles and mindset serve as a framework throughout the customer development process.
  2. Process: These steps are the foundation to conducting customer development while staying grounded in outcomes. Through these steps, we have included recommendations and templates to get started.
The playbook includes templates like this one to keep your team organized and productive.

Wait, what exactly is customer development?

When we talk about customer development, we are talking about stepping away from our desks to test hypotheses with customers. It’s a subset of user research, and is our umbrella term for iteratively clarifying who our target customer segments are. At the end of the day, it’s about learning from our customers so that we make better informed, evidence-based decisions.

Working remote? No problem.

Customer interviews can easily be done remotely. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and open source Jitsi.org make it easy to hop on a call and conduct an interview. Zoom gives you the ability to record your call as well, which I highly recommend, especially if you do not have a colleague available to take notes. Recordings are easy to share with teammates and stakeholders who benefit from directly seeing and hearing what customers have to say.

The playbook is available on Github alongside our other process guides. It can be used during all stages of a project and is applicable to solo contributors and teams alike.

How do you talk to your customers and validate ideas?

Check out the playbook on GitHub here.

Product designer focused on UX/UI and customer development (he/him) claytonhopkins.com