“We have this belief that we can manage change, but the reality is we all change on our own terms, on our own time.” – Teresa Torres, Product Discovery Coach
A lot of the challenges that you will face when you introduce customer research in a company are common across organizations.
If your organization is used to thinking in terms of features or output, you’ll have difficulty getting people to start thinking in terms of bets, problems, Jobs and experiments, while embracing failure.
If your organization has a very hierarchical structure, it’s quite likely that many executives will have got their current positions because of their past successes. Unless they acknowledge customer-centricity as a key to their success, you’ll most likely be going against their egos.
If the leadership team has had little to no exposure to customer research, it won’t have a clear frame of reference for assessing its potential value; they’ll have a hard time seeing its tangible benefits.
Why You Want Full Adoption in the Organization
Customer research cannot be optimally effective unless it becomes a part of the product development process—from initial market exploration, all the way to defining a strategy, testing concepts, and evaluating finished products. Because of this, full adoption should be your goal.
Your first step is to understand how the people in charge make decisions, and what sources of information they rely on.
The best-case scenario is often top-down support with bottom-up mobilization—that is, support from the executive team, combined with passion from the team to learn and execute customer-centric strategies.
Introducing Customer Research in the Organization
Find a champion. You will be much more effective if the founders or the leadership team are supportive of the initiative. Can you find competitors who are doing customer research? If you can show that competitors are doing research, this can really help sway decision-makers.
If you can’t get top-down support right away, consider bringing in customer research as an experiment. Oftentimes, people who are resistant to change will be open to running a one-time experiment.
Start with a small team. Set a goal for the team to have changed its behavior by the end of the experiment. Look to co-create the best process, adapting it to your organization’s unique context. The experiment should help you uncover the specific challenges for your organization.
You will need enough time and repetition to improve your processes. If you can find a way to do the research on your own, or with a small team to show the value of customer insights, then you’ll be able to speed up adoption.
It’s difficult to convince people of the value of customer research when they don’t know what the output looks like. For this reason, it’s best to focus on delivering quick wins. The more clearly you can tie research to ROI for the organization, the more buy-in and momentum you should be able to build.
What to Do Once Research is Getting Adoption
When you begin to get results, you should start democratizing research by including more people—influencers, managers, engineers, etc—in your research processes. Unfortunately, you can’t transfer empathy from one person to another. You’ll need to find ways to bring colleagues along in the research.
Find ways to create connections. Position research findings in terms of things that teams care about. For example, if a team cares about churn, position the insights in terms of churn reduction.
Observing user tests, visiting customers on site, taking part in interviews, or discussing experiment results with data can all help build empathy and bring team members along in the research. Bringing others on board will help solidify your case for customer research. Keep working at it. Bringing customer research inside an organization is no easy feat.
This post in an excerpt from Solving Product. If you enjoyed the content, you'll love the new book. You can download the first 3 chapters here →.