8 Tips to Apply The Lean Startup to Customer Service by Jenna Abdou

One of my first introductions to The Lean Startup stemmed from Fueled founder Rameet Chawla who claimed, that in actuality, Eric Ries’ methodology can be applied to every aspect of our lives. As always, Rameet got me thinking and as our team spent time at 2014 Lean Startup Conference I quickly understood how appropriate his declaration is. 

From landing pages and your first users to MVPs and shipping product, this year’s lineup emphasized the importance of making each step of launching and scaling your startup as efficient as possible.

Here are eight tips from Nara Logics founder Jana Eggers and Yammer’s Director of UX Cindy Alvarez on how to apply The Lean Startup to customer development. 

  1. Applying the lean methodology to customer development is the same as using it to release products. Create a hypothesis - I think ‘x customer’ has ‘y problem’ - and use different tests to reveal the most effective way to solve it. 
  2. Customer development isn’t a one size fits all process. Approach each interaction with three unique questions that will allow your user to demonstrate how they’re using your product. Optimize showing rather than telling in this setting. 
  3. If you’re struggling to release a small enough MVP reach out to friends and users in different industries. Their lack of familiarity with your problem will inspire an uninhibited and out of the box solution. 
  4. The best way to uncover the underlying source of your customers needs is to stop singing “We are the Champions” while they’re sing “Killing Me Softly.” Instead, approach your conversation as a blank slate to decipher exactly what they’re looking for in your service. 
  5. Confirmation bias is especially risky during the initial stages. Whether you’re talking to customers or releasing new products the more you validate your personal beliefs the greater you distance yourself from your users' real needs. 
  6. Work closely with brand evangelists who have supported you from the early days. Not only are they committed to genuinely contributing to the growth of your business, they’ll give you the best and deepest scope of feedback.  
  7. Search is no longer defined by providing the single result your user is inquiring about. As an organization in 2015 you’re responsible for considering the technology a user is searching on, their location, and their personal interests. Once you’ve accounted for each of these variables you can deliver accurate and comprehensive results. 

To learn more about how Jana applies The Lean Startup at Nara tune into her live interview below and listen to Cindy’s here.

Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • eero Designs Wi-Fi for the Smart Home Era — Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Principal at Shasta Ventures, recently distinguished exceptional founders by their ability to prioritize. “It all comes back to prioritization, speed, paranoia, and knowing that if you don’t iterate, even after finding product market fit, you can be disrupted by the next product,” he says.

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