The idea to build SupportBee , a help desk system, as our next product came up eight months back. It was a personal need that we felt while handling support for Muziboo. We had tried out a lot of the existing software in the market and did settle on one that we used for almost a year and a half. But, we had our own frustrations. Well, the thing to do would have been to build a software that satisfied our needs and put it out for others to try. Glad that we didn t go that route for it s better to validate customers needs than gamble by assuming that our needs would be everybody else s too.
With so much Customer Development in the air, we decided to give it a fair chance and got our hands on Steve Blank s Four steps to the epiphany. If you are serious about customer development, please read the book. It is tough to learn anything concrete from just blog posts because they lack continuity.
According to Steve Blank, your customer development strategy depends on the kind of market you are addressing. We were addressing an already existing market and below is the list of questions I used for my cust dev interviews. This is my adaptation of Steve Blank s suggestions.
- What is your support volume?
- What is the volume like across channels?
- Do you use any help desk s/w at the moment to assist your support operations?
- If yes, how has your experience been.
- What is the one feature that you can t live without in the s/w that you use?
- What is the one feature you wish the s/w had?
- At what point did you decide to use a s/w?
- What are the reasons for choosing the one that you currently use?
- If you discarded any s/w what have been your reasons?
- If you are not currently using any s/w, have you ever felt the need for one?
- If yes, what was it that you were looking to optimize in your support process with the s/w?
- If you are using Gmail, what is that one feature over Gmail that will prove useful for support?
How it helped:
My questionnaire has changed over time depending on what stage of product dev we were in. Later in the dev cycle, I have asked some very specific questions to a lot of prospective customers. But, this has always been my general frame work.
The point is, after around 30 interviews, I could see a clear pattern in what people hated and what people loved and what problems they were trying to solve with a support software. Knowing that definitely helped us in deciding what a Minimum Viable Product for our space would be. Without it, we would have either guessed the features for our MVP or developed the product in its entirety without any feedback at all.
For somebody who is not entirely sure about the market and its needs but has some reason to build a product in that space, this is the most sensible way to go about discovering a niche. Happy customer development!