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Customer research for product managers

Strategies for validating your product direction while you're building a product and keeping customers happy

Cindy Alvarez

You know research is important for de-risking your product decisions, but between building a product and keeping your early customers happy, how do you find the time? Cindy Alvarez shares scrappy techniques for continuing to learn from customers and validate your assumptions without investing a lot of time or money. In this hands-on two-hour course, you'll learn how to use customer support and feedback channels to provoke research, arm your sales and customer success teams with research tactics, and figure out which feature requests you should build (and which you can ignore). You'll also get a good idea of which customers you should focus on and what questions you should ask them.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

By the end of this live online course, you'll understand: - Strategies for redirecting customer requests or complaints into research - What you should know about how customers think about your product - Which customers hold the greatest influence over your product's success

And you'll be able to: - Add research to your existing customer support flows - Train your customer-facing staff to learn from customers as they support, coach, and sell - Have directed, productive conversations with customers about feature requests - Fit learning opportunities into spare 5- to15-minute chunks of time

This training course is for you because...

  • You're a product manager for an existing product who is trying to redesign or innovate while maintaining existing expectations and customers.
  • You're part of an early-stage startup that has a product and customers but is still seeking product-market fit.


Recommended preparation: - What You Can Learn from Your Customer's Customer (book) - Lean Customer Development (book) - "Why You Shouldn't Ask Customers 'Would You Like ____?' Questions" (article) - "How to Apologize" (article)

Assignments to be completed before the course: - Answer two short surveys: What Are Your Customer Learning Challenges? and Products You Use

Recommended follow-up: - How to Do Great Customer Interviews (Learning Path)

About your instructor

  • Cindy Alvarez is the author of Lean Customer Development: Build Products Your Customers Will Buy. Her background spans psychology, interaction design, product management, research, and enterprise change management. After many years designing and building products in startups, Cindy now helps internal Microsoft teams level up their product development, customer discovery, and devops practices and build a more responsive, inclusive culture.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

  • Lecture: Acknowledge, apologize, ask why, and (sometimes) ignore (20 minutes)
  • Group exercise: Responding to feature requests (10 minutes)
  • Lecture: How to open a customer conversation (in many channels) (15 minutes)
  • Hands-on exercise: Find two of your customers and ask them a question (10 minutes)

Break (5 minutes)

  • Lecture: Potential pitfalls—Angry customers, weak hypotheses, and no product to test (15 minutes)
  • Hands-on exercise: Write responses to angry customers (10 minutes)
  • Group discussion: Getting sales, customer success, and support on board (10 minutes)
  • Lecture: What you should learn—Nine incredibly useful questions for customers (15 minutes)
  • Wrap-up and Q&A: What are your remaining challenges? (10 minutes)