epic ideas
for scaling your

Customer Development Process Guide

How to do customer development when the product is running and seems to be more or less successful by a lot of indicators/KPIs, but still falls short of some goals or metrics? Here is the guide.


Customer development (also, cusdev) – is the process of studying, surveying, interacting with your users and forming product hypotheses and decisions based on the information you get from them

And it seems to be simple - you talk to users. They tell you what they miss in your product. But it's not that simple. Here's how it works in practice.

Goal setting

Before you start each cusdev, you usually set a goal for what it's being done.

"We want to better understand the value of our product," "We want to increase sales," "We want to increase user activity," etc.

It is the end goal for which it is done that lays the foundation for the way in which future actions will take place.

Developing the questions

One of the frequent stages where there is confusion. What to ask?

I follow the approach of asking about two things:

a) the processes;

b) the product incorporated into the processes.

That means asking not just "What do you like/dislike about our product," but "What do you like/dislike about what you do."

It is important not to limit respondents' thinking to the scope of your product and its functionality. Your job is to make it easier to solve user problems (processes), not the product (the product is just a tool).

Sometimes this means you may need a completely different approach/process to solve a problem and... a product.

Based on the questions, determine if you will be doing personal interviews and if so, through which channel.
Don't forget that no one wants to waste their time for free. Provide a tangible reward (for the B2C segment, a bonus inside the product is ok, for B2B - a gift coupon on Amazon or phone top-up).

It is a good idea to offer the respondent at the end of the survey to choose the date and time for the interview themselves.

Defining the audience

The next step is to determine the audience of product users you will be communicating with. I usually take two opposing segments - those who already do what you want, and those who are not yet doing what you want (goals).

As a variation, poll only those users who are already paying or not paying.

Opposite opinions, opposite properties, and indicators of these groups - all give an understanding of the picture from different angles and makes the results of the study more relevant.

Usually take a sample of 300-500 users (depending on the total volume of the active user base). Our СTO demands that the sample was always at least 20% of the total), 10%-30% of which reach the final interview.


Next comes the process of analyzing the information.

Two types of information can be distinguished:
  1. User scenarios (processes and habits)
  2. Specific advantages/disadvantages/tips/ideas.
The first type of information follows a complex work in the form of drawing the current user paths (maps of transitions through the site) and highlighting the problem areas on it. Where there are more problem spots/breaks/rejections, etc. that needs more of your attention.
The second type of information is a bit more difficult, especially when you have to categorize all the genius ideas that have come down on your head from users.
For simplicity, we break down all the ideas we get from respondents and our benefits by their influence on the product. Everything is displayed in separate columns. Each contains a specific idea.

Each idea can be given a score, which is the sum of:

a) frequency of mention by the user and;
b) potential impact on a specific process in the product.

The output is a neat spreadsheet with the hypotheses scattered across it and how much your users might need them. Well, then, all that's left to do is choose what fits your product's current goals ;)

questions for users interview

What questions to ask on CusDev so that users answer with maximum honesty and without bias?

Here is a list of 10 common questions whose answers will give you useful food for product thinking.

How do you solve this problem now without our product?

A classic question whose answer informs the current (and already successful) customer journey map. The roots of most products grow precisely from more optimization of that map and removing "pain points" from it, rather than coming up with "new processes."
How do you understand/know if your problem has been solved successfully?

The central question for all startups is "what counts as success?" It applies to users as well.

This question is especially valuable for B2B products, allowing you to uncover hidden information, when some true goals, processes or actions may be hidden behind user actions (decisions are made by the CEO, KPIs are set by the department head, etc.)

What disappoints you the most about this decision?

It is a multi-purpose question that you can use to start identifying those same industry/process pain points, and then use it to identify gaps in your own product functionality as well.
How would you like to simplify/improve this?

Such questions are appropriate for general processes as well as for quite specific functions. The main purpose of this question is to get confirmation of the "pain point," not to find a ready-made solution. Be careful - the question is deceptive, and even a maximally specific answer does not at all mean that this particular solution will be successful.
How would your day/work/task be different if you had an improved solution?

The goal is to understand exactly what value your future/current product/solution/function adds to the user's life. Once again, correlate this with other answers for overlap.
If this were available today, would you buy/use it?

A "yes/no" answer to this question alone will not provide any useful answer. Just ask and then be silent, motivating the user to say more.

Listening to the answer will give you insight into the user's decision-making process and how much value they see for themselves in such a product/function.
How do you feel about our solution?

A good follow-up question might be: "What do you see as the greatest benefit of our solution?" Once again, these questions help you understand the user's motivations, including further using them in your marketing strategy.

clarifying questions


It is by far the most important question you can ask, so ask it more often.

Asking "why" as a follow-up question can often provide a more informative answer and get to the heart of the real problem.

Can you give me an example?

This is another great general-purpose question that can give you a goldmine of supporting evidence for (or against) your new product or feature. If you ask for specific examples, the interviewee will know that you're willing to go into more detail, which will give them and you a lot more information to process.

How would you do it differently?

Another question whose answer might tell you about a bad user experience that probably shouldn't be repeated.

These cusdev questions are suitable for both new product development and for testing existing features.

You can supplement/modify this list and any question in particular by asking clarifying questions - every answer in an interview has weight and value. Especially if you listen carefully and can see and recognize information "between the lines."