How well do you really know your customers?

Mariann Harrison

How well do you really know your customers?

Author: Zsolt Lukácsi, Lead Business Analyst at ApPello


How well do you really know your customers?

Do you really know your customers?
We don’t think of the KYC way here, but for real?
Do you know who your actual customers are?
How they start their day?
What are their short-term struggles and/or the long ones?
Do you know them by name?
Do you know who will really use your software, your business rules or your screens on a daily basis?

And we are not talking about the system admin or the system analyst colleagues here, we mean those business people, who spends 8-10 hours a day in an environment that you created.
If the answer is no, or not self-confidently true, then I’ve bad news for you…


„Not knowing your clients on the highest level is just like having a good car in your garage all the time, under a cover.”

It is really good to have that car in the garage but you feel inside that this could be even better. Not knowing your clients enough, means this work is just a job for you. Not a smaller company develops software for a bigger one, but people making solutions for people


At the end of the day, people will sell to people, doesn’t matter how big is your client, or how small is your IT company.

Having a big picture of your client is not something that is easy to achieve. It is actually a tough work, but still, it’s certainly the most enjoyable part. It is something that is so evident for us and yet, so many people skip this part.

So, instead of this approach: „Can you tell me a short story, how this requirement would serve you on a daily basis?” which is a total mess and time loosing question, arrive earlier for the meeting!
15 minutes earlier!
Arrive earlier than anyone, find your key people, and ask!
Ask, listen, and ask more until the last person have arrived to the meeting!
Ask, and find the root of cause.

During a noisy, 8 to 10 people meeting, you won’t get any specific user stories. You won’t have the space to manage a 5W. The only things you will get are facts, and decided processes.

How could you offer the best solution, if you get only facts, and not actual problems?

What if they decided the process in our absence?
If we interact with our clients only when they give us a task, then next time they won’t involve us into their decisions.
Make a phone call and have lunch with your colleagues from your partner’s side.


Even if you are not a manager, it’s highly recommended to have „quality time” with your clients without any actual project or task.
Most of the background information come up to surface during these talks. I’m not referring to confidential information here. If you can listen and ask the right questions during these occasions, you’ll get your answers. If you listen well, these answers will be far more effective, than any detailed business specification.


„I don’t have time for this, my backlog is full”.

Don’t look for excuses! As a Business Analyst, it is your role to have the time! If we keep saying it’s not enough time to get to know the actual people, who will use our solution, then we won’t make good decisions on any part of the software. Workflows, user interfaces or a complex module?
Doesn’t matter, it won’t work properly, if we don’t know, who we work for, on a daily basis.
It takes long to build up a relation, when your customers won’t provide you a requirement specification anymore, but they will issue a problem as well. Mainly, a problem.
I think if the relation is not on the same level, you won’t get any strictly pre-approved demand specifications, only a short description of their problem and the basic expectations.
Because they know, you listen. You listen to them and understand their problems and offer them a solution which is suited for them. It fits into the product roadmap, but yet, it’s a personalized reaction of their daily struggles. If a client trusts us enough to share their problems with our company, we won.

When you get a problem description and you have a business requirement as an attachment to it, you should recognize that there is a trust behind the scenes. It could take months or even years to guide your client into this approach, but once they trust, it yields a win-win situation.

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