Building a culture of customer obsession with Pradip Khakhar

Pradip Khakhar shares how you can build a culture of customer obsession in your indie startup. 🔥

Building a culture of customer obsession with Pradip Khakhar

In this article, Pradip Khakhar from The Product Angle talks about 10 steps to grow a culture of customer obsession.

Does this sound familiar? It's 2 am and you've just had this fantastic idea. You start thinking about it a little more and realize... OMG, this idea is better than you initially thought.

Next, you rush to your domain registrar of choice to see if the domain is available. You spend your first $15. Next, you are so pumped that you decide you need a landing page to start collecting emails and build awareness around your idea. (I'm not an expert on landing pages, from a quick search Carrd costs $19 a year.)

Yes, there is a free option as well to get started. Immediately you have spent $15 and potentially more all without speaking to anyone who might be interested in your product or service. Then you start sharing your landing page across the communities and groups you are a part of. You ask the question, something along the line of "can I get feedback on my landing page". You get some replies:

  • This looks amazing!
  • Love the design 😍
  • Just signed up to the emails

Sounds promising, however, when you launch you get zero sales.

Instead, use these 10 steps to grow a culture of customer obsession:

  1. Understand why it's important.
  2. Drop your ego.
  3. Learn to accept feedback and opinions.
  4. It's okay to have awkward silence.
  5. Learn a new language.
  6. Learn to ask questions.
  7. Over prepare.
  8. Talk to customers.
  9. Conversely... don't talk to customers.
  10. Understand key themes.

1. Understand why it’s important

The reality is that when we launch something, we want to get our product or service in front of as many eyes as possible. With this thinking, we tend to become generic in an effort to try and please everyone.

In reality though, you are not pleasing anyone. Instead, find out who your product or service will *really* help. Learn as much as you can about this group (or segment) of people. They can be current or prospective customers. But wait. I hear you say I've built a customer profile/ persona and I know some demographic information. This is all a fantastic start, however, have you considered:

  • What are your prospective customers trying to accomplish? (think about how they think about success.)
  • What do your prospective customers currently do? (and I mean specifics, not generic.)
  • How do your prospective customers want to communicate with you?

Being customer-obsessed helps you create assets that evoke the prospective customers to take action. Prospective customers may also feel a sense of partnership. Without talking to prospective customers you are heavily relying on your thoughts, experiences, and assumptions which may prove to be inaccurate.

To be clear, it's not impossible to build a product or service that people want to use and buy without being customer-obsessed. However, it's very difficult and could end up costing you time, money, and resources.

For example

Katelyn Bourgoin, a customer discovery expert, recently helped her husband launch a BBQ product. Here are the stats (without spending a dime on ads, in 48 hours launching campaign 1 of 4):

  • Launch video viewed 3000+ times
  • 100+ people joined the waitlist to BUY tickets to her virtual launch event
  • 200 people added to her email list
  • 900+ social media followers added
  • 37 people contact Katelyn asking how they can buy the product (which Katelyn is not selling yet)
  • Secured a partnership that will give Katelyn free exposure to 50,000 prospects daily

Source: read more.

If you're planning a big promo/launch—or a relaunch—and you're not starting with customer discovery, you're missing out.
The Product Angle
Photo by Elena Taranenko

The goal

Becoming customer-obsessed means you understand as much as you can about your customers. Understand:

  • What/how they think and what they desire
  • Their motivations
  • The challenges/fears they face
  • What success looks like to them
  • Understand the triggers in the buying journey


  • You know what to build next
  • The value proposition is clear
  • Launch with confidence
  • Your customers will tell you who your competitors are
  • You build better products that people want to use and buy

2. Drop your ego

Remember: it's not about you. It's not about how amazing your product or service is. It's about what your product or service can do for your prospective customer. Read Know your customers jobs to be done.

We all think our product is the best. However, as Hiten Shah says: "You’re not the best unless your customers say so". As people start using your product or service, spend some time understanding:

  • How they are using it
  • What are their reactions
  • If they don't keep coming back why not
  • Or if they do keep logging in regularly why? (remember retention, is just as if not more important than attracting new customers)
  • Why is your product or service different? (cheaper, better, faster, etc.)

However, if you've asked a prospective customer that you'd like to get together and spend some time asking questions about their experience and they agree.

Do not, I repeat... Do not use this as an opportunity to sell. Again, it's not about you. If you turn the conversation into a sales pitch you may not get them on the phone again. Or worse, they might sign up to be nice and then they'll churn.

3. Learn to accept feedback and opinions

Unfortunately, learning to accept feedback and opinions is not a skill that I learned in school. It's a lesson I learned with age.

In school, they teach you to build a hypothesis and I agree. Creating a hypothesis allows you to stay focused on the direction as opposed to being tied to building features. However, don't get emotionally attached if your prospective customers don't see it the way you do. Learn to separate feedback and opinions with emotions. Feedback and opinions are valuable, you may disagree - that's another story. However, you should always be grateful and thankful that customers are taking time out to share this information with you.

4. It’s okay to have that awkward silence

Talking to customers is hard, I get it. Building the courage to get on the phone or Zoom call with video takes a lot of courage. In the beginning, you will be nervous – that's okay. As you talk to more people you'll get better.

When I first started talking to customers, I would talk fast. I thought that their time was very valuable and I needed to hurry it up. Your customer's time is very valuable and you should 100% absolutely be grateful that they agreed to spend some time with you. However, talking fast doesn't help you nor the customer.

Firstly, slow down. However, that doesn't mean you don't communicate effectively or assist if the customer doesn't understand. Here's what I mean: You: Can you tell me about what worked well and what didn't? Customer: Hmmm [waits two seconds] You: You know did you like X? Customer: Yes, yes absolutely it was a very nice experience. In the above situation, the customer needed some more time to get their thoughts together. Silence does not mean you should jump in and lead the conversation. I get it, it's uncomfortable, you have to try and push past that initial urge to jump in. Otherwise, the customer may just agree with you. While that feels good, it may not be the real response the customer wanted to share.

5. Learn a new language

Talk the language that your prospective customers understand and are comfortable with. When I started my career learning to code, I thought using big technical concepts would make me sound smarter. I had a really good boss "David" and he told me early in my career that I can be the smartest person in the room, know more than everyone in the room (I'd probably be in the wrong room). However, the magic happens when you can connect and communicate effectively with everyone in the room.

For example

Does your prospective customer understand what an API is or what Zapier does? Maybe. If you are working with developers they would likely know. However, if you are working with a mum and pop bakery helping them with their website, newsletter, and cooking classes. Don't try and explain what an API is and how Zapier works (unless they want to know). Instead, tell them that each time someone buys a ticket to their cooking class the attendee's email is automatically sent to Mailchimp so when they send out their newsletter they receive it. Magic.

6. Learn to ask questions

Asking the right question can yield so much information. Learning to ask questions takes time, you will get better as you practice. If you'd like to read how to ask better questions read Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling . When you're writing questions, become curious to understand the why, but without sounding condescending or repetitive. Good questions are open-ended questions that provoke thought and discussion. Before you hit send on a question or ask a question, ask yourself why am I asking this question what I am hoping to learn.

For Example

Surveys can be a good source of information if you cannot speak directly to a person or if you'd like to send it to a large population. Good question: Below is one question I was asked in a survey about zoom. It's open-ended and it gives insights into which other companies people think are zoom competitors. When I think of Zoom competitors I think Google Meet, Facetime, and Webex. As a result of this survey, when the data was released I learned that people also consider Loom as an alternative to zoom.

 10 steps to grow a culture of customer obsession

A good question that can be improved: The below question is an interesting question, however, I think the answer choice can be improved. By answering Yes, No, or Not sure I can segment the audience. Which then means I need to go back and ask more questions. Therefore, needing more time from the customer.

10 steps to grow a culture of customer obsession

If you have access to customer's time make it count.

7. Over prepare

I said this before, in my opinion if you spend some time upfront and prepare the actual collecting information becomes easier and structured. Remember:

  • What are you trying to learn?
  • How does it relate to your hypothesis?

8. Talk to customers

If you are able to talk to prospective customers or actual customers, take that opportunity. Talking allows you to have a conversation. A conversation allows you to dig deeper.

But Coffee first
Photo by Hannah Busing

9. Don't talk to customers

There are times when it may not be feasible to get someone on the phone (or Zoom). In which case surveys, and online communities are perfect fit. Twitter is a potential tool where you can work in public. Post topics you are interested in and see what level of engagement you get. Ask questions, it will give you insights into how people think. Find out where your prospective customers hang out online and interact with them. This is the difference between pushing your survey's out to people and pulling people towards you because they are interested in what you are doing and want to learn more.

10. Understand key themes

Growing a culture of customer obsession takes time and effort. However, once you have collected the information spend some time reviewing it. Understand and analyze it, look for patterns or themes. Be curious and explore with an open mind. The more you do this the more natural it will become. Over time building a feedback loop will become second nature.

In Summary

If you know your customer very well and you are able to deliver an exceptional experience. Guess what they will tell their friends and therefore helping you with marketing and effectively sending warm leads your way. However, there are several pitfalls that you need to be aware of:

  • It's easy to sell. Don't be tempted, you'll likely lose their trust
  • People can lie or give their opinions. This can be unintentional as maybe they don't want to come off as someone who is unsupportive
  • Find the right prospective customers or customers and when you make the ask for information is important (timing)
  • If your sample size is 3 and 2 of those people are your friends or relatives, your data is heavily skewed and potentially setting you up for failure

In the end, being customer-obsesed means you have learned more about the pain your prospective customers face and are able to translate what you learn into a exceptional experience.

Pradip Cloud

Article written by Pradip Khakhar - Founder and maker at The Product Angle. Make sure to follow him on social media and check his work out - it's amazing!