Resolving customer stories

📅 14 March, 2019

Stories depict journeys and events that can evoke our emotions, challenge our beliefs and spark our imaginations.

Great stories are simple and focused, and yet have the power to change our lives.

Here’s how we can use stories as a framework for building products that help change our customer’s lives.

It’s easy to focus on the features we want to build and rationalize them with data that generalizes customer goals. But this omits the context we need to ensure what we build actually ensures customers achieve their desired outcome.

Creating an effective product narrative can help us focus on our customer and avoid this problem. We can use the Story Spine, created by playwright Kenn Adams, to structure our narrative.

Once upon a time, there was ___.

Every day, ___.

One day ___.

Because of that, ___.

Until finally ___.

Let’s break down each of the 5 steps:

Line 1) We start by introducing the hero of our story and setting the scene. For our purposes, it’s important to make our hero a real person who we’ve observed or better yet spoken to.

Line 2) Now we can explain what life is like every day for our hero. We’re describing the current state of how things are.

Line 3) Identify the struggling moment or trigger for our hero that throws them out of their normal state and forces them to take action to either return to their previous existence or make progress in their life.

Line 4) Due to the change on the previous line our hero’s life is in a state of flux and enters the most interesting part of the story where they are in pursuit of their goal.

Line 5) Finally we can describe what our hero’s new existence looks like. Our goal is to make this directly opposite of the previous state described on line 2.

Thinking about our product as a conversational narrative helps remove any feature related assumptions from our thought process and makes a specific (real) customer the hero of our story.

Here’s a practical example:

Once upon a time, there was a product manager named Jane who wanted to better understand her customers to improve her product.

Every day, Jane was frustrated with how much time she spent organizing and sharing her customer research.

But one day, Jane discovered Airtable on Twitter.

Because of that, she began exploring ways to streamline her customer research process.

Until finally, Jane could quickly organize and share her research with the whole team and use it to improve her product.

Creating a compelling story shouldn’t require a lot of imagination, just a little research to ensure we can accurately portray our hero.

Give it a try. Align your team around a real customer struggle and focus on creating a positive resolution to their story.

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