Customer interviews are the most effective way to validate the problem (and the solution) by simply asking customers what they want.
If we told you that 80% of businesses fail in their 12-18 months, you may think it's because their products aren’t good. But the bottom line is that they are making products that nobody wants, needs, or even asks for.
Want to be in the 20%? Then you need to design a product that customers will pay for - namely, because it solves a critical problem that they’re experiencing.
Simply put, talking with customers helps prevent you from creating something they don't want. Who wants to spend time and money building something that no one is going to use? Talking with customers also allows you to understand the "why" behind their behaviors. It's important to remember that until we talk with the actual people we who will be using the product, we are just operating on assumptions.
The ideal groups of people to get feedback from are:
Current users are people that have been actively and successfully using your product. It would be beneficial to get feedback from both power users and average users.
Power users would be considered the experts within your product using all features and functionality to its full extent, whereas average users may be engaged with your product but may not know or need the full potential of it.
Talking with these users can create an opportunity to see gaps in onboarding or poor communication with feature updates.
These are people that don't use your product, but could benefit from it. They are either unaware of your product or simply confused by what the value is. This could be a case of poor messaging or messaging to the wrong market.
These are people who tried out your product, but experienced a problem or didn't find enough value in it. They also could have not been onboarded properly. Reconnecting with them could provide an opportunity to identify gaps in onboarding, clarify your product's value, or understand where you're missing the mark with product-market fit.
What are you hoping to achieve after the interviews? It may seem obvious, but this questions needs to be at the forefront of your mind during the entire process. Start by defining this out along with an outline of the questions you believe will uncover what you hope to gain through the conversation.
We typically start by using the GV Five Act Interview Process, then customize it for each individual problem. Make them feel as comfortable and do your best to keep the conversation as natural as possible. This will help ensure honest feedback. Don't just jump into the questions - take the time to introduce yourself and thank them for taking the time out of their day to meet with you.
You should definitely see some patterns in the interviews, but not every question or topic will be relevant to every person. So have the ability to skip the questions that don't apply and keep the conversation feeling natural. But also be sure to loop in things they share into future questions throughout the interview. Have plenty of questions prepared, even if you think you won't get to all of them.
It's always a good idea to wrap things up by asking them if they would be willing to stay in the loop with your findings and solutions. It's good to build those relationships and take users along the validation process to find out if your solution meets their needs.
Five interviews at a time will save you from spending too much energy gathering information before analyzing it. After five interviews, you should start seeing patterns form. These findings will help you move forward with new goals and decide if you want to do more interviews.
There is a study conducted by the Nielsen Group that says elaborate tests are a waste of time and resources - and that the best results come from testing no more than five users and running as many small tests as you can afford. You get 85% of the insights and patterns in the first five interviews.
After your first batch of interviews, you'll be able to refine your questions to focus on a specific part of your product and how it impacts them. If you do more with the same goal, you'll likely get the same results. Identify new opportunities to learn what data you need next with every five interviews.
We typically find customers to interview from our current mailing list, people who have reported an issue with the product through a customer support team, social networks, and word of mouth.
Start with a formal email asking if they are interested in sharing their thoughts on your product. If you have access to data, you can see which users are more active. This is a great way to reach out in a more personalized way.
A customer support team is a great way to get a curated list of problems that current users are facing or have faced in the past.
You can most likely find users from your social networks. Take the time to reach out and ask them if they would be open to talking with you about their experience. This is also a great way to get in front of your users by simply creating a post and asking if anyone would be interested in a short conversation over coffee or something.
This is the preferred way to conduct an interview. Not only can you see the reactions of who you are interviewing, but you can record that experience for further review later. You can record locally with a video camera or remotely using a tool like Zoom (which is what we use here at Headway). It's usually best to have another person available to take notes - this way you can just focus on making the person comfortable and conducting the interview.
These work well when addressing large groups of people and trying to gain insight into larger-scale issues. Tools like Google Forms, and Survey Monkey are good options. A downside though is that you can't ask follow-up questions, so always include an option for them to opt into a potential followup interview.
You can also conduct an interview over the phone. This work wells for problem interviews where the person you are interviewing is explaining their experience and how they feel vs. you observing their experience. You can also use Zoom to record this or even Google Hangouts or Skype.
Talk to your users and see how they’re using your app or website from anywhere.
Video conferencing and recording tool with screen share.
It's worth repeating that talking with potential customers allows you to understand the "why" behind their behaviors. Until you understand motivation, you won't know how to provide the best value.
We've also included some great resources below 👇🏻
Startup Guide - Communicate Your Product's ValueLearn how to effectively communicate your product’s value through customer interviews.
Learn about users’ perceptions of your design, not about its usability.
Learn to construct accurate questions and plan effective interview sessions.
Bring co-workers, friends, and anyone else you think would benefit from the community.
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