Your audience holds the key to the success of your product. You just don't always know how they're hiding it.

Whether you're conducting a preliminary deep dive into a new market or user testing a prototype, the questions you ask customers and the way you ask them can either validate results or move the conversation in a completely unexpected direction. Both are lightning bolt moments for your product.

It sounds easy, but conducting customer feedback interviews can be tricky. You walk in with presumptions about your product but you never want to influence a user to think a certain way - your job is 90 percent being a good listener anyway. But it's still crucial to know the right questions to yield the type of information that can become actionable for you going forward.

Interview type 1: The Deep Dive

Maybe you're still in the midst of MVP (minimum viable product) development and you need to test some assumptions with your user base. Or perhaps you want to make a customer comfortable in the interview room before you walk them through your prototype. Whatever the case may be, you have one job in this interview: validate that this is a product that actually solves people's problems.

Do: Ask them about their day (and it's not just because you're being nice).

There's no better way to get to know your audience than to get them to open up about their routine. Ask them to tell you about their typical day. What environments are they in, both at home and at the office? If their home is their office, what challenges exist there?

Their environment is crucial to empathizing with how users will use your product. Ask what can be done to alleviate some of the pressures they feel in their various roles, from business to home. Don't push toward your product being the solution right away - you're just being curious.

Do: Work the question around the product you're testing, through the lens of your customer's area of expertise.

Say you have an app that allows for easier creation of Facebook ad posts. A simple but effective question be, "Is posting Facebook ads something you typically do at your job?" Often, the tone of the response will tell you everything about their thoughts on the product they're currently using to do their job, and the struggles they go through to work efficiently. Ask them how often they use these products, and are they truly happy with them?

Don't: Take every answer at face value.

You could interview fifteen people who all say they love everything about the product they're using right now, and don't need anything new. As you continue to ask about their pain points, cracks in the armor may start to appear. Humans psychologically don't believe they need anything, but if you subtly shift the questions to ask if they could benefit from the same service, they're more likely to let their guard down, and maybe say yes.

Interview Type 2: The User Test

When it's time to test your product it's all about functionality feedback. This is where you want to stick to a script but pay even more attention to your customer's body language and shifts in opinion. Here, it's not about the questions, it's about what you learn between the questions.

Do: Have users talk their way through tasks.

When showing screens and prototypes, typically you'll let the user know what they're looking at, then prompt them a specific task to perform. Ask them to "think aloud," and have them vocalize their internal monologue throughout the interview. If they need help, ask questions like "What do you think you would do on this screen?" and "Is this information what you would expect to see here?" If they're distracted by an interface, it's better they let you know in real time than figure it out on their own eventually without letting you know what was causing a hiccup.

Do: Give your customers a magic wand.

On every screen you show, ask what they liked and disliked about their experience. Oftentimes their dislikes will be small and insignificant in their minds and take some prompting to get to. But if enough people point out the same small thing, it's significant.

Once you've gone through your whole prototype, give them carte blanche to change anything by asking, "If you had a magic wand, what would you add or take away from the product you just saw?" Not only will they never say "nothing," they might give you insight into another product that does something similar, and compare and contrast the two.

Don't: Ignore the non-verbal

What people say and what they do are very different. You might watch someone struggle through a task for five minutes, then tell you how easy it was at the end. Similarly, if they've answered yes to, "Are you happy with your current product?" at the beginning, don't be surprised when they say "oh, that's so much better than what I'm using" when you show them the prototype.

Getting feedback can be exciting, but the approach has to be calculated. Pay attention to everything they say and don't say - even down to how they say it matters. Talking to your users, and talk to them often will be invaluable insight regardless of your product's stage of development.

 

Published on: May 2, 2016