How do you know that you’re making a product or service that your customers want? How do you ensure that you are improving it over time? How do you guarantee that your team is creating value for your customers in a way that creates value for your business? In my new book, Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Products that Create Customer Value and Business Value, I answer each of these questions.
Here you’ll find an excerpt.
The hardest part about continuous interviews is finding people to talk to. In order to make continuous interviewing sustainable, we need to automate the recruiting process. Your goal is to wake up Monday morning with a weekly interview scheduled without you having to do anything.
Some teams have no problem recruiting interview participants, and they skip over this step. However, every team has weeks in which something goes wrong—a release went awry, a significant prospect is at risk, a key team member is unexpectedly sick. It’s during these weeks (that happen far more often than we like to admit) that you’ll want to fall back on your recruitment automation to help you sustain your weekly interviewing habit.
When a customer interview is automatically added to your calendar each week, it becomes easier to interview than not to interview. This is your goal.
Recruit Participants While They Are Using Your Product or Service
The most common and easiest way to find interview participants is to recruit them while they are using your product or service. You can integrate a single question into the flow of your product: “Do you have 20 minutes to talk with us about your experience in exchange for $20?” Be sure to customize the copy to reflect the ask-and-offer that works best for your audience. If the visitor answers “Yes,” ask for their phone number.
This strategy works best for high-traffic sites where you can turn the survey on for a few minutes and get a response right away. If you don’t have a high-traffic service, it may take hours or even days to get your first response. In this case, instead of asking for a phone number, ask the visitor to schedule an interview. Use scheduling software to reduce the back-and-forth required to find an available time.
For new products or services with few or no customers, you can still implement this strategy. Instead of recruiting people while they use your product (as it may not exist yet), you can use ads to drive traffic to a landing page. You can recruit people directly from the landing page.
Ask Your Customer-Facing Colleagues to Recruit
Most companies have teams who are on the phone with customers day in and day out. This includes sales teams, account managers, customer-success teams, and customer-support teams.
You can work with these teams to help you recruit interview participants.
The easiest place to start is to ask a customer-facing colleague if you can join one of their existing meetings. Start by asking for five minutes at the end of a call. You want to make it as easy as possible for both your colleague and your customer to say “Yes.” Use the last few minutes of an existing call to collect a specific story about the customer.
Once your customer-facing teams are comfortable with you joining their meetings, ask your customer-facing colleagues to help you schedule an interview with one of their customers. To make this work, you’ll want to define triggers to help your customer-facing colleagues identify who to reach out to. Triggers might include:
• If a customer calls to cancel their subscription, schedule an interview.
• If a customer has a question about feature x, schedule an interview.
• If a customer requests a customization, schedule an interview.
Triggers can change week over week. The key is to clearly communicate to your customer-facing team who you would like to interview and to make it easy for them to schedule the interview. Give them a script to follow. It might be as simple as this: If the customer trigger occurs, then say: “I’d love for you to share your feedback with our product team. Can we schedule 20 minutes for you to talk with them?” If they say “Yes,” have your colleague schedule the interview.
Interview Your Customer Advisory Board
If your customers are particularly hard to reach (e.g., doctors, CEOs), or if you have a small market (e.g., Canadian business schools, movie studios), the recruiting strategies we’ve covered will be challenging. Your customer’s time is either too valuable, or you’ll have concerns about reaching out to the same customers over and over again.
While most product teams worry their customers are too busy to talk with them, for most teams, this won’t be true. We dramatically underestimate how much our customers want to help. If you are solving a real need and your product plays an important role in your customers’ lives, they will be eager to help make it better. However, there are some audiences that are extremely hard to reach. In these instances, setting up a customer-advisory board will help.
Most companies use their customer-advisory boards to host focus groups. That may be valuable, but it’s not a replacement for interviews. You can also use your customer-advisory board as interview participants.
Invite your advisory-board members to participate in a monthly one-on-one interview. Offer an ongoing incentive as a reward for their participation.
You can scale the size of your customer-advisory board to reflect the number of interviews that your product teams need each month. If you have three product teams that each want to do one interview per week, you would invite 12 customers to participate on your advisory board.
One advantage of interviewing the same customers month over month is that you get to learn about their context in-depth and see how it changes over time. The risk is that you’ll design your product for a small subset of customers that might not reflect the broader market. You can pair this recruiting method with one or two of the other methods to avoid this fate.
Buy the book and read more on discovery
Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Products that Create Customer Value and Business Value is now available on Amazon and from other bookstores worldwide. You can also read more on Product Discovery or use our Content A-Z to find even more product management content.