How to Conduct the Most Effective User Interviews
As a Product Manager for Wix Premium Services, I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to work on products that reach millions of users.
A key principle of working in a position like mine at Wix is something we call “customer obsession.” We build our products around the needs of our users and we always strive to make these products better in order to provide true value to them.
One of the best parts of my job is speaking with users. I conduct one-on-one interviews with them, which allows me to ask specific questions about their experiences with the products I’m working on. The interviews provide insights, such as improvements I can make in the future and a deep understanding of users’ genuine emotions in relation to those products. All of this enables me to establish connections and build strong relationships with these customers.
Whether you’re a product manager, have a business website, or is someone looking to gain valuable user insight about your customers, look no further than the following information. Here are 10 of the top tips and insights you’ll need to make the most out of your user interviews.
01. Reach out at the most optimal time
When is the best time to contact users? The simple answer: Always. However, I have found that these options, above all, will give you the upper hand:
When you have an idea you want to validate with your users: Talking with them at an early stage can give you further inspiration or even “throw” you in a whole new direction. I once had a conversation about a product idea I had and the user presented me with a solution to it that he’s been doing himself, manually. I was inspired by his idea, so I automized it in a way that became valuable to all of our users.
When your product is ready to undergo development: At this point your product should be well defined and users should be able to understand the value in it. Feedback in this particular time can prevent unnecessary development.
When you need to decrease your scope: Understand what ‘hurts’ your users the most and handle that first. It will help you to develop the product and deliver all of your key values sooner.
When your product is already live and accessible to your users: This is the time to check if there is anything you missed as well as get feedback about whether or not you have provided them with something good and valuable.
When you notice that your users are interacting with your product in an unexpected way: At this time, talking to them can help you find that one piece of information that was missing or see what didn’t work for them.
02. Find your ideal users
Ideal users can give you the most valuable information in relation to the product you are working on. For example, if a user has tried out many of your products or has worked with you for years, they will be able to give valuable, long-term feedback. These users can come from various outlets:
Customer base: If your company already has one, do some digging in it to find the users with characteristics you’re interested in exploring, such as when they started using your product or purchased a certain item that you were selling.
Social media accounts: Check here to see if anyone has anything negative to say. By reaching out to these users, you’ll be exposed to different perspectives as well as promote your company as one that truly cares about its users.
Customer support team: If you have a customer support team, ask them to suggest users who have interacted with your product or service and were strongly impacted by it.
Business intelligence data: Analyze this to find users who have interacted with your products or services and either found them useful or fell out of the funnel. In many cases, businesses use this method to keep track of user behavior. In this way, you can find users that behave in peculiar ways that are worth exploring further.
Across the world: If you work in a global company, understand that you will probably speak with users from different regions. Oftentimes, these users require different solutions that are localized to where they live. It’s also possible that you may need to adjust to their needs based on cultural differences.
Competitors’ users: Although this doesn’t replace market analysis or competitor research, contacting these types of people will help you understand how true individuals interact with products and services that are similar to yours - essentially allowing you to make improvements. You can find them on Facebook, forums, and meetups. They will usually be present in the same kinds of circles and therefore will share the same interests as your very own users.
03. Prepare before you talk
In order for you to maximize your time, make sure you come prepared. After all, you don’t want to cost your customers valuable time or have them think of you as unprofessional. There are a few steps you can take to make sure that you're equipped to make the most out of the interaction.
Gather all the information you have on the user: Write it down so that you have it readily accessible during the conversation.
Prepare a list of the primary and secondary questions you want to ask: The primary questions are the most important and they are the ones that can give you the most value. The secondary questions are those that you want to ask, but might not have time to. They are either used to fill in the awkward silence (if this arises) or questions you deem not crucial to your research, but would like to know if possible.
Be ready to write down what the user says: If someone needs to wait for you to get a pen, you’re wasting their time.
Have screenshots of your product available and ready to share: Just make sure the screenshots contain only things the user is meant to see.
Be prepared to record: If you plan to record the conversation, be certain that all the technical components are ready and that you have the user’s approval to record the conversation ahead of time.
04. Schedule a conversation
Let the users decide what the most convenient time is for them to talk. This is important as it puts the power in their hands, which will make them more inclined and enthusiastic about speaking with you. While planning a time, make sure you have a long enough slot planned in order for you to ask your questions, plus additional time for the users to ask their own questions and give feedback.
A professional tip: If you do this regularly, you may find it helpful add an online scheduling software to your current one to manage all of your meetings in one place.
05. Set your agenda and stick to it
It’s critical that the conversation is valuable and fluid to both you and the user in the interview. Just like any formal meeting, it should have a structure and provide a meaningful outcome for both parties involved. Here are some tips for how you can use your time effectively:
Introduce yourself at the beginning of the conversation: Tell the user your role at your company and the purpose of the conversation.
Make the conversation personal and friendly: You can do so by asking the user some background questions unrelated to the main topic, such as what region they are from, how their day is going, etc.
Don’t promise anything that you can’t deliver: A user who feels misled can result in the worst possible outcome for your business.
Be careful to not expose sensitive information: For example, internal company updates, passwords, or something you wouldn't want anyone outside of your business to know.
Ask the important questions first: This will allow you to be certain that you fit them in during the time frame that you have.
Listen more than what you speak: This can be achieved by not interrupting users and being respectful throughout the conversation. But if a user hijacks the conversation, it’s okay to politely change the topic. I once had a conversation where the user started to talk about technical issues he had with a product that I wasn’t working on. I listened carefully, wrote down everything he said and told him that I will pass it onto the right person in my company who would be able to provide him with better answers and solutions than me. The user was happy and our conversation continued with the planned agenda.
Avoid asking yes or no questions: On the contrary, open questions will provide you more insights and will be proven more valuable in helping you understand how the user really feels.
06. Choose your contact method
I always prefer to speak with users verbally as opposed to messaging platforms such as text or email. Although email is great for documentation, you could misunderstand the user’s tone or intention. With an audio or video call, or an in-person interview, you’ll get the best indication of how the user actually feels about your product. And although meeting with users face-to-face is certainly the best option, it requires the most planning and allocated budget (while video and audio calls are free).
07. Offer rewards
Each user that you speak with has invested their precious time to speak with you. Reward them with a discount code, a feature they weren’t able to access before, or even a gift card to purchase anything they want from your store. They’ll appreciate receiving something that they weren’t expecting, and it may encourage them to speak to you again in the future.
08. Follow up after the interview
The conversation shouldn’t stop at the end of the interview (or even after the user has received a gift from you). That’s because these ideal users are most likely your most engaged customers, which means that they are likely to come back and purchase more. In order to make sure of it, you should follow up with them after the conversation.
I’ll give you an example: I launched a new product months after having a conversation about it with a customer. I knew this was a golden opportunity for me to reach out to the user again and share the news. She was more than happy to speak with me and test it out.
This sort of interaction will allow your customers to feel valued in the sense that they have played a key role in the creation of your product. And overall, you'll do your business a huge favor, as it takes less effort and cost to reach out to returning customers than find new ones.
09. Talk as often as you can
I can’t emphasize this enough: Talking with users is something everyone who works with products and services should do at least twice a week (if not more). Much like any type of training, talking will often improve your speaking skills to the point where conversations flow naturally and results become more effective. Also as you’re engaging with your users regularly, you’ll have their interests in mind when you design new products and you’ll be better equipped to make user-focused decisions. For me, doing this has helped me to reveal different (and even personal) sides of my users which has helped me address their needs better.
10. Share this valuable information with your colleagues
I often share the results of my user conversations with fellow colleagues. Doing so allows us to work together and provide users with the most complete information possible. It also enables transparency across the whole team, so that everyone knows how our users feel. This in turn, emphasizes the importance of user interviews. Then, in the future, everyone will hopefully be able to start executing these valuable conversations themselves.
Product Manager for Wix Premium Services