Master the Art of Customer Interviews for Effective Product Management

Master the Art of Customer Interviews for Effective Product Management
Table of contents

Today's business owners live in a world where eight out of ten businesses will fail. If you're an entrepreneur with a business idea, you may be wondering if it's worth the risk.

What if it was possible to minimize this risk and boost your chances of success?

It's possible to validate great ideas before sinking time and resources into them, yet many business owners overlook this step.

To get to know and understand your customer, you need to conduct product management customer interviews. They will provide you with valuable insight as you ask pertinent questions, and allow you to learn about issues you didn't know existed.

This sounds great, right? What if you could leverage these interviews even further to deliver exceptional products and avoid a failed launch? Conducting interviews won't automatically make your product successful, but gleaning actionable insights from them will.

Keep reading to learn more about customer interviews and how to leverage user feedback to provide your customers with the best possible solutions.

Why Should You Conduct Product Management Customer Interviews?

As the name suggests, customer interviews are interviews you conduct to garner feedback from customers. These interviews don't have to be formal or even very long.

Customer interviews are an opportunity for you to understand how your customers interact with your product or service.

To be the people who understand your target customer the best, you have to know and feel their pain points. You must know how your product impacts a customer's life or how it could. Understanding your customer in this way allows you to create products that people are excited to tell their friends about.

Gathering valuable user feedback can be the catalyst for making more-informed decisions for your business. You can use interviews to solve a specific usability problem, further understand who your customer base is, or gauge your audience's interest in a new product.

How to Prepare a Customer Interview Study

Creating a customer interview framework for the first time may seem daunting, but once you have it down, you can use the same formula again and again.

Follow these customer interview tips to create your first study.

Set a Goal

If you're going to spend time and money conducting customer interviews, you better know what you're working to achieve.

Your goal could be as general as "I want to know more about what customers think about my product," or "I want to know what my customers feel about monthly versus annual billing options."

Whatever your goal is, it's essential to set your intention early and know why you're reaching out to your customers in the first place.

Assemble Your Team

Next, decide who on your team the research will affect, then invite them to participate in your research.

If you have the resources, each interview should have a moderator and a note-taker. You can be both, but you should always record your sessions to reference later.

Schedule a kickoff meeting at the beginning of each new product or service effort. Assemble everyone who is working on the project, and set the goal for your effort together. Then, you can develop a research plan and set a roadmap for the project.

Write an Interview Guide

You should create a general guide to steer your customer interview techniques. You can edit it before each product effort—all you need is the bones to keep up the habit of interviewing customers.

When planning questions, be sure to leave interview questions open-ended. To get the most out of your customers, you want them to tell their stories. The more details they're able to give, the easier it is to glean insights and take action based on what you learn.

Find Your Interviewees

Think about your goal as well as the users of your products and services. You'll want to interview the users who use your product the most.

If you're interested in learning why people leave your website, talk to people who have canceled their subscription or are at risk of churning from your product.

If you're creating a new product and wish to know if your audience will be interested in it, invite customers to demo a product before the interview.

Schedule demo calls

First, establish a dedicated "Schedule a Demo" form or tab on your website where potential customers can provide their contact details, preferred demo time, and any specific questions they may have. Once the customer submits their information, you can follow up to confirm the demo time that suits both parties. To simplify the scheduling process, consider utilizing scheduling apps like Calendly or Upvio, which can manage multiple time zones and streamline the coordination process.

How to Conduct Product Management Customer Interviews

Regardless of who you choose to interview during your study, make sure your questions are compelling and aimed at the right people. And above all, keep it simple.

Be Prepared

Before you talk to your customers, set yourself up for success. Prepare yourself by setting up your meeting space or video-conferencing software in advance of your interview.

You should also have your questions prepared and in front of you, either printed on open on your desktop. If you have commissioned a note-taker, ensure that they're ready for the interview to begin.

If your product is an MVP and you are doing user research, it's also smart to have an incentive to distribute to your contact directly after the interview session.

Get Comfortable

Before directly jumping into questioning, you should get to know the customer or customers you're interviewing. Spend five minutes making sure everyone is comfortable.

Asking them about more than just their job title allows you to see their interaction with your product as part of the customer's bigger picture.

Start Interviewing

Now, it's time to jump into the interview. At this point, you should rely on your interview guide to make sure you're covering all of the points you planned to cover.

Spend fifteen minutes encouraging your customers to tell you their stories. You want real, personal, and specific stories to gain actionable insights for your company. Do this by uncovering the specifics behind why your customers interact with your product in the way that they do.

Avoid Leading Questions

During the interview, avoid questions like, "How would you feel about our product if we added X feature?"

It's tempting to ask customers direct questions about how they feel about adding or removing certain features from your product, but leading questions are not constructive. Instead, ask them to talk about their experiences with your product.

You can ask something like, "Is there anything you wish the product had that it doesn't right now?"

If you only receive a "yes" or "no" answer, you'll never truly know how the customer genuinely feels about what is in question.

Ask Why

Another way to generate honest answers is to start asking specific questions with "who" "what" "when" "why" or "how."

If you're not satisfied with a customer's answer, dig deeper. It's okay to ask "why" to uncover deeper meanings.

Take Time to Listen

While you're asking these questions, make sure you're giving your customers ample time to answer. It can be tempting to cut them off if you think you know what they will say next but don't do it.

Use this time to listen to your customers, or you won't get any impactful data from your interview.

Give the Customer a Chance to Ask Questions

After you've asked questions, give your customer a chance to talk more or ask their own. If they've been thinking about something throughout the interview but haven't been able to address it, this is their chance.

Allowing your customers to speak freely about your product opens the door to questions, problems, and solutions you haven't considered.

Finally, thank your customer for their time and let them know how much you appreciate your feedback.

Reflect Between Sessions

Now is the time to write down any notes you weren't able to jot down during the interview.

If you plan to schedule more than one interview, leave 10-15 minutes between interview sessions to allow you time to gather your thoughts.

This not only allows your next group of customers time if they're running late, but it allows you to compose your thoughts.

Share What You've Learned

All of this interviewing is for nothing if you don't share what you've learned with the rest of your team and use the data to take action.

Your insights tell the story of your customer's experience with your product or service, so bring their stories to the table with you. You can do this in the form of sound clips, direct quotes, video clips, and photos.

It's great to have these new insights, but the truth is that during customer interviews, you're often only talking to the 20% most loyal customers to your brand.

The other 80% don't take the time to show up or jump on a call—which means you don't know what they think about your solution.

This is why you need to collect feedback from existing customers through a public product roadmap.

Connect Your Customers with a Public Roadmap

With a public roadmap, you can collect comments and proposals directly from your existing customers, prospects, and customer-facing teams. You can share new ideas and collect upvotes to learn how users really feel about features.

With a public roadmap, you can prioritize your product development based on real user data from your customers.

It's Time to Learn What Your Customer Needs

Interviews will never replace surveys, user testing, or other forms of qualitative research. However, they will optimize your product marketing and offer you insights that often can't be found anywhere else.

Customer interviews are a personal and intimate way to learn about your target audience, but also your overall business.

But don't stop at interviews. Leverage your customer feedback with a product roadmap. Contact us to discuss how to learn more about what your users need.


Turn User Feedback into Happy Customers