Great User Feedback
How to find out what people love and then build it
Everybody knows that talking to customers is the key to building great products and services. This doesn’t mean just to ask them what they think. Many young product managers, designers or founders make mistakes which lead to bad data. This ends up in wasting months of work while achieving the exact opposite of what we as product people actually want.
Here are 5 things you should apply during your next user interview, so that you can build something people love.
1. Don't start by pitching
The number one mistake people make when asking for feedback is they begin by pitching. Doing this you may even have a very engaging conversation and leave afterwards thinking that you got a lot of customer feedback. But what really happened is that you exposed your ego by talking about your idea. And in return you get bad data. The bad data we try to avoid are the following:
People will be polite and even recognize positive things about what you pitched to them. They may for example congratulate you to the amazing technology you have built. Don’t try to fish for compliments, even if it feels good. This won’t bring you any value for building a better product.
People will tell you they love your idea or hate your idea. You should not care! You have to understand that someone's beliefs about what they will do in the future are different from their buying behavior.
People telling you they might use something in the future. People are terrible in predicting their future behavior. How many new year's resolutions have you broken? So ignore any hypothetical statement your customer makes. The easiest way to fix your customer conversations is by not starting with a pitch. Instead you should try to understand the customer’s life.
2. Ask about your customer's life
So instead of opening by pitching, you should open the conversation by asking about your customer’s life. Ask about something they have done in the past. For example if your product is in the eCommerce space you can ask: “When was the last time you bought something online?”. Like this you can find out if this person has the problem you’re trying to solve. If the answer is “Oh, I never buy stuff online” this may be a hint that you are talking to the wrong person. But don’t be satisfied with the first answer they give you. You can always push a little more on it. You can continue by asking “Really? You have never ordered anything on Amazon?”. Then the response might be “Oh, actually I bought my last phone there”. And suddenly we have learned something new. For this customer online shopping isn’t usually the typical buying behavior, but for electronics it has been the right choice. Now we can continue the conversation. Why did you buy a phone there? Why not other products? Why Amazon? How did you choose your product?
So when you ignore your product and instead talk about the customer’s life and behaviors, you will get raw unfiltered information which is extremely valuable to build an amazing product. Even if people don’t confirm the assumptions you had, it doesn’t mean you have to stop. You could change your customer group or adapting the product to fit a new customer need.
There 3 Rules you should remember when asking about your customer’s life.
1. Specifics in the past
Don’t ask “Would you ever?” but ask “What did you do last time?”
2. Talk about their life
Don’t talk about your idea but about their life. Ask them to walk you through their buying process.
3. Talk less and listen more
Get them to a topic they care about and listen. You still have to lead the conversation and make sure that you get valuable information from them. But if they actually care about it they gonna love talking. And you can just sit back.
3. Talk Face-to-face
Especially as founders we want to move as fast as possible. We tend to figure out the most efficient way to get from A to B. This is why when talking about customer feedback many people tend to send out surveys to thousands of people or organize a focus group. It seems a bit counterintuitive but the fastest way to get the learning you need is by sitting down with people one-on-one.
Think about customer learning like getting to know someone who you are dating. When you run a survey it’s like looking at someone’s online dating profile. There is a lot of information and a lot of stats. But you don’t actually understand who the person is. You don’t know what they care about. You don’t know how they make their decisions. In customer conversations you're trying to capture in depth human knowledge. Don’t fall in this online dating trap and boil things down to a number or a pie chart. Face-to-face conversations is the only way you can get the real information that you need.
It is much more valuable to have 5 actual conversation than a survey of 5000 people.
Don’t worry about the quantity of information but about the quality.
4. Understand your customer segments
It can be really emotionally shocking the first time you are talking to customers and get a negative response. You may find out that they didn’t care at all or want you to build something totally different.
But you don’t have to immediately think of reinventing everything. There are so many reasons you could get a negative response. The main one is that they are just not one of your customers. Or they are, but they are not an early adopter and would buy it in 3 years. The first step is not to panic and relax. Your job in the early stages is not to make everyone care but to find the group who does. Understand why they care and serve them with your product.
Sometimes we make the mistake of putting several customer segments together. Universities seem to be one customer group, but if we look closely there are 3 different types of groups here. The top tier universities with a lot of budget with a strong drive to stay innovative. Mid tier universities who would not try something unproven but rather emulate what top tier universities have already applied. Then the bottom tier universities which are in pure survival mode and can’t care at all about innovation.
Don’t worry if only 3 out of 100 people care about what you are building but rather think how you can find 10 more who are similar to the ones you found. This is the real path of a real customer segment. And then ignore the naysayers, cause they are not your customers.
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5. Think of buying a present to surprise your customer
Think of customer learning in terms of buying a present for someone. Imagine trying to give a gift to your best friend vs. to pick a gift to someone you barely know. You understand your best friends life. You know what they are doing with their time, how they think, what they care about. This understanding allows you to surprise them with a gift that fits perfectly into their lives, even though they didn’t tell you exactly what to buy them. For the stranger you can think about his demographics, gender or age. It’s impossible to turn that into a gift that surprises and delights them. What happens is that you get something generic like a gift card or bottle of wine. They will probably like it but definitely not love it.
So if you don’t do proper customer interviews your product will end up to be like a bottle of wine. It’s okay but nobody will love it. So you need to understand them like you understand your best friend. Not so that they can tell you exactly what to build, but rather so that you can understand their problems, their goals, their frustrations or existing behaviors.
So remember those 5 things for your next customer interview to get better data for your product or company.
If you want to find out more techniques for customer development like "Asking Good Questions", "Talking to Companies" or "Getting the First Customers" you should check out our online course with Rob Fitzpatrick, author of "The Mom Test" on Playbook.
On Playbook you can learn about product, design or entrepreneurship. It’s a video learning app with short classes of 10 minutes perfectly designed for on the go. You can learn from experts from companies like Uber, Paypal or Microsoft about how they have done it.