One of the most important parts of being a PM happens outside of the office. Product Managers will often hear the phrase, “Get out of the building.” This means to step outside of the office and spends time with your customers and listen to what they need, how they manage their day-to-day and understand their problems so you can build products that solve them.

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What is the goal of interviewing customers?

Why are customer interviews important? A product built on assumptions can easily be set up for failure. Wrong assumptions can be the biggest waste of time and resources. Use customer interviews to verify if your product expectation is correct.

Depending on the stage in product development, your interviews will be different. If you don’t have a product, the focus is to find a problem that you want to solve, and decide what features make up the MVP, (Minimum Viable Product). It’s also important to find out who your customer is and who has the purchasing power, as they may not be the same person.

If you have a product, share mockups and prototypes and eliminate features that customers don’t need in order to purchase the product. Use customer interviews to see how you can improve a product. This information can also be used to learn the best ways to market a product.

 

How do you find customers to interview?

There are three main sources to getting in touch with customer to conduct interviews:

  • Twitter: Search for people that are tweeting about the problem you want to solve or competing products.
  • Google search: Research bloggers and those who are talking about your competitors and the type of issues you are looking to solve.
  • Ask for it: Talk to your company’s sales and marketing department to get introduced to their best customers. They will be happy to because Product managers are problem solvers, and you’ll be designing a product that helps their clients needs. Tip: Make the introduction easier by drafting the intro email for them.

 

What you want to know about your customer’s problems.

The goal is not to get customers to tell you your product is great, but to find out what their problems are so you can design a product that solves them.

Ask them questions like:  

  • What do you find you spend a lot of time on?
  • What are the top three challenges you face with your job?
  • If you had a magic wand and could instantly get rid of one problem, what would it be?
  • What is one task that you dread doing?

Do:

  • Develop a rapport with the customer
  • Introduce yourself
  • Ask warm-up questions
  • Ask them about their role at their company and their day-to-day

Don’t:

  • Pitch a feature or product
  • Ask leading questions

Leading: “Do you agree that being able to sign up with Facebook would save you time.”

Vs.

Asking: “What do you find frustrating about signing up for a new app or website?”

 

Determine if the Product is good, bad or needs improvement.

Validate or invalidate your idea during the interview. If your product is invalidated, this will save you a lot of time and resources. Show them the mockup, but don’t show them how to use it, let them try out the mockup. Simply, ask them to use the product and note their reaction. If they are confused by a design or feature then you know what you need to change, and probably end up with great ideas on how to change it.

Customer interviews are the key way to uncover a real problem to solve. The more information you can get about your customers and their frustrations the easier it will be to design a product they will actually need.