As providers of cutting edge knowledge base solutions, our focus here on the blog is naturally based around incoming customer activity. We go above and beyond to make sure you’re able to reduce support tickets, and elegantly handle the stream of requests that come your way every day.
However, there’s also an enormous amount to be said for actually reaching out to customers on a regular basis – although it’s a path very few tend to take. Despite the huge insights into your products and services, a number of companies never actually interview their own customers in any sort of depth.
In this piece, we’ll make a strong case for implementing this practice as soon as possible, step through four primary reasons why it’s such a powerful strategy, and finish up with some practical resources for getting started.
Let’s get cracking!
1. They Force You to Engage
The modern commercial WordPress ecosystem is something of a miracle given how quickly you can get to market with a tiny team and a tight core product. Throw in solutions such as our KnowAll theme for the support side, and you can have a highly profitable business ticking over within a matter of months – all without ever having to really engage with your actual users.
While solving a customer pain point will get you off to the revenue races, long-term success as a business is all about getting up close and personal with the people who are paying you, and keeping them happy. There’s no better way of doing this than meeting them face to face and discussing their needs in depth.
2. They Shine a Powerful Light on Real-World Customer Behavior
No matter how often you use your own product or service, you’ll simply never uncover as many edge cases, creative implementations, or huge glaring bugs as your customers. By taking the time to actually sit down and talk to people in depth, you’ll get a treasure trove of actionable information about how they actually interact with your offerings.
When you consider the amount of time, money, and effort that goes into both product development and customer support, the potential savings are genuinely enormous. Nobody knows your business offering better than the people who are paying to use it, and by starting to query them in depth you’ll be taking advantage of insights from a truly informed audience.
The good people over at UXmatters have an excellent overview of how to approach these types of customer interviews, and ProductPlan’s list of ten product-related questions to ask is also a useful one.
3. They Act as a Highly Effective Early Warning System
Customer interviews won’t just shine a light on where your current product could be improved, they’ll also give you instant insight into the wider market and potential competitive threats. By opening up an ongoing dialog with your users, you get a much clearer picture of both other specific solutions they’re considering, and which way the wind is blowing generally in the industry.
Particularly in smaller teams, it’s genuinely difficult to spot wider threats to your business when you’re hunkering down to focus on knocking out the best solution possible. Customer interviews are an essential early warning system that keep you abreast of market sentiment, ahead of the curve on potential customer unrest, and open to information on competitive threats.
4. They Open Up Brand New Revenue Streams
In addition to detailed product and service feedback (and insight into the wider competitive landscape), your customers are also an incredibly valuable source of new revenue opportunities. After all, who better to give you ideas for new products and services than somebody whose pain points you’ve already addressed?
Detailed customer interviews are an excellent way of identifying new markets, product opportunities, and potential commercial partners who may have offerings that naturally dovetail with your own.
How to Get Started
There’s no need to get hung up on technology when you’re setting up your first few interviews – a one-on-one call or meeting is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling. Naturally, you’ll want to be recording the entire encounter in order to review it later on.
In terms of general approach, Dustin Walker’s superb breakdown at Crazy Egg has you pretty much covered from A to Z. You’ll find detailed resources on who, why, and how to interview, with Alan Klement’s Jobs To Be Done interview script just one of many excellent resources referred to throughout.
Customer Developer Labs’ guide to interviewing customers is also well worth reviewing. They come at the topic very much from a Lean Startup perspective, and you’ll find a host of further useful resources over at the Lean Startup PBworks wiki.
As a low-tech tool for instantly adding an enormous amount of value to your business, customer interviews are hard to beat. The plus points we’ve highlighted are by no means the only ones they offer (inspiration for content marketing is just one additional benefit), but they make a pretty compelling case for getting started as soon as possible.
Let’s step through our four points one more time:
- Customer interviews force you to get out and meet your paying public.
- They offer instant insight into your products and services.
- They act as a powerful early warning system.
- They open the door to whole new areas of profit potential.
Have you already experimented with customer interviews, or do you have related tips and tricks to share? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!