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We recently hosted a webinar with Bradley Miller, Sr. UX Researcher at Autotrader, to uncover how customer interviews can help guide the research process and provide a more accurate picture of the customer journey. There were so many great questions that we didn’t have time to get to them all, so we’re including a few more here that Bradley graciously answered following the webinar. If you weren’t able to attend the webinar live, follow along below for some of the key takeaways or watch the full webinar here.
Part of the necessity of customer interviews comes from a phenomenon Miller calls “institutional myth.” These myths are stories organizations perpetuate internally, that end up driving business decisions, despite not being backed by customer research. As a result, companies that aren’t listening to customers risk building things no one wants.
Conducting ethnographic, live interviews is a great way to break through those myths and gain valuable human insights on your product. Not everyone is an experienced researcher or interviewer, so many folks in your organization may be hesitant to jump right in with customer interviews, but Miller notes that essentially if you can ask questions, you easily learn to conduct customer interviews.
Anyone can learn how to ask good questions and ask them the right way. I'd start with the Harvard Business Review article "The Surprising Power of Questions." Like anything: practice makes perfect.
Live Conversation and remote studies give UserTesting customers a lot of flexibility when it comes to conducting customer research. Miller had this advice for choosing the best type of study for your research,
There are a number of factors. Time and workload is probably the biggest one, but ideally, it would be based on the nature of the study. Simple usability is great for unmoderated testing. But testing conceptual understanding (how well people understand an idea), understanding complex processes, and ethnography are all better with moderated testing.
Once you’ve decided on conducting a live customer interview, your next consideration should be who you need to participate. Miller points out that it’s important to screen for participants that match your criteria for the study:
UserTesting has a built-in screening tool. For this study, I recruited people who had bought a new car within the last month, and had used the internet at some point in that process. I try to set up questions in a way that users can't guess the correct answer, for example, "Which of the following have you recently purchased?" followed by a list of major items, like house, TV, automobile, laptop.
One of the most important keys to a successful customer interview is getting honest, unbiased answers from participants. Miller notes that it’s important to allow participants to “tell their story” without much prompting from the interviewer. He also notes that it’s crucial not to influence answers through leading questions and had this advice on avoiding them:
Generally speaking, if a question is open-ended, it's not leading. Leading questions will always suggest an answer or assume a particular point of view. If you're new to interviewing, try to write out all of your main questions in advance. That’ll allow you time to think about how you're asking the questions.
Another key interviewing tactic is to avoid asking participants about what they plan to do and focus on what they’ve already done. Miller points out that people are notoriously bad at predicting future behavior, so it’s best to ask questions about past actions, instead. Past behavior, however, isn’t foolproof. Miller adds that people’s memories aren’t perfect, and suggests this to help combat lapses in memory:
The easiest way to address memory fault is in your recruiting. Interview participants who’ve just completed the journey. If it's a particularly long journey, you can break it up into segments and interview customers who have just completed each segment.
When all the interviews are done, it’s time to make sense of all your findings, which can feel a bit daunting when you have a lot of data. Miller has some great advice on tackling all that data,
Handling all the information you learn through these types of interviews is a huge challenge. I think I had over 40 questions in my script for one-hour interviews. You can never capture everything (unless you have a huge team helping you), but that's ok. Instead, try to capture the big story.
Now that you’ve got your key findings, it’s time to share them with your team. How you share your findings depends a bit on your company culture, as well as the type of research you’re conducting. Here’s how Miller shares his findings with the Autotrader team:
It really depends on the research. I'll do anything from writing an email to workshops. The research I talked about in the webinar was reported via a Word summary, a Powerpoint deck, and UserTesting video clips.
Whether your team is conducting live customer interviews or remote studies, if you're conducting customer research you're already well on your way to gathering valuable human insights to help continually improve your products and customer experience.