We created a workshop to disrupt how our colleagues talk with customers, and it’s working. Since its inception last fall, Interviewing Customers: The LogMeIn Way has trained over 150 colleagues about active listening, asking good questions, mitigating bias, and analyzing data. We’ve seen colleagues schedule and run their own research sessions, and express greater empathy towards the struggles and delights of our customers.
As product organizations continue to grow, talking with and listening to customers becomes essential to knowing what to build and how to build it. However, most organizations — ours included — employ a limited number of UX researchers. In fact, only ten UX researchers support our seventeen products and 3,000 colleagues. We developed this workshop as a way to share our best practices about research interviewing with fellow LogMeIn colleagues.
Interviewing Customers: The LogMeIn Way is a 4.5 hour, activity-based workshop where attendees practice skills to interview more successfully with customers. Along with completing partner/group activities, attendees walk away with a resource book and tips to listen more thoughtfully. Attendees leave knowing how to lead meaningful interviews and garner actionable insights without always having the direct assistance of a researcher.
In this article, we outline
- How we developed the workshop and supporting materials
- The four big essential skills of being a great interviewer and our associated workshop activity
- Tips and tricks for running a similar workshop in your organization
- Resources for interviewing users including a PDF of our resource book
We modeled our workshop much like university class. In fact — one of our workshop developers had taught interviewing to graduate students and we used her insights to pick and sequence activities. We combed through our favorite online resources, and personal experiences to select four essential skills to being a great interviewer: active listening, asking good questions, mitigating bias, and analyzing data.
From the beginning, we wanted our workshop to focus on activities and group work. We minimized lecturing as much as possible so that workshop attendees could spend most of their time in groups discussing, reflecting, and interviewing. For each interviewing skill, we designed a corresponding group/partner activity.
We also wanted attendees to develop empathy towards interviewees. Sometimes we are so excited to talk with a customer that we forget what the experience is like for them. We overlook how our small behaviors can impact rapport — keeping eye contact, staying present, or taking minimal notes. Everyone in our workshop spends time as both an interviewee and interviewer and we reflect on the experience of both roles.
The 4 Workshop Ideas
Our workshop builds on four key interviewing skills: 1) Active listening, 2) Asking good questions, 3) Mitigating bias, and 4) Analyzing data. Below we outline our rationale for each skill and sample activity we use in the workshop.
1. Active Listening
Good interviewers make a conscious effort to stay focused on what someone else is sharing. In that moment, your job is to develop trust and rapport, often paying closer attention than you may in other conversations. Participants feel more comfortable sharing their stories if you stay present and attend to what you body language is communicating.
Two Minute Warmup — Attendees partner up and listen to their partner talk for two minutes straight. They cannot ask follow up questions or interrupt their partner. After 2 minutes, they switch roles and we discuss what the experience was like as both a speaker and a listener.
2. Asking Good Questions
Getting participants to share their stories is a combination of how you phrase your questions and the order in which you ask. People become more comfortable talking about themselves the longer they do it. They are more likely to share openly about a topic later in the conversation than the start. That’s why we ask deeper questions only after a sufficient introduction and warmup. You can also craft questions to evoke stories about past experiences, not just yes/no responses. This is where wording is particularly important.
From an Idea to an Interview — As a group, attendees develop hypotheses, interviewing objectives, and questions for a travel app. Each group tackles the problem in their own way. As they work their way through the activity, we walk around and facilitate discussion about good questions and the order in which to ask.
3. Mitigating Bias
If you have a point of view, you have a lens with which you view the world. These lenses shape what you see and understand, and many of us see things differently. Mitigating bias is about ensuring your findings authentically represent the experience of another person. If you are too focused on getting a particular outcome, you likely will miss other — possibly more important — moments. Check out this fun short movie as an example.
Mock Interview — Workshop attendees watch the short clip above and reflect on the objectives and questions they designed for the travel app. They discuss ways they may impact participants with their approach. Then after 10 minute mock interviews, both the interviewer and interviewee debrief about what went well and what did not in terms of trust, rapport and bias.
4. Analyzing Data
Lastly, there is no “right” way to analyze qualitative data. Human behavior can be complex and messy so you seldom find one “correct” analysis technique. Analyzing qualitative data therefore is tailored to the particular set of questions being asked. That said — we love visualizing observations with sticky notes. This helps make our implicit ideas explicit on paper to discuss, critique, and unpack with teammates.
Post-its, Post-its, Post-its — After doing their mock interviews, attendees reflect on important moments (surprises, delights, and lingering questions) and write each observation on a post-it. Collectively, they share their post-its to identify common themes and next steps.
Tips and Tricks
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely interested in doing a similar workshop for your organization. Below are a few suggestions we’ve learned through our many iterations that helped make our workshop a success:
Get an executive advocate. Although we created the workshop independently, our VP of CX shared the workshop and associated book with other leaders that helped get the organization excited. We also had leaders forward the workshop invites to their teams so colleagues as a way to endorse the training.
Create scarcity. Nothing motivates people more than knowing they want something they can’t have. Since we ran these workshops in addition to our daily jobs, we couldn’t run them often. As a result, our workshops became increasingly popular the less often we offered them. In 2018, the workshop will be run less than 6 times and at most twice in the same location.
Drive interest through word-of-mouth. Our books were more than a reference guide — they advertised the workshop across offices. Every time someone finished the workshop, they proudly displayed their book at their desks. These became a sort of accolade that others wanted.
Train other trainers. A train-the-trainer model was essential to scaling the workshops across sites. As much as we’d love to travel to every office in the world, it’s logistically impossible. So we trained every researcher at LogMeIn who then run the workshop at their own sites for their product teammates.
Share research war stories. Our attendees loved the anecdotal stories we shared as we facilitated group discussions. They became curious as we talked about difficult participants, awkward pauses, and fun projects. These stories also communicate that none of us are perfect when it comes to interviewing and empowers participants to keep practicing.
Talking to customers is one of the most powerful ways to develop empathy and quickly align with users’ issues, concerns, and delights. We believe that when whole teams engage in research, each person is better informed and can make product decisions more quickly. Interviewing Customers: The LogMeIn Way has been our way of empowering colleagues to listen better and become more customer centric.
In the coming months, we’re exploring ways to scale the workshops, support employees in all offices, and create an advanced class. We’ve also presented our workshop at conferences and local meet-ups in California, Boston and Europe. We’d love to talk with your group. Reach out to us if you’re interested in learning more.
Stay tuned for more interviewing adventures from the LogMeIn UX Research Team!
And be sure to check out our book!