Your Teams Don’t Talk with Customers Enough - Here is an Easy Fix

Jim O'Leary
Sep 19, 2018 · 5 min read

Do you ever feel like your teams don’t have the pulse of the market? Like they don’t get enough time with real users/customers?

Especially the product and marketing teams focused on building products that people will love and on communicating to customers in a way that will resonate — are they getting to hear directly from users, or are they hearing second- or third-hand from members of your sales team, support team, and/or maybe periodically seeing the results of an email survey?

At every company I’ve worked, people wanted to spend more time with users, but getting connected with users required so much effort that it ended up being a “once in a while” event instead of an everyday activity.

After wrestling with this issue and iterating through a number of solutions, we believe that we have solved this challenge and I’m sharing our solution here in the hope that it will benefit some of you. We cobbled together a system using Calendly, Outlook, and Localytics without needing to involve anyone from IT (Brian Elmi from my team wired it up) — here is how we did it:

The One-Time Setup:

1. To provide a way for users to schedule a time to talk in 30 seconds or less, we created a Calendly account and linked it to Outlook. Our focus is on mobile users, so we needed a partner that works well via mobile devices and Calendly looks great. Calendly’s paid plan has some cool scheduling options (e.g., round robin), but we’ve been good with the free version so far.

2. To identify users that we want to talk with, we defined an audience of users in Localytics that had a first session exactly three days ago. We want to get feedback from users after they have had a chance to try it out while their initial thoughts are still fresh.

3. To invite these users to talk with us, we scheduled a push notification in Localytics to be sent to the users in the segment above. It gets sent every day to the users that are in the segment (no user receives the message twice). The message contains our Calendly link to schedule a 15 min call and includes a bit of motivation in the form of a $5 Amazon gift card. We typically see a single-digit response rate and I’m sure a higher $ offer would lead to a higher conversion rate if we needed it.

4. To capture the learnings, create a simple spreadsheet with a few, open-ended questions that you want to ask each participant. This is useful both as a guide to the person making the call and also provides a spot to record what you learned so that you can look for patterns in the data and so that others can benefit from it.

The Ongoing Effort

After the one-time setup activities described above, it’s like magic — every day these short user feedback calls ‘just show up’ on the calendar. A member of the team sends an email to the user a couple of hours before the scheduled call, calls them at the appointment time, has a nice conversation, spends 5 minutes summarizing the discussion in the feedback spreadsheet for the benefit of other members of the team, and sends the user a gift card via email.

The Impact

This has been a great process for us and helps to inform various A/B tests we are planning, concepts for new product directions, and how we communicate to customers and prospects. It is not a substitute for other customer research activities (like focus groups, surveys, usertesting.com sessions, etc.), but we have found it to be an effective way to make user feedback an everyday activity — not a once in a while event.

Applying this to Your Situation

The above describes what works for us, but your situation will be different. Here are some ways you may wish to modify the above setup to meet your needs:

  • Calendly has integrations with other calendar tools (e.g., Google Calendar). There are also several companies providing similar solutions — we just found Calendly to be the best fit for us.
  • While we like Localytics, most of the major push notifications vendors can support the kind of audience definition and automated message delivery described above.
  • If you don’t have a mobile app but you collect email addresses, you could send the invitation via email instead of push.
  • Reaching enterprise B2B users may require you to expose a message in your app/on your site. These interactions almost always increase the users’ satisfaction with the product/company, but make sure to connect with your account/sales team so no one gets surprised.
  • You may want to catch users more quickly after their first experience with your product (or later after they have explored it further)
  • You may want to carve off just a portion of your users for a phone call invitation and send others a simple web survey link. We started with the web survey route and found the feedback to be pretty underwhelming, but it may be worth trying.

I hope this was helpful. If you have related experiences to share or alternative approaches to solving the same challenges, please post them in the comments. And if you enjoyed the post, please click the thumbs up icon and let me know!


The opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

#VoiceofCustomer #VoC #UserFeedback #ProductFeedback #CustomerExperience #CustomerFeedback #Marketing #ProductManagement #Innovation

Thanks to Brian Elmi

Jim O'Leary

Written by

VP Product Management | Mobile, Web Search, Monetization, Machine Learning/AI, Data/Analytics | www.linkedin.com/in/oleary

Product Management Lessons from the Startup Trenches

In a pay-it-forward kind of way, my team and I are sharing what we have learned running Product Management at a startup that hopefully will be useful to you people working at a startup or a larger organization. Note that these represent our views and not necessarily our employer.

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