A step-by-step guide to gathering deep user insights
The process of gathering user insights is central to effective product discovery. Why? Because if you don’t understand the problems users are having, how are you supposed to fix them?
Still, many product makers aren’t sure where to start when it comes to the deluge of feedback piling in from all corners of the organization. If organizing it all is overwhelming, making sense of it can seem next to impossible.
By following the five steps outlined below, you can transform diverse product inputs into deep user insights that you can incorporate into your discovery process – ultimately helping you make products that customers will love.
1. Audit your existing user and product inputs
The first step is to understand all the places where you currently gather insights. Consider all the different touchpoints that people at your company have with end-users. These can include:
- Email exchanges between your customer support team and customers
- Win/loss analyses (often captured in a CRM, or, if conducted by marketing, in a spreadsheet)
- Conversations between the sales team and prospects
- Exit surveys (conducted by customer success when important customers churn)
- Qualitative inputs from NPS results
- Customer support tickets
- Existing user research
- Feature requests
As you complete this audit, note which tools or platforms you use to collect information. You’ll likely find a smorgasbord of emails, Google Docs, internal communication tools, note-taking apps, and department-specific tools like Salesforce and Intercom.
Once you have a holistic overview of your insights landscape, assess them against the problems you are trying to solve for customers.
Can you identify trends and patterns in all the collected inputs that help you better understand what’s working for users, and what isn’t? Are you able to identify the needs of a particular type of customer? Are you able to quickly find all insights related to a specific feature idea or user need? These are all important questions you should now be able to answer.
2. Meet with customer-facing teams regularly
As a product maker, you’re probably a couple of degrees of separation away from your end-users. That’s why it’s crucial to meet with customer-facing teams – such as sales, support, and customer success – to access a treasure trove of insights from the frontlines.
Running interviews with customer-facing teams to share, rank, and elaborate on user needs can yield gold nuggets of actionable information. Customer-facing teams speak with so many people that they’ve probably already begun to identify patterns. And since they understand your business and product, they can interpret these insights within a relevant context.
Of course, you won’t always do precisely what customer-facing teams suggest. As a product maker, you’ll have to synthesize incoming information and weigh it against your objectives and capabilities. Still, getting these inputs is a critical step that will deepen your understanding of user needs.
“Running interviews with customer-facing teams to share, rank, and elaborate on user needs can yield gold nuggets of actionable information.”
3. Make it a habit to talk to customers
In the high-pressure tech world, taking the time to talk to a wide range of users often takes a backseat. But, as product thought leader Rich Mironov puts it:
“You’ve got to invest time into figuring out who your product is for, what job it will do, and why users will pay you for it. This means actually talking to people who use your product, those who have churned off, and anyone in-between.”
Here are a few recommendations for how you can put this into practice:
- Set aside time to talk to customers regularly
You can visit your customers once a month to observe them in their work environment, or set aside an hour a week for customer interviews over Zoom.
- Let colleagues know you’re always interested in talking to customers
There will always be prospects and customers who are eager to give product feedback. As a product manager, it’s your job to let your customer-facing teams know that they should send these people your way.
- Join calls with prospects and customers
This is both an opportunity to sell them on the roadmap and gather useful feedback on your vision.
- Keep a shortlist of target customers that you can reach out to
Identify enthusiastic customers who are open to speaking with you – and check in with them regularly.
- Build a customer community
How you go about this is up to you. At productboard, we have a #productleaders Slack channel where we announce new features, share key announcements, and generally keep an open line of communication with customers.
Our #beta-testing channel, for example, fosters dialogue about specific feature sets and areas of the product. The great thing about this channel is that it helps us identify who our power users are and allows us to talk to our customers at scale. Even better, customers are riffing off of each other’s ideas.
4. Set up a system to consolidate product inputs from all sources
In a typical organization, teams use a wide range of tools – such as Salesforce, Zendesk, and Intercom – to manage their interactions with prospects and customers. Each of these platforms is home to a goldmine of feedback: unmet needs, problems, reasons for churn, why a prospect opted for your competitor, and more.
However, unless you have access to these platforms and regularly check in on them, many of these insights end up slipping through the cracks.
That’s why it’s essential to have a system like productboard that syncs with your existing tech stack and automatically funnels in all incoming inputs. This central repository allows product teams (and everyone else) to have continuous access to fresh insights and to track and make sense of different feedback types easily.
5. Act on the insights!
Now you’ve gathered your insights, it’s time to use them to drive better product decisions. But be careful: It’s not enough to take feedback at face value. As a product maker, you must be willing to put your detective hat on to dig deeper into the more significant problems or unmet needs lurking beneath what customers say.
You need to be strategic about product decisions and make sure they align with broader business goals. And you must incorporate user research and continuous product discovery into the product prioritization process.