Customer Interviews and Profiles
The Usability Team can help you gain insight into who your customers are, what they want, and how they interact with your product. Conducting customer interviews and developing customer profiles are some of the first activities we propose in a user experience research engagement. Customer interviews inform the marketing plan, the user interface specification and design, and the implementation plan. Validated by interviews, customer profiles form a critical prerequisite for all user research, market research, and design efforts.
Most market research firms can tell you who they think your target demographic is, how much a product should cost, and when or where it should be launched. Most user researchers can tell you a little bit about the skill set, expected behaviors, and strengths/weaknesses of the people who will be buying and using your product. By comparison, customer interviews and profiling from The Usability Team includes aspects of both market and user research, and tells a holistic story about each type of customer who might use your product.
All too often a product development team will wait until they have a prototype or a tangible example of a product to start getting customer feedback. By conducting customer interviews, the Usability Team can help you gain critical insight into what is important to your customers, how they might use your product, and perhaps more importantly, reasons why they wouldn't use your product. Simply put, customer interviews and profiles inform nearly every other user-centered design method down the line.
A customer interview is an interactive discussion that takes place in the environment where the customer might use your product or solution. There are many different names for this: contextual inquiry, work study, ethnographic research, but they all hold the same core characteristic: understanding your customer and their context of use.
A customer profile, sometimes called a persona, is a detailed set of characteristics, demographics, usage patterns, tendencies, and behavior maps that summate each type of customer who is likely to use a product. The customer profile is used to inform the marketing plan, in that it helps determine the feature set which will be of most use to the targeted profile. It is also used to recruit users for focus groups, usability testing, and user acceptance testing.
In some cases, we validate and correct existing customer profiles during customer interviews. In others, usually for new products, we use the customer interviews to actually create the customer profiles.
How Long Does it Take?
Overall Process: 2-3 weeks
Each customer interview lasts roughly 60 to 90 minutes. We typically conduct 3 to 4 interviews for each customer type we have identified. After conducting the interviews, we deliver a summarized report, containing the following information:
From the results of the interviews, we develop a set of user profiles. We combine the results with feedback from your in-house sales, marketing, development, and management teams. We typically will hold both a pre-interview and post-interview stakeholder meeting with your internal staff to integrate their feedback and to take advantage of any existing market or user research you may have done.
Customer Interviews and Profiling takes place as one of the first activities in the "Plan" phase.
Besides the basic question, "who are the users of my product or solution", customer interviews and profiling can answer other key questions, like:
"What features MUST my product have to succeed?" - one of the key aspects to a product's marketing plan is the feature specification. If a product does not DO what user's need it to do, in the way they want it to work, and in a usable fashion, they simply won't buy it.
"How should I implement my product so that my target users can use it?" - one of the key determinants of a product's quality is how it is implemented. Platform, core technologies, distribution, support options, and user assistance all play into whether or not a product will be compelling to it's target users.
"How and where do my users shop for products, how much are they willing to spend, and what compels their purchase decision?" - Proper alignment with your user's shopping behavior, spending behavior, and response to advertising can increase a product's success.
The Usefulness Characteristic
Customer interviews and profiling feed all three aspects of the Usefulness Characteristic.
Users are sometimes quite different from developers.
The Usability Team ensures that your users are represented during product design and development.
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Scott Butler and Richard Gunther. All rights reserved.