Customer Development & Customer Interviews

Customer Development

Q:         How do we know a problem is worth solving?

A:         Through frequent interactions and iterations with users to build the best products.

Finding Customers

What types of people or groups do you want to target?

In what places or forums can you find these users?

Interview Tactics and Best Practices

Interview questions should be based on our assumptions.

Research Topic:             Music Streaming

Assumption:                 “Users would be more likely to stream music on a mobile device if they did not have to utilize their data.”

Hypothesis:                  “If users did not have to use their data to stream media from their mobile device, then they will be willing to pay a premium for that service.”

Questions should test your hypothesis.

Interviewing best practice

  • Ask open ended questions.
    • Closed Q – Are you a Risk Manager?
    • Open Q – What do you do for a living?
  • Avoid inserting biased in to Questions.
    • Positive Bias – Wouldn’t it be great if….?
    • Negative Bias – Are you frustrated when…?
    • Neutral Bias – How do you feel when…?
  • Explore and probe answers…
    • Tell me more about that….
    • Can you remember a time when that happened?
    • Why do you need that?
    • When do you need to do that?
    • How often does that happen?
  • Be an active listener.
  • Interview in-person
  • Ask permission to record the interview
  • Have questions prepared ahead of time.
  • Be respectful of time.

User Journey Research

The research should provide insights that will allow us to identify opportunities to engage our customers and inform the design and development processes for those engagements.

  1. Identify the moments and contexts to engage our audiences
    1. Assess the audience
      • Who are we serving?
      • What devices do they use?
      • What is their motivation and goal?
    2. Determine the audience’s context
      • What is their situation & location? (Location, movement, event, account data)
      • What is their emotional state or attitude?
      • What are their preferences & history?
    3. Design the engagement
      1. Engage the audience
        • What service will we provide?
        • What will it accomplish?
        • How will they find it?
      2. Calculate customer benefit
        • Does it improve the customer’s experience?
        • Does it accomplish a customer’s goal quickly and efficiently?
        • Is it convenient and enjoyable to use?
      3. Determine the value to FM Global
        • Does it accomplish our business goals?
        • Is it cost-effective? Does it drive revenue, client satisfaction or loyalty?
        • Are we committed to it for the long haul?
      4. Engineer our platforms, processes and people for the engagement
        1. Build Platforms
          • What systems will the engagement use?
          • Who will we need to work with to access the systems?
        2. Transform Processes
          • What processes will the engagement touch?
          • Where will the current process break down?
          • What changes will we have to make?
        3. Align People
          • What skills will we need?
          • Will our organization support the engagement?
          • Do we have the resources to make the changes?
        4. Analyze results to monitor performance and optimize outcomes.
          1. Identify the data you need
            • What are the business metrics?
            • What are the engagement metrics?
            • What are the technical Metrics?
          2. Determine if we’re ready to use it?
            • Can you collect the data?
            • Do you have the analysis tools?
            • Do you have the analytics expertise

Creating Interview Questions

Creating Interview Questions

  1. Who are my users?
  • Are they business users?
  • Job Functions / Roles
  • Demographic
  • Firmographic
  1. What are their habits?
  • What do they currently do?
  • What key tasks do they need to perform?
  • How do they complete those tasks?
  • What information do they need and how do they get it?
  • What do you do if you can’t find info/ complete task?
  1. Where are they accessing from?
  • Environmental context
  • Platform Context (Mobile, desktop, PDF)
  1. When do they need your product?
  • Is it a time of day?
  • During a big moment in there planning cycle?
  1. Why do they need your product?
  • Do other products not meet their needs?
  • Do other products exist to fit their needs?
  • How would they improve your product or other products?
  1. How do they access your product?
  • One time download
  • Web app, native app
  • Admin approver


Persona Definition

A single representation of a cluster of target users who represent similar behaviors, goals, and motivations.

Why do we need Personas?

To create products that are useful, usable, and desirable for our customers, we have to understand who our users are and what they need.

If we don’t understand our users…

We make decisions for ourselves (self-referential design).

We make decisions based on assumptions, or what we “think” we know.

Creating a persona

Creating Enterprise Personas

  • Review the organization chart to identify the actor roles
  • Identify the hero’s of the story and the supporting actors
  • Collect data that defines the role:
    • Position profiles describe their jobs
    • Performance Management documents may define role objectives and drivers of behavior

Define your goal and what are your research questions?

Insight categories – starter list…

  • Needs and Priorities
  • Goals
  • Motivations for using your product Processes, Behaviors & Habits
  • Pain Points
  • Tools and Technology

How many users should be interviewed or observed?

  • Talk to 5-30 participants
  • Trends are often observable from just 5 people
  • Law of diminishing returns applies
  • More than 5 will deepen your understanding
  • Identify extreme users

Analysis and Segmentation

  • Talk to SMEs to identify attributes that are important within the scope of use
    • Tenure
    • Geography
    • Occupancy
    • Education / Background
    • Technology competency
    • Demographics
    • Context (environments, devices, psychology)
  • Understand similarities and differences among each attribute
    • g. Technology – Low, medium, high?
  • Break down the attributes to identify patterns
    • Make a grid with common attributes across the top & participants down the side
    • Describe how each participant scores against each attribute
    • Compare and contrast data and identify the similarities

Persona building blocks

Biographical information

  • What: Contextual background and personal detail about the persona. Can include defining characteristics about persona segment.
  • Why: Makes persona relatable and realistic. Promotes empathy.

Goals, priorities, needs, expectations

  • What: What is important to the user in this domain?
  • Why: Helps us derive and prioritize features, and make decisions about interaction

Behaviors & habits

  • What: Contextual details about how they use the product. When, where, how often, unique usage patterns, workarounds.
  • Why: Helps us understand how people currently use the product and situational considerations we can apply to the product.

Frustrations and pain points

  • What: Describe the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis.
  • Why: Understand and react to the user’s state of mind. Be empathetic to their situations and difficulties when making design decisions.


  • What: A real quote from qualitative research that embodies that persona’s segment. This should reflect their attitude and behavior.
  • Why: Bring the user’s voice into the persona. Make them sound like a real person.
  • How: Extract single quote or combine multiple user comments to create believable quote. Don’t get too wordy.

Persona image guidelines

  • Choose images that look like real people
  • Avoid selecting images that include distractions
  • Avoid posed, model-like or studio photography
  • Avoid images that include too much stereotype

Check out these sites for free images

Prioritize Features & Ideas

Use personas to score different feature ideas.

  • Helps identify which features will useful for who.
  • Features that benefit more personas can help prioritization (coupled with other measurements biz value, feasibility and frequency of use)

Measurement framework could be:

  • -1: Hurts persona
  • 0: Persona is neutral
  • +1: Helpful to persona
  • +2: Persona LOVES this feature! It’s a must-have!

Application in Agile Teams

Story Mapping            Include personas in brainstorming and prioritizing

Sprint Planning            Use backlog persona tags to help determine user stories to pull

Daily Standup              Inform the team of any additional research or findings that have influenced the personas

Design Review             Cognitive walkthrough with personas

Backlog Grooming      Analyze prioritization matrix, and any changes in personas

Retrospective              Think in terms of persona needs & goals

Personas applied to usability testing

Recruiting the right users

  • Consider the characteristics that really matter to your product
  • Create screening questions that will allow for parsing into persona categories

Putting together your tasks

  • Leverage scenarios to write tasks – context, problems, processes
  • Prioritize key tasks

Presenting test results to stakeholders

  • Did a particular persona have significant problems with a task?
  • “Julies” experienced difficulty with the initial pages of registration

Segment web analytics by persona

Segment your analytics by personas

  • Validate assumptions made
  • Refine personas if new information is uncovered

Build segment filters

  • Select characteristics that are representative of that group of users.

User Interviews – Research for Web Dev

Questions for User Interviews – Research for Web Dev


  • What do you do in your current role?
  • What is your background?
  • How long have you been with the company?

Information Use

  • What information do you need to do your job?
  • What information is hardest to find?
  • What do you do when you can’t find something?


  • Do you use the <INSERT APPLICATION>?
  • What is your impression of the <INSERT APPLICATION>? Is it easy or hard to use?
  • How do you find information on the <INSERT APPLICATION>?
  • Do you use customisation or personalisation features?

Content Interaction

  • What types of content do you prefer when researching information? (Text, Images, Inforgraphics, Video, PDF Downloads)
  • Do you need to save or share information you find?
  • How do you like to save information?
  • How do you like to share information?


  • If you could change three things about the <INSERT APPLICATION>, what would they be?
  • If you could three things to the website, what would they be?
  • If you could the team responsible for the <INSERT APPLICATION> three things, what would they be?

Stakeholder Interviews – Research Web Development

Questions for Stakeholder Interviews – Research Web Developement

What is your role in the organisation? What does your team do?

In an optimal world, how would your company use the <INSERT APPLICATION> to build a competitive advantage?

In your opinion, what are the key challenges your company <INSERT APPLICATION> faces?

What enterprise-wide initiatives are occurring that the <INSERT APPLICATION> strategy team should know about?

Do you use the existing <INSERT APPLICATION>? If not, why not? If so, what parts of the <INSERT APPLICATION> do you use? and how often?

What are the critical success factors for the <INSERT APPLICATION>?

How will these factors be measured? What’s the ROI?

What are the top three priorities for the <INSERT APPLICATION> redesign?

If you could tell the <INSERT APPLICATION> strategy team one thing, what would it be?

What questions should we have asked that we didn’t?

Information Technology Meeting – Web Dev Research

Questions for Information Technology Meeting during Web Dev Research

What is the current technology plan and prioritized initiatives?

What available research has been conducted into the technology? Can we review it?

Will we be able to leverage CMS software?

How can we create a metadata registry to support distributed tagging?

Does the CMS handle automated categorisation of documents?

What about automated browsable index generation?

What about personalisation?

How flexible is the search engine?

Will the search engine support the integration of a thesaurus?

Can we access to web analytics to review the site?

Content Management Team – Research for Web Dev

Questions for Content Management Team – Research for Web Dev

What are the formal and informal policies regarding content inclusions?

Is there/what is the content management system that manages authoring & publishing?

Do those systems use controlled vocabularies and attributes to manage content?

How is content entered into the system?

What technology is being used?

What content does each owner handle?

What is the purpose of the content?  What are the goals and visions behind this content area?

Who is the audience?

What is the format of the content?  Is it dynamic or static?

Who maintains the content?

What future content or services are planned?

Where does content originate? How is it weeded?

What legal issues impact the content management process?




Background Research in Web Development

Questions for Background Research in Web Development:

What are the companies long term and short term goals?

What’s the business Plan?

What’s the schedule and budget?

Who are the intended audiences?

Why will people come to the site? Why will they come back?

What types of tasks should the users be able to perform?

How will content be created and managed?  And by whom?

What’s the technical infrastructure?

What worked in the past? What didn’t?