Customer Feedback

How to Select Participants for your Customer Feedback Interview


In the era of big data, quantitative research has become a primary focus for businesses seeking to improve their products. With mobile apps and social media extracting the most minute details from its users, it would appear that this is the direction that businesses should take. But qualitative research such as customer feedback interviews still play an important role in a product’s development.

Why Interviews?

Customer interviews allow businesses to receive detailed feedback on a user’s experience with a product. These interviews go deeper than any survey or other quantitative method because they involve one-on-one communication with a customer. Users often react to online surveys as a nuisance, often checking boxes just to end the experience. Conversely, customer interviews often result in more honest, thoughtful and creative responses than a survey would elicit. This allows designers, developers, product managers and business owners to uncover problems that might not have been apparent. It also allows them to understand customers’ motivations and needs.

However, conducting customer feedback interviews can be costly and time intensive. It takes a lot of time and manpower to design the interviews, carry them out, and analyse the responses. This leads to small businesses leaning toward surveys for data collection, even though that sacrifices quality for quantity.

But by identifying the right type of participants, businesses can conduct effective interviews that don’t strain their budgets and deliver valuable information about their customers in a timely manner.

Recruiting the right Participants

It makes no sense to talk to all of your users. For any product, a large percentage of your customers are going to be casual users who are barely engaged with your product. A smaller percentage of your customers are those loyal to your product and who use it regularly. These are your most valuable users who provide you with quality feedback. You will grow your business by keeping them happy and finding more people like them.

At the same time, you need a representative sample of your users. Too small a sample size can be harmful throwing up issues that might not impact the larger population of your users.

You’ll also want to consider segments and cohorts. For example, if your tech product is geared toward retirees, you don’t want to recruit millennials, no matter how tech savvy they might be. Rather than thinking of your current and future customers as a homogeneous group, you need to break them up into a manageable number of segments that you can build for and sell to. Remember, there does not exist a perfect spaghetti sauce.

You also need to be wary not to select experts. Interviews should gauge the experience of the average user and how they feel about a product. Experts tend to want to help design the product and will manage to seep this bias into their responses. You want an average customer’s take on a product rather than someone who may an insider’s perspective.

How to Recruit the Best Interview Participants

When you want your customers to understand the purpose of the interview, you should also make sure your employees understand it as well. Make sure all the members of your team are aligned on a focused objective. Carrying out a series of interviews with conflicting goals can result in data that’s contradictory or irrelevant to the project. Considering the time and expense it takes to carry out the interviews, this can set a business back and make the whole exercise a wash.

Once your overall goal is clear, there are several avenues for finding the right participants for your customer interviews. Social media remains one of the most valuable resources for finding loyal customers because there’s already inherent interest if a customer follows your brand.

When you’ve alerted your social media followers of your interest in participants, boosting the post will make it more likely to be seen. While it costs a little bit, it’s worth it. You can also use social media to choose particular demographic and geographic categories to target. This saves your business time from having to sort through inapplicable responses.

LinkedIn and Reddit also feature small, niche-based groups that can be a goldmine for finding the right kind of customer to interview. These groups tend to attract die-hard brand evangelists who are eager to share their experiences.

You can also use email or other customer lists to reach out to your current users. You have already have buy-in from these customers, so they’re more likely to want to participate and provide you with honest feedback from their experiences. It’s also worth sharing a link on your brand website for those who’ve proactively sought you out.

If this all seems like too much to handle, you can always contract your services out to a panel company who will find participants for you. It’s the least cost-effective route, but the easiest and the quickest. The one big downside of hiring a panel company is the lack of control and flexibility. Once they’ve found your participants, you’re stuck with them unless you want to pay for a whole new search. And if it turns out to be a bust, you’ve just wasted time and money on something that didn’t produce the result you were looking for.

However you end up finding your participants, make sure that you have a clear goal moving forward. Since you’re investing so much time and energy, customer interviews need to deliver valuable information. This starts with hearing the right participant feedback. With the right planning and approach, customer interviews can be one of the strongest tools for developing great products.

Joel Foster
Joel Foster is a Tucson-based freelance journalist, blogger, and screenwriter, covering everything from finance to tech to entertainment. When he's not writing, Joel loves a nice bike ride while enjoying a gorgeous Tucson sunset.
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