As a User Experience Designer, I am often approached with product requirements such as “Customer A wants the product to do B.” When I start asking questions about why & what they’re presently doing, the person giving me the requirement often can’t answer them. Listening to a feature request and really understanding what your customer is asking for are two very different things. When you understand the intimate details of what your customer really wants, you may find that their feature request is a symptom of another problem.
Discovering what your customers really want isn’t a difficult task. I have 3 simple tips that I always follow:
Ask questions & listen
When talking to a customer about your product, start your questions with who, what, when, where, why and how. Leave the questions open ended and listen carefully to what they are saying. Do not guide their answers.
If a customer says “I want feature A,” don’t leave the conversation at that. Ask them questions and really understand why they’re asking for it.
Ask a customer to show you how they use your offering. What you observe, more often than not, will not match what a customer is saying. For instance, a customer may directly ask for a product that contains numerous features, but when you observe them using the tool you’ll find they primarily use only a handful.
Leave your assumptions behind
We all have our own ideas of how a customer should be using our offering, however it’s important to put these thoughts aside. They will cloud your judgement and result in you leading the customer in the direction you think they should go. You will end up missing key ideas that could make your offering stand out from your competitors.
For even more tips on interviewing your customers, I recommend these articles:
Preparing for User Interviews: Seven Things to Remember
Six Steps to Better Interviews and Simplified Task Analysis