Nobody makes bad products on purpose. Often, however, the wrong goals are in the focus. If business goals are the only drivers in product development, the probability is that the most important factor is overlooked: the customer.

To ensure that we do not lose sight of the essentials when developing new products, we learn more about the customer and his needs and preferences in a process consisting of customer research and user testing. Today’s contribution from our series “The customer as a compass of product development” presents the methodology of in-depth interviews and observation.

“Set sail” – In-depth Interviews & Observation

In in-depth interviews, we interview various end customer groups in an open and dynamic process. Although we are developing an interview guide in advance, this is only intended to summarize the most important research questions. So we do not lose sight of them during the interview. If one encounters completely new insights in conversation, the interview can also go in a completely different direction.

The most important rule in interviewing is not to ask for needs directly. Questions about specific features such as “What do you wish for the optimization of your sales process?” do not belong to a in-depth interview. Instead, it is much more revealing to ask a person how their everyday life looks, what things they use and how they have solved certain tasks in the past. While asking “why?” and “how?”, we ask people to think about their motivations and reasons for their behavior. This way, hidden motifs can also be revealed. From the statements of the interviewee it can then be deduced which needs a person has and at which points in the process there are currently still problems, or even pain points. Exactly at these points the features of a product have to start.

Another used method is observing in the form of shadowing (or mystery shopping). Observation makes it possible to record the behaviors of persons unaffected. Observations always take place in the natural environment of the test persons. For our customer smart, we were therefore in the market place of a branche for several days and have observed the sellers in their everyday work processes and interactions with the customer. The aim was to determine how the consulting process looks in retail and which tools should integrate sellers into the process. In order to capture the processes as naturally as possible, we did not ask any questions during the observation and did not intervene in the situation. Instead, all emerging questions were collected for a final qualitative interview with the seller. From the observation and interview findings gained in this way, we were able to derive concrete seller insights, which now serve as a starting point for innovative solutions.

After a successful customer research, the user testing begins. More about this in the next part of “The customer as a compass of product development”.