Whether you are a product manager or product management consultant, a significant portion of your time is probably spent talking with customers. After all, the core definition of this profession is understanding customer problems, needs and wants and based on those insights create and deliver a product that will satisfy those needs and desires.
If you want to become an outstanding product manager, you have to learn how to speak to customers. Their thoughts and opinions will provide you with a very valuable insight on what exactly it is that customers want or what characteristics of a currently-developed product are unappealing to them. Unfortunately, the product development process is associated with countless activities, including attending and running various types of meetings, planning, business plan writing and amending, document writing, discussions and constant process reviewing that talking to customers often drops off the priority list quite quickly. Not gaining enough feedback, however, might easily become the reason why your product or service failed.
Today, we will talk about useful questions product managers (or product management consultants) should ask customers of any product or service. A well-phrased question will bring fantastic insights and might also lead you to a direction you’ve never even considered. To get the answers you seek, you have to know how to ask the right questions and engage with the customers. It might take time and practice, but the results will ultimately bring nothing but value to your business.
Some characteristics of a well-phrased question that will generate helpful customer insights include:
They are open-ended.
They challenge your previous assumptions
They uncover motivation, value or pain
With that in mind, let’s go to the top 5 questions you can freely use to gain better insight for your product and its features:
When interviewing clients, it’s important to truly understand the reason behind their answers. Don’t take their answer at face value. Keep digging deeper otherwise it’s a missed opportunity to obtain a more valuable answer to your questions.
Many product managers think of their conversations with clients as a “necessary evil” to attach to their product presentation. That’s why they get quick short answers (whether positive or negative) write them down and say goodbye. Good product managers should think like investigators. They should be trying to figure out the real reason for an answer. Why did a customer say yes or no? Why did a customer want a particular feature? Why did a customer describe your product as useless?
Whatever your question is, always ask why once you’ve got your answer. You’re trying to discover the real motivations behind customers wanting to buy your product. You won’t get them by satisfying yourself with short, direct answers that tell you nothing.
2. “What Do You Think About Your Current Solution?”
This question offers a great opportunity for you, as a product manager or a product management consultant, to understand how different your product is from your competitors. Ask about the features and benefits the customers like. You can also ask the price and whether they consider it reasonable. A good follow-up question can be “What do you like best about it?”
These types of questions are designed to understand the motivations behind the clients’ choice. Remember, you are not there to pass any judgement. You are there to understand how exactly they feel about their current solution.
Moreover, by finding out about what product or service they currently use for a particular need, you come out as empathetic. This might not be the first question you start the client interview with but it’s a solid question and a great way to open up some insights.
3. “What Do You Like Most About Our Product?”
The ultimate goal is, after all, to find out how your product changed the life of your clients. Understand the before and after scenarios. A good follow-up question might be “How was your day (task, job, etc.) better when using our product?” What changed? How a particular feature of your product improved their work or personal lives? Did they save time? Are they happier? If they don’t know how to answer this question, you should start wondering why you’re introducing the product to begin with. I mean, you are there to make a difference in some way, aren’t you?
4. “If This Was Available Today, Would You Purchase/Recommend It?”
This is a suitable question for a new product development. If you’re proposing a new product or added a new feature to an already-existing one, by the end of your conversation with customers, you should definitely ask whether they would buy it or recommend it. Don’t worry about the uncomfortable silence. If you’ve made it clear that you’re looking for honest answers, your clients will give them to you.
If they said yes, ask them “Why would you recommend our product / service / solution?” and if they said no, ask them “Why wouldn’t you recommend our product / service / solution?”
Keep in mind that this question may not result in an accurate answer and can often lead to false positives. While waiting for the answer, stay quiet for a while. In addition to getting a “yes I would buy it” or a “no I wouldn’t buy it,” you will also get insight into their decision-making process which is a highly valuable piece of information. Even better, ask them to walk you through their purchase process.
5. “How Important to You is Solving This Problem?”
When you introduce a new product, backed up with so many exciting and intriguing features, customers can get really hyped up about it. You’re giving them a great new product to test and they will definitely get on board and want to support you. However, once they have left the interview, would they take action based on that excitement? Is your product on top of their list of priorities?
If your product will solve a particular problem that is number 4 or 5 on the list, you don’t have a lot to worry about. But if it’s further down the list, or not on the list at all, you might have to face several challenges ahead of you.
Obviously, depending on the type of customer interview, the stage of your product development and the specific information you might be looking for, the questions will vary. But the above-mentioned questions are a good starting point.
What you have to remember as a product manager or a product management consultant is that there is never a black and white answer. Answers from customers are often biased or nuanced. It’s your job as a product investigator (manager) to discover the motivations behind those answers, regardless of how nuanced they might be.
Everything you unearth during interviews or discussions with clients will help you decide on the right product features to include in your product roadmap or where things have to be amended. Remember, feedback is everything! The right feedback will either make or break your product and future success.