Customer Development and Research

PS: How (and Why) You Should Get in Touch With Your Users

Even if paying close attention to quantitative data and user behavior trends is extremely important, qualitative feedback is what reveals what’s behind the numbers (the mind and soul of your customers, so to say).

This blog post is a personal note and quick reminder on the importance of having ‘front door access’ to your users.

Imagine it the following way: you had a quick, hearty chat with someone lovely on your morning commute, but you forgot to ask fer her name, her email or – for pros –  her phone number.

There is a chance you never gonna see her again and you will never know whether she really liked you or not and whether you could have progressed to anything serious.

Being proactive and talking to your users is essential. By talking, I mostly mean reaching out to them to ask for their opinion, their thoughts, their feelings. This may never be fully substituted by trends and figures.

If you want to reach out to your users in more depth or set up a quick chat with the eager ones, you’ll need contact data. This may sound obvious to many product owners. There are countless services which include an obligatory registration step to create an account, purchase something, contact others etc. They usually ask for detailed data like email addresses PLUS demographic tidbits – these are real ‘contextual’ delicacies for a researcher, Amen to that.

But there are products where registration may not be an obligatory step or there may not be any self-explanatory need for contact data at all. According to my former experiences, some mobile apps may definitely fall into this category, for example when they serve individual needs without having to set up a dedicated account.

What can you do in this case?

1) You may use integrated survey tools (just like MixPanel) inside your app, asking simple questions after performing certain actions, requesting general feedback and suggestions.

The advantage is that experiences and emotions (including potential frustration) are very recent, so the user may have bigger inclination to let it all out. On the other hand, they may also feel uneasy about stopping them in the natural flow of using your app.

2) Integrate support features, related call-to-actions and easy to use platforms like Apptentive or a dedicated support page. Make it very easy for your users to give you feedback and report problems. Consider it your crucial homework, so keep an eye on it.

With some of the startups I’ve been working with, we combined multiple solutions, e.g. Apptentive for quick help + support page with option to start discussions. Or, a support tool which categorized inquiries on an admin page to make it easier to keep records (e.g. for email startup Zinbox).

If you want to dig even deeper into customer psychology, try to actually GET some direct access to your users.

You may achieve this in different ways:  

For example, one of the startups mentioned above, Sortpad Mobile, is a photo sorting app that lets you organize your mobile photos into personal albums. The process itself didn’t involve the need for direct access to customer contact data. However, the team decided to integrate an extra feature that allows users to share photos on Facebook when they stumble upon a good photo.

This led to another step, asking the users to log in with their Facebook account when launching the app ‘for the best experience’ (and full usability). And, of course, the permission request included access to their public profile and email address.

Note: if something is not obligatory, there will be users who won’t use it. Out of 10 users, 3-4 may log in, but there will always be people who feel uneasy about providing ‘unnecessary’ data to companies (just remember all the shiny newsletters filling up your inbox).

This leads us to the next advice:

4) Make this step as attractive as possible.

Communicate solid reasons, rewards or benefits. In the case mentioned above, users would definitely need further education on the Facebook feature. And if it will not be attractive enough to hook an optimal number of people, there should be another reason or feature to motivate them to do so. (Like, for instance, letting them share their photo sorting speed record on Facebook.)

Whether it’s part of the gamification, usefulness or added social elements – keep on experimenting to pinpoint what makes your users excited enough to give you their contact data.

Remember, if you don’t have direct, proactive access to your users, you’ll have to wait until they come to you or start fishing around in Social Media. Try to turn it into an essential part of your user experience.

Good relationships are based on two-way communication, whether it’s your morning commute crush or your users.


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