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How to Get More Value Out of Your Customer Interviews

Maximize the value of customer interviews by getting your key stakeholders to buy-in from the beginning. Learn the strategies to get stakeholders invested and thinking about how to apply the insights from interviews.

In-person customer interviews can be a valuable means of surfacing deep insights that you might not get from surveys, focus groups, and online communities alone. They can also be costly and time-consuming. Given that both buyer- and supplier-side insights professionals ranked time-related issues as their biggest organizational challenge in the 2019 GRIT Business & Innovation Report, there’s understandable pressure to prove the ROI of the customer interview.

The best way to maximize the value of in-person customer interviews is to get the content of those interviews in front of your key stakeholders— and to get them to buy into the interviews as a means of better understanding your customers. But in my role as CEO of Bloomfire, I’ve heard from many market research leaders that their stakeholders simply refer to their research briefs or executive summaries rather than the whole interview. And when most of your stakeholders only ever read your executive summaries or skim through your slide decks, convincing them to review and apply the learnings of your customer interviews can be an uphill battle.

The key, then, is to deliver the interview content in a format that is engaging, easy for stakeholders to consume whenever they want and feels immediately relevant.

1. Get Stakeholders Involved from the Beginning

According to user research consultant Steve Portigal, “The biggest risk to a customer interview effort is a lack of alignment with stakeholders before you begin research.”

If you want your stakeholders to use the learnings that come out of your customer interviews, it’s important to make sure they feel a sense of ownership. Portigal recommends that you meet with your stakeholders to “understand what they are hoping to do as a result of these interviews, what information they believe will be helpful in driving their decisions, and which customers they expect to be involved in this research.” From there, you can put together a plan and present it to your stakeholders. “Be clear on what your plan covers—and doesn’t cover—and why,” advises Portigal.

It can also be helpful to invite your stakeholders to attend the interviews so that they feel more connected to the project. After watching the customer interviews together (either in person or via videos), invite your stakeholders to a debriefing session.

Getting key stakeholders involved with every stage of the interview process goes a long way towards securing their buy-in— and getting them thinking early on about how they can leverage what they learn from the interviews in their decisions.

2. Centralize All Interview Content

Once your in-house team or supplier finishes a round of customer interviews and presented their findings, you need to centralize the content and make it easily accessible so that it stays top of mind with your company’s decision-makers.

Ideally, you should upload interview videos (along with all your other research and insights) to a platform that all stakeholders have access to, such as Bloomfire. Stakeholders should be able to search for interview content by keyword or browse and filter their results by categories. You should also consider organizing your videos into series’ based on categories like buyer persona and product line. This will make it easier for stakeholders to review related content and draw connections between interviews.

The goal is to make it as frictionless as possible for stakeholders to access customer interview content whenever and wherever they need to. If your stakeholders have to go hunting through folders for interview content or ask someone on your insights team every time they need access, they’re not going to use the content to inform their decisions.

3. Drill Down to the Highlights

From a researcher’s perspective, having hours and hours of raw customer interview footage is a net positive. The more your customers share, the more you can learn from them. But your stakeholders don’t have time to wade through hours of raw video footage just to find a few soundbites containing the information they’re looking for. And if all you give them to work with is your collection of unedited recordings, they’re not going to use it.

Take the time to pull clips from videos that relate to the same research objective, theme, or stage in the buying cycle. Edit these clips together in short highlight videos (or better yet, have your supplier do this as part of the deliverable). If you have a mix of video recordings and notes from non-recorded interviews, weave together video soundbites and written quotes into a cohesive presentation. 

While editing these clips together requires an up-front time commitment, it will save you and your stakeholders time later by making it easy to find thematically similar content. And your interview content will have a bigger impact on stakeholders when you present it in a digestible format that tells a clear story.

There may still be some situations when your team members or various stakeholders want access to the raw footage of customer interviews to find answers to a specific question. To cut down on the time it takes researchers and stakeholders to review raw footage, consider using a knowledge-sharing platform that automatically transcribes video and audio recordings. This will allow viewers to perform a keyword search and jump to specific points in videos where a customer says the keyword, eliminating the need for them to watch full, lengthy interviews.

When it’s easy for stakeholders to land on relevant excerpts from interviews, they’re more likely to revisit those interviews in the future, extending the life of your work as a result.

4. Allow Stakeholders to Weigh In

In their research on insights function maturity, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that robust communication between business managers and insights team members was a distinguishing characteristic of the most mature insights functions. This engagement between insights team members and stakeholders leads to insights becoming more engaged in core business decisions. BCG found that insights are embedded in 75% of the business decisions of the most mature organizations (as opposed to 25% of business decisions at the least mature companies). 

With this in mind, it’s important to encourage communication around your recorded customer interviews rather than just putting them in front of your stakeholders and calling it a day. Ask your stakeholders to post questions and comments on the interview posts in your knowledge-sharing platform. By making them part of the discussion around your interviews, you’ll get them thinking critically about how they can apply your customers’ input to their own work. They may also have questions or comments that lead you and your team to think about your customer interviews in a new way.

Gaining Actionable Insights from Customer Interviews

As the CEO of Bloomfire, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from our consumer insights customers what huge impact video interviews can have on their stakeholders. When your stakeholders hear or see customer interviews, they get much more context than they could ever get from an executive summary, including context, which is especially important. Putting a voice and face to different customer personas also helps stakeholders make a human connection with the research your team has been conducting, making the insights they glean more likely to stick with them as they make decisions. 

Getting customer interviews in front of stakeholders can also help your insights team learn more from the content. While everyone should be aligned around the same business goals, your stakeholders bring different perspectives from across the organization, and their questions and commentary about your customer interviews can help you uncover new insights. With the buy-in of your stakeholders, those new insights can impact core business decisions and drive positive customer experiences.

For more on the role of knowledge sharing in market research, check out the Bloomfire blog.

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