For early stage startups, one common piece of advice is to regularly talk to your users for their feedback. I’m not talking about a user testing session here, but simply a conversation about their experience with your product. But how do you approach them?
If you’re a UX designer or design researcher, you are probably quite used to analysing activity of users. Nevertheless, for a lot of UI designers or first time founders, the idea of approaching a user for their thoughts is still a daunting prospect. Just getting started can be the hardest part – but I’d like to show you that it can be easier than you think.
I’m going to talk about how we approach users for feedback once they have tried our product. If you are wanting some ideas on approaching new users to try your product for the first time, I have also written an article highlighting some methods and approaches you can use to get in front of new users.
In this article, I’ll share an example of the successful email format I use to approach users. I would also like to suggest a few things to avoid so you can skip the mistakes I’ve made in the past and get the best results first time.
Know Your Intent With Your Product
Our goal at Askable was (and still is) to create a product that is really loved by our users. We wanted to build something that goes beyond just being appreciated and it’s a goal we continue to work towards.
Paul Graham talks about making an intentional decision to build a product that satisfies one of the following:
- a very large amount of people that think it’s just okay
- a very small amount of people who really love it
I’m going to suggest that if you go with the second option you will find that approaching users becomes easier. How is all that relevant to approaching and talking to users?
Well, if your genuine intent is to really satisfy your users with the product you offer, they will be more receptive in wanting to talk to you about it. That intent needs to come through in the way you approach them. If you can reflect that intent correctly, it makes contacting a few users of your product and asking for 30 mins of their time much easier. If they know you want them to really love it and be passionate about it, they are going to be more willing to talk about it and chip in their feedback as to how it could be improved.
Emmett Shear (co-founder of Twitch) talks about how important it is to also talk to people who aren’t your users. Particularly people who’ve taken the time to try your product and then still decided to use another product instead. This is definitely also worth doing and will be something discussed in an upcoming article.
But regardless if your current users love, hate, or are ambivalent about your product, the first step to improving is talking with them.
Almost Always… You Will Need to Ask them
If it seems really obvious, and yeah, that’s because it is. Talking to your users starts with you reaching out to them and asking if they would be up for a chat. Most of the time this is the way it works. Unless you have super passionate users, they will rarely be the ones to request a meeting or skype call.
I’ve found the best way to do this is via email or text. That is just my experience though and your users may respond better to other methods. It’s an easy place to start even if you decide to do some experimenting with other channels to see what works best for you.
Generally you will get a much better response rate while your product is fresh in their minds. So that is when you ask. If your product is something they use every day then this won’t be a huge issue. In our case, UX designers don’t make a booking for testing participants every day, so we try to arrange a time with them just after they’ve finished a user test.
The Email Approach That Works for Me (Most of the Time)
The style of the following approach email can be applied to whichever communication channels you choose to use.
How were your participants last Monday? Hopefully you got some good insights for the new app from the interviews!
We are planning a new release in April, and I’d really appreciate 30 mins of your time to ask you for some feedback, and maybe try and get some ideas on new features we are thinking of introducing that we believe you’d find useful.
What time would suit you next week? Happy to come to your office (I’ll grab some coffees on the way) or we can chat over Skype. Let me know!
I always start with something that’s relevant and personal to them. That way they know straight away it’s not an automated email that gets sent to everyone.
Next, I frame the request around how we can improve the product for them. Giving feedback is one thing, but sharing feature ideas means that they get to influence the product experience directly. That’s also why adding a timeframe to create some urgency is good (“Oh if I make the time for this my requests could make it into next month’s version!”). By saying “we are thinking of introducing” I’m trying to let the user appreciate that their feedback will determine the direction of our product.
Lastly I ask to lock in a time, and provide a little incentive (free coffee, donuts, lunch etc.. whatever you’re comfortable giving them as a thank you for chatting to you).
Stick to the Point
I try and keep approach emails short, getting to the point as quickly as possible to increase the chances they’ll actually read it.
If they don’t reply, you can follow up in around 3–4 days. If you’re sending these emails through your own email client, I highly recommend installing an email tracker of some sort, so you can see if they’ve opened it or not.
If they reply positively, then try and work out a time that suits as quickly as possible. If your meeting is more than a few days away, sending something as a reminder can work well to make sure they haven’t forgotten.
If they reply negatively, then thank them for the opportunity anyway and depending on their response you could ask them if it’s something they’d like to do in the future.
Some of the DONT’s…
Making it All About You
Some mistakes we made early on when approaching people was asking to talk to them without framing it in a way that benefits them. E.g:
We’d love to talk to you to improve our product experience.
That’s great for you but what’s in it for them? This kind of sentence also sounds like any other generic feedback survey form.
Asking for Too Much Time
Asking for too much time can also be an issue. You might have 300 questions for them but they may not have (or want) the time to dedicate to it. I’ve found 30 minutes to work for us. Keeping the time slot short makes it easier for them to say yes.
If a 30 minute feedback session is not even possible maybe try and get their feedback on just one question, even if only via text or email. Try something like this…
What one thing would you change to make the product more useful for you?
Remember to Say Thanks
When you get feedback, show your appreciation. I’m talking about a simple follow up to say thank you. Or you can go one step further and let the user know how their feedback made a difference. Imagine for a second that you are a user and you got an email a few days/weeks after your chat, letting you know how your feedback made a difference. You are not being asked to do or buy anything, just a polite, personal email to show how your opinion was listened to and considered valuable. That makes you happy because you realise the chat you had really was for you.
Ok, Time to Get Approaching
Approaching a user for the first time might be intimidating. However, if your genuine intent is to provide the best product for your user then approaching them just got a whole lot easier. It’s up to you now to work out how you can make that clear to your users, with a personal approach that is easy to respond to.
P.S. Have you tried Askable and have some ideas to share? We would love to hear from you to know how we could make things better for you – firstname.lastname@example.org
Shameless plug – If you haven’t tried Askable but you want a hand recruiting people for user testing, focus groups, or product testing, then you are in luck. We built our product so you can book the people you need faster than you can boil an egg. Try it out for yourself. We really do want to provide you with the best participant recruiting tool you ever try.