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51 Comments

How do you get your customers to talk to you?

Everyone always says we need to get to know our customers.

But how? How do you get them to take time out of their day to talk to you?

Most of my emails to customers asking for customer interviews go unanswered.

I will ask both parties for feedback after a transaction. These emails are often ignored but sometimes answered.

People are talking about deep insights from customers, but how do you get to the point where you are able to have these deep insights? How do you actually get customers to talk?

  1. 9

    Hi Dashiell,

    Great question! It can be tough to get the ball rolling. Here's what I suggest

    Step 1. Find where your customers are. Maybe it's Reddit, hacker news, a slack change, here

    Step 2. Engage the community. Provide insights or articles on things they might be interested in. If you're working with AdTech, write a post talking about increasing revenue. If you've got competitors with bad products ask for a product review.

    Step 3. Once you've built the relationship, talk to your first few potential customers and use their insights to create more content. Use that content as a loop. Interviews -> Content, Content -> Interviews.

    Eventually, you'll become an expert in your space and people will start coming to you without you having to reach out!

    If you can't engage a community or find out where your customers "gather" maybe you're looking at an industry that's too small or solving a problem that doesn't really bother anyone. If that's the case, time to re-evaluate.

    If you want to share your idea here, I'm sure some of the other members would be happy to brainstorm with you!

    Cheers and best of luck,
    Ari Bencuya

    1. 1

      Hey thanks. My project is a wishlist site that lets content creators get gifts from fans safely. My target market right now is the adult industry where creators get gifts already but need a better solution. I’m passed the idea phase. We have users and revenue but I want to have more of a relationship with my users to understand how to keep developing and marketing the product.

  2. 7

    Do you ask simple questions?

    "Hi! I see you use [product]. What's ONE way this product could be better?"

    1. 3

      I agree with the idea of asking simple questions - this wouldn't give you the deep customer insights you would get with an hour long conversations, but many times the issue is there and you will begin to see patterns once you get enough answers.

      Simple questions asked nicely gives you more responses, and insights will emerge.

      @dashbarkhuss I'm working on a product to help founders like you ask simple questions in your web / mobile apps and look at data in a simple dashboard. If you are interested in a better way to ask and get more answers, check out https://1flow.app/

    2. 1

      This is probably better than what I ask. I say something like "Hey I saw your signed up/received a gift on WishTender. Do you have any feedback or questions?" But your example is more specific.

      1. 1

        Maybe think about when you've decided to give feedback vs. not. I've been tempted into feedback via things like platform credits or simply a very honest/personal request.

  3. 5

    People have different preferences for giving feedback. Some never do it, some want to reply to your email, some are dedicated enough to have a videochat with you.

    When I'm asking for feedback from GummySearch users for a particular feature, I pick a subset of my most engaged users, and those that have used my app in a way that I know they might be a good fit for this feedback round.

    I email that subset of users and say why they are getting this email from me (so they know it's somewhat targeted). I also phrase my thoughts and ask my questions in the email, as well as ask if anyone wants to talk over videochat. This is super clutch bc some folks might be willing to take the time, while some just want to reply to the email and be done with it. I've had responses to the email weeks after I've sent it, people get busy and you just want to make it easy for them to give feedback when they have the time for it.

    1. 1

      Interesting- give them the opportunity to answer different ways.

  4. 5

    I remember a talk from Rahul Vohra where he said that once a customer replies to your first email just try to keep them talking for continuous feedback. But like you, I've found that getting that first reply is difficult (even when it's a heavy user!).

    One way I've tried improve user feedback over email is by contacting non-activated and churned users.

    I send an email with a basic question (e.g. "Why did you stop using Tella?" or "How come you haven't made a video?") and then include a numbered list of possible answers. The email ends with "Just reply with a number".

    This lowers the effort needed to reply and when it coverts I get a warmer lead for additional feedback (e.g. "Thanks for the feedback! If you've got a sec, can you explain why...").

    For understanding non-activation or churn — generally pretty opaque topics — I've found this to be pretty useful.

    1. 2

      This is awesome insight, will try this out today.

    2. 2

      Thanks this is a great idea. I love the numbered answer and follow up tactic.

    3. 1

      Nice — did your response rate increase when you started using numbers like that? If so, do you know roughly how much?

      1. 2

        It felt like there was an increase. Initially I was sending these churn emails manually, with an open ended question, and barely remember any replies. Then I used this technique and noticed more regular responses.

        Now I send these emails automatically with the list of options, but I've never tested the automatic ones using open ended questions for comparison (probably worth doing!).

        I recently wrote about this idea (turns out others use it too) and more ways to get user feedback here: https://www.tella.tv/blog/how-to-talk-to-users

        1. 1

          Sweet, thanks for the response!

  5. 3

    Yes, getting responses can be hard, and getting useful feedback is even harder. This may have gotten worse with almost all companies bombarding people with survey/feedback requests all the time. I don't know about you, but I don't want to fill in a survey every time I ask customer support for help...

    Only a small group will respond. Just expect that. This makes getting early feedback hard, as it'll be a fraction of the few users/customers you have. Getting feedback gets easier as the number of users/customers increases.

    The good news is, if you're persistent (but not annoying), then you'll eventually meet someone who cares enough about whatever problem your business is solving that he/she will go into great detail.

    1. 2

      Persistent but not annoying- the golden ratio!

  6. 3

    I have great success communicating with my customers. I just email them like a human being. I've posted about this several times on here.

    Just write an individual email each time you want to contact someone. No marketing BS, no templates, just write to them like you would someone you know. Almost every I send gets a reply of some sort.

    1. 1

      I write an individual pretty much every time. Only use a template when I'm asking a simple question to a few people/getting overwhelmed with personalizing every email and getting no response. I look at their wishlist even to mention something I saw. Or it might even be in regards to a specific event that only happened to them Doesn't seem to matter.

  7. 2

    Actually I used to have this problem too. It would be quite frustrating to see efforts go in vain

    So I try to select people who have been vocal about the potential problem & then casually engage in conversation with them right when I start building. And then I try to ask them for feedback. They are more willing that way, when they already know you before.

    But for cold email, I change my mindset that even 5 positive response from a total of 100, would be really valuable if a customer unveils important insights as that might give you a fresh perspective.

    1. 1

      5/100 is what Michele Hansen says too.

  8. 2

    I highly recommend reading The Mom Test or at least the Wikipedia article about it. TLDR: Ask you customers about their problems. As others have mentioned, you need to find where they hang out and pounce on them to ask them about their problems. If done right, people love to spill about what bothers them. My product is a photo app for parents. Luckily, I'm a parent and I "get" to go to soccer games, PTA events, etc. Every time I see a parent take a picture, I hurry and ask "Hey what are you going to to with that pic? What issues do you have doing that?"

    Since your product is for creators, I would try posting in creator subreddits - "What's your biggest problem monetizing?" Or go to some meetups and just ask them what's bugging them (https://www.meetup.com/topics/content-creators/). Or maybe DM on Instagram "Hi, I love what you did with XXX. I'm doing research for a class. What are your biggest problems every day with making this awesome Insta?" All this is IMHO. Best of luck!

    1. 1

      The Mom Test is awesome, I have read it. Great advice in that book about what to ask and what not to. But I felt it lacked addressing how to actually get responses. Early adopters and potential customer before launch were more interested in talking although not always. But people who are already users seem less communicative. I think it's also a factor that my target market is the adult industry where people are anonymous and suspicious of being scammed.

  9. 2

    Hey Dashiell! I've been going through similar challenges. Here's what I found:

    Need to offer something in return from the get-go. I've experimented a bit and found three things that work:

    • Offering small Amazon vouchers (this only after the 'lead' has been pre-qualified, and thinking long-term, the investment here isn't that much if you think about it...and most people don't even accept it anyway.
    • Offering to do customer research or analysis of their landing page or something along those lines. This for your customers could be some analysis of their profiles or funnels or something.
    • Offering to do some lead gen work for them.

    Not the most scalable, but early on doing this for 30 people has a huge ROI I believe. Hope this helps :)

    1. 1

      Really nice suggestions. thanks

  10. 2

    We use a mix of human emails and incentivised surveys (fill in this 5 min survey to be entered into a $50 Amazon voucher draw). This tends to hoover up both sides and begins the conversation where you can get deeper insights.

    1. 1

      I'm thinking an incentive might be the way to go. And a draw is nice because you don't have to pay everyone.

  11. 2

    I have a "demo call" link on our site and majority of people who schedule calls are leads that are interested in our product -- I can ask them questions to get to know their needs and pain points better.

    Sometimes I also get customers who use this link to schedule calls because they want clarification on something or they want to do X. And I take this opportunity to ask them questions too.

    You can also use a pro-active msg / pop up asking if they want to do a demo call -- which I also use on my site.

    1. 1

      Oh nice I'd like to see an example of this pop up.

  12. 2

    I have been trying a lot for this answer.

    1. 2

      Hope we figure it out

  13. 2

    Hey Dashiell,

    I remember while I was working on my previous start-up the best thing I did was to find the champions; the people who really loved the product.

    So maybe, in your case the customers who either have the most transactions and who can't stop talking about it. These people are the ones who will help you understand and often also connect you with others who use your platform.

    I'd put more effort into finding these initial 10 people who love what you're doing and then slowly start building from there (this is also takes a lot of time but definitely worth it).

    & I'd always reach out to them from my personal email and not company email as this would give it a more "authentic touch".

    Hope that helps :)

    1. 1

      Thanks this is exactly what I have been doing. But even the ones loving it, sharing it, and having a lot of transactions don't seem to want to talk. Maybe I'm just not being pushy enough.

      1. 2

        Hmm, this is just me making an assumption but could it be that the people are shy because the items they get gifted are personal? As it’s stuff related to the adult industry, they just don’t want to talk about it?

        Or, could be the pushy thing as well tbh! Definitely try pushing more & see how that goes.

        1. 2

          good point. That's what I've been wondering. But sometimes I think maybe it's a mix of both.

  14. 2

    For my main product (CurlsBot), I get them to talk to me because I participate in spaces where they are active. It takes a long time for people to trust you if you aren't already part of these communities though. My bread and butter is Reddit and Facebook.

    For the rest of the work I do (primarily content strategy), I mainly talk to people on Twitter. I've gained a following just by posting and interacting a lot.

    You can also try starting your own community. I know that's worked out well for Notion, for example.

    1. 1

      Thanks. Do you interact on a brand account or personal account.

      1. 1

        Personal. I've represented many brand accounts when I did social media management and I find personal does better. If you do a brand, try to personalize it a bit like signing off your tweets with your name.

  15. 2

    The response rates from your users are going to be low. Most people have no interest in providing feedback.

    I've received most of my feedback from friends and family. It's clearly skewed, but it is available. I've also had some decent luck with Mechanical Turk, but that's going to cost you a bit for a good amount of feedback.

    I know some other people that have had decent luck with offering gift cards for feedback. That could be worth a try.

    1. 1

      From my own experience I have to disagree. I have great success emailing my customers. I think the key thing is wether they are paying or not. Paying customers are usually more than happy to engage in communication.

      1. 1

        Yea mine are not paying. I make money when someone buys them a gift.

  16. 2

    I would try giving something extra before asking. Not sure how your revenue model works or if you are able to give something that will grab their attention enough and make them want to reply.

    But, make sure your email sounds like a person is writing specifically to them and not like a newsletter or updates email.

    1. 1

      I don't think I have anything enticing I can give easily. I make a percent off each transaction. I do personalize the emails.

      1. 2

        Do you think that maybe due to the nature of the niche they might not want to engange too much?
        Just wondering. I have no knowdlege about the space.

        1. 1

          Yes I'm thinking that's a factor.

  17. 1

    I was thinking about this topic more and asked some other founders for their thoughts. I got a lot of cool ideas and put them together in this blog post: https://www.tella.tv/blog/how-to-talk-to-users

    Hope it's helpful. Keen to hear what you think!

  18. 1

    I usually ask my customers for an interview not after the first transaction, but after they have been using my product for a while. And I offer them an incentive right away, in the subject, making sure they open the email. Like a discount or a "free forever" account.

    That said, sometimes it's more important to interview unhappy customers, and I still haven't mastered this.

  19. 1

    I think asking a direct question that customers are interested in is a helpful way to start conversations? e.g. "What do you hate about your job?" People are often eager to talk about their lives and things they do a lot!

  20. 1

    Have you tried offering $ gift cards? If you have a little budget that helps, I've known a lot of user researchers who do that.

    1. 1

      I'm leaning towards this though it sounds like it will get expensive to really get the amount of feedback I want. Especially when I'm still not really making a profit (most of my 2.5k mrr goes to users)

  21. 1

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