Contextual Interviewing, Elements of Value and Product Features

Previously, Beth introduced you to the Value Innovations process. She focused on ReadyTalk’s recent project to conduct what Richard Lee calls Contextual Interviews with some of our most important customers. This step in the process is very important as it is where the rubber meets the road—where we test our assumptions about what is valuable to our customers.

The Contextual Interview process has some simple rules. One rule is to prepare 8-10 high-level questions. The prototype question for the first interview is “What about your role as X keeps you up at night?” A second and equally important rule is to design the conversation so that ReadyTalk does a lot more listening than talking.

The Value Innovations team recommends some of the best practices for this design. Do your homework and carefully identify the role of that is most important to ReadyTalk value chain. Interview people in this identified role in pairs so that they don’t feel “on the hot-seat” during the entire interview. Also, they will be able to play off of each other’s ideas.

And design the questions centered on the most important customer’s role in their organization, how they contribute value, what worries them, and what embarrasses them, while keeping them at a high level, open.

One catch for our team in this process has been to think we should be talking about the customer’s experience with ReadyTalk’s product. But with Value Innovations, the focus is on value, not product behavior or features (the Product Marketing and Product Management teams do a lot of this in other ways). Instead, it is important to start the Contextual Interviewing process around the customer’s work, their role and how they contribute value to their organization. If nothing is related to ReadyTalk’s mission or product ever comes up, maybe you aren’t talking to your most important customer?

So the first lesson we had to learn was that the Value Innovations Contextual Interviewing process isn’t about getting our customers to talk about better features. It is about getting them to talk about where we might provide the most value.

As we get that right, translating to features and knowing where to invest development time and money gets a lot easier.

Skippy has worked on software product strategies and big data analysis problems at startups and public companies in the Denver area. He loves Barry Manilow, holding hands and long walks on the beach.

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