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Automate organizing online user interviews

Talking to users is one of the many responsibilities of product managers. In non-covid times we could organize them in person, now we have to resort to online sessions. The online format might not be the best way to absorb the most information, but it did reduce administration and logistics. And with the arrival of many tools and services, you can automate organizing online user interviews in no time!

Selecting users to talk to

Let’s start with the one part that’s hard to automate with generic tools: selecting the users you want to talk to. To maximize learning you’ll want to be very selective who you want to spend your time on. Hopefully you’ll have access to a list of your users and the right information to make an informed decision which 5 – 10 users will teach you the most.

Inviting users

A quick introduction email to ask your users is usually sufficient to set the context. It’s also a unique opportunity to make them feel special, after all, you picked them out of a big list!

This is where the first tool enters: Calendly allows your users to pick a time in your calendar that suits them best. This is great when your users are spread over different time zones and it will save you a great deal of back and forth.

All of the functions in this article can be done with a free Calendly account. Here are some good general practices:

Keep the sessions short

In 30 minutes you can usually learn the majority from 1 user. A follow-up call is always an option.

Select 30min meetings in Calendly

Buffers before and after the meeting

Block some time before (to prepare) and after (for debriefing and summarizing). Calendly can account for this in the settings, but it won’t book this time in your calendar (maybe possible with their workflows?)

Set a 10min buffer before and 30min buffer after the meeting.

Informed Consent

Use an informed consent form to tell your users in advance that they will get recorded and that internal colleagues might watch the recording at a later moment. Check with your legal department for a fitting document and host it somewhere accessible. I’ve used a Google Docs that I made publicly available. I then used a URL shortener like TinyURL to make the link short and trustworthy (e.g. https://tinyurl.com/MYinformedconsent).

A good description

A good description will save you a lot of time, and it’s also a great place to link to the Informed Consent, but also further instructions how to connect including plugins that should be installed.

Write a descriptive description in Calendly that links to the informed consent and further instructions on how to join the call.

Invitee questions

It is even better to include the agreement in the invitee questions that the user has to fill when choosing a slot. A mandatory radio button that only allows ‘Yes’ will ensure that only user who agree to the terms will sign up. You’ll receive an email with this agreement for your reference.

Use the Calendly Invitee Questions to add a radio button to agree with the informed consent.

Link with your teleconference solution

In the location box, you should share your videoconferencing or user interview tool of choice. Together with the description, your users should now have all information to connect, without you having to do anything! Make sure to only share the location after the confirmation (otherwise everyone with your Calendly link can start calling you immediately).

Specificy the URL to the online platform for your meeting in the Calendly location field

Conferencing solution

As user interview solution, Datacamp (the company I currently work with) uses LookBack.io. Its main purpose is enabling user tests with screen recording, but it can also work well for user interviews.

Lookback isn’t so different from tools like Zoom which already provide you with videoconferencing, screen sharing and recording. But Lookback adds a couple of useful features:

  • Taking notes and marking points of interests during the call
  • Re watching the recording with synchronized notes
  • 1-way-mirror attendance of colleagues
  • Organizing recordings in different experiments and rounds

If you don’t want to spend the money you can easily use Zoom or Google Meet (also works great on mobile to do user tests for apps!)

With all of this in place you automate organizing online user interviews! Don’t forget to properly prepare the interview with open questions. You won’t be able to ask a lot of them, so make them count.

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