Interview and observe your customers to learn how they use your product or service, and why they do what they do.
USE THIS PLAY TO...
Understand your customers' needs and the context in which they're using your product.
If you're struggling with Health Monitor, running this play might help.or on your
2 - 4
Running the play
Finding a customer to partner with for contextual inquiries usually happens through a contact. Start by asking around your office.
Find a customer
First things first: get in touch with someone at the customer company ask if they're willing to be interviewed. Here's the template we use. Feel free to use it (just remember to un-italicize and replace the bolded text!).
Hi there, First Name –
I'm YourName and I work as a YourJob at YourCompany. I'm reaching out because we're researching how people use Product, and would like to hear from your team. We're offering swag item/t-shirts to anyone we come interview.
Does your team use Product?
We'd love to give your team a chance to voice frustrations, tell us what's working, and help us understand how we can better design Product to suit teams like yours.
If your team isn't using Product, feel free to forward this on to colleagues or friends that are!
We'd like to visit your team to understand what you do day-to-day, see how your team uses Product, and how it fits into your workflow. We typically stay onsite with your team for about 2 hours. We'd like to see where you work, and talk to YourTargetAudience for a few interviews and observation sessions during this time.
Why do it?
Your team helps us determine what we should change, fix, or add to Product. We'll also give everyone involved swag item/gift card to say thanks.
Interested? Just reply back
If you're interested, just reply back to this email and I'll work with you directly to go over any questions you have, and get something set up on the calendar.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Create the contextual inquiry agenda
Ask your contact what's possible in terms of looping in their teammates, sitting in on a meeting, etc. Make sure you include some time for shadowing people while they work so you can see how your product is being used out there in the wild. Your schedule for the visit might look something like this:
- Office tour (10-20 minutes)
- Group interview with your contact's team (~30 minutes)
- Attend a standup or other meeting (whatever that duration is)
- Shadowing and interviewing individuals (1-2 hours)
- For attendees from your team, a debriefing session later that same day (30 minutes)
Prepare your inquire team
Consider including people from support, product management, development, design, and/or any other relevant team. Cast a wide net! You'll need a dedicated scribe for the group interview, and pairs of interviewers + scribes for individual interviews. Assign somebody to take charge of the camera, too.
Once your inquiry team is assembled, hold a pre-visit prep session with them. Use this meeting to agree what you'd like to learn, brief people on what the schedule looks like, and go over the rules of engagement.
Create an interview script
This can be done on your own or with the collaboration of your inquiry team. Determine what you'd like to know, and how you can ask it. Avoid jargon at all costs, and test your script with a willing coworker to make sure your language makes sense, you're not asking anything twice, and you're not trying to pack too much in.
Be sure to include questions for both group and individual interviews in the script.
Secure some swag!
Gather up the appropriate number of keychains, mugs, tshirts... whatever you can get your hands on. You can deliver goodies at the end of your contextual inquiry visit or mail them afterward.
Ask your contact whether it's ok to take pictures. They're great to bring back to your team, but some companies don't allow it.
Atlassian teams follow these rules of engagement when on a contextual inquiry.
After the visit
Later that day, somewhere other than the customer's office...
Debrief with your inquiry team (30-60 min)
Take at least 30 minutes to go over what you saw, and look for trends. Have each team member report on at least three interesting things they found through their individual interviews. Draw out themes and conclusions from the group interview.
Don't forget the swag!
If you didn't bring some thank-you gifts to the visit, be sure to send some afterwards. A hand-written note wouldn't go amiss, either. Let your customers know how much you appreciate their time, and that you'll use all that info to make your product better.
Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.
Run this play when you're embarking on a project to launch a new service or improve an existing one.
Phew! That was a lot of effort. So make sure it doesn't end up as shelf-ware. Compile your team's notes on a Confluence page and share it with others on your project. (You don't have to make it read like a novel, but make sure others will be able to grok it.)
We also recommend using all this juicy information on your Experience Canvas to help turn the info into actionable insights. And if you've got a Project Poster, be sure to update that as appropriate. Hopefully you were able to validate some assumptions and float a few possible solutions during the visit, so note those.
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