What's one thing that always shows up on a B2B sales deck? Customer Stories!

The significance of case studies and customer stories can't be understated if you want to influence buyers behavior. Customer interviews are generally conducted via these 3 approaches:

  • Email Interview - Interviewer will send questions over email and interviewee will respond and reply with answers.
  • Virtual Meeting - Both parties will arrange a time for virtual meeting over conference or video call.
  • Field Trip Interview - Both parties will arrange a physical meetup for interview. In some cases, there may also be an arrangement to produce a professional video to make the story more convincing. This is the most expensive and time-draining interview approach that may not be viable for most smaller companies.

In this post we'll be discussing about email interview, what are the challenges and how to resolve it.

Challenges in Conducting Customer Interviews over Email

Although being more cost-effective compared to other approaches, there are still some challenges that one may encounter when they're conducting customer interviews over email.

Identifying Users for Customer Interviews

To begin with, you shouldn't be sending interview requests unless you know that the user is happy with your service. User segmentation should always be done before hitting the send button. The easiest way to segment users would be to use NPS survey. Other methods like CSAT after the closure of support ticket can be used as well.

Getting More Interviews

In general, the more customer stories you have, the stronger your case would be when it comes to influencing buyer's behavior. The best scenario would be a prospect being able to see the full benefits of your products based on stories from similar companies.

Since interviews require your clients to put in some of their time, it may be useful to add some incentives or rewards to thank them for their effort. Ultimately, if you want to fully optimize the take-up rate for customer interviews, there should be something more just goodwill in your modus operandi. This can be backlinks, Amazon gift cards, discount coupons, or even monetary rewards.

Lack of Clarity

Don't get me wrong. Emails will always be important when you are communicating with your users. However, when there are multiple revisions for interview content, you may find yourself stuck in heavily nested email threads. In the end, you may need to dig through multiple email threads to locate the final version of interview content.

A better approach would be to use a collaborative editor as single source of truth for interview content. Email can still be used for communication but main changes should be done within the editor. The editor should also support rich text formatting so that things like quotes, images and videos can still be used for interview.

Lack of Organized Structure

Preview of Trello board

Just like in the case for CRMs, you may want to have an overview of stages and progress for all interviews. Email clients are generally unsuitable for this so consider using Trello board or something similar. Whatever solution you choose, it should be able to store interview details and present these information in a way that makes it easy for the end-user to digest.

Let's see how we can use OnVoard Interviews to tackle these challenges and make the process more efficient.

Step 1: Setting up Interview Requesters

We'll be using OnVoard's interview requester tool to send interview request emails and get recipients to participate in customer interviews.

Preview for Interview Questions

For interview requester, you would need to include a list of questions that will be used for interview.

Similarities with Review Requester

Both interview and review requesters shares some similarities in setup:

  • You can also attach rewards to interview requester to motivate recipients to participate in customer interview. The key advantage over review requests is that you are no longer limited to sites that allow incentivization.
  • Deduplication window is also available to prevent OnVoard from sending interview requests to the same email address. And just like review requester, we recommend specifying deduplication window if you are using automations to send interview requests.

How Interview Requester Creates Interview

Below is a breakdown of how interview requester can be used to create interview.

Preview of interview request email

After created, you can use requester to send interview request to the user. This can be done manually via console, in bulk via CSV uploads, or with automation.

Notice to indicate that OnVoard has dropped them interview instructions email

Recipient can opt-in their interest by clicking on email link. The link will bring them to a page with a notice indicating that we have dropped them an interview instructions email. Simultaneously, OnVoard will create a new interview for the recipient.

Interview instructions email

This is how the interview instructions email looks like. Interview will be locked from public access and can be accessed with passcode.

Preview of Interview

User can update interview questions with their answers and apply for rewards within a single page. Updated content will serve as a single source of truth for interview.

Interviews Page (OnVoard Console)

Inside OnVoard Console, you can have an overview of stages and progress for all interviews.

Step 2: Automate Sending of Interview Requests

While interview request email can be manually sent via OnVoard's console, most users would prefer automating the process. There are various options available for this and we'll guide you through each of them.

In-Survey Interview Request

Preview of In-Survey Interview Request

Similar to review request, you can use survey actions to ask for interview at the end of survey. Survey rules can be used to conditionally route to interview request action based on the provided answer. For example, only show interview request if respondent rated 9 or above for NPS survey.

Survey Respondent Workflow

Both this and the previous approach relies on surveys to trigger sending of interview request. The difference is that the former would ask of interview request within the survey, while survey respondent workflow would be sending interview request to respondent's email inbox directly if preset conditions are met.

Adding workflow conditions
Adding workflow actions. Interview requester will also be selected for sending.

Lag Window (up to 7 days) can be specified so that interview request doesn't look automated to recipients.

Interview Requester Triggers

Triggers can be set up to automate sending of interview requests. Unlike previous approaches, the only prerequisite for this is interview requester. Triggers are versatile and can be used along with both internal and external integrations.

For example, you can use triggers to automatically send interview request to:

  • Users from Mailchimp segments.
  • Recipients of review request who have applied for rewards. These are a group of users who have shown their willingness to write for your brand. At OnVoard, we call them Incentivized Reviewers.

Multi-Pronged Approach for Interview Request

To take things further, you can adopt a multi-pronged approach for interview request by using a combination of methods for sending. For this to work, it is imperative that you include deduplication window for interview requester setup so that OnVoard won't be sending duplicate interview request emails to the same recipient.

Here's a detailed illustration for interview request lifecycle and how different components can work together to automate sending of interview requests.

Day 1 (Review Request)

  • User is shown NPS survey via web widget.
  • Responds to survey by rating 9 for NPS.
  • Survey rules conditionally route user to in-survey review request.
  • User input email johndoe@example.com and opt-in for review request.
  • Review request email arrives at inbox.
  • User proceeds to leave a review via email link and apply for review reward. User is now considered as an incentivized reviewer.

Day 3 (Incentivized Reviewer)

  • Business fulfilled rewards for incentivized reviewer.

Day 8 (Interview Request)

  • Interview requester trigger is triggered to automatically send interview request to incentivized reviewer 5 days after rewards has been fulfilled.
  • Interview request email arrives at inbox.
  • User indicated his interest by clicking on email link.
  • Interview instructions email is dropped to inbox. At the same time, interview is created for user.
  • User proceeds to answer interview questions via link from interview instructions email.

Day 10 (Deduplication)

  • Another trigger is triggered to send interview request to users from Mailchimp segments.
  • OnVoard will skip recipient (johndoe@example.com) based on deduplication window (100 days).

As you can see, when deduplication window is configured, workflows for interview request can be easily customized according to your use case.

What's Next

This brings us to the end of our guide on how you can programmatically conduct customer interviews with pre-specified questions. For our next post, we'll talk about using OnVoard to power your customer stories page.