Three ideas to help you get started with user research

I started out in PR at Freshworks. I rarely spoke to customers when I was in PR, except when I worked on doing some case studies of how people used Freshdesk. It’s something I regret now – I should have used the first two years of my career to get in front of more customers. The fact that I didn’t start out in support or presales was a big disadvantage for me when I moved to product management.

But when I did move, the first thing I wanted to do was talk to our users and get a mental model of a typical business that used Freshdesk. We didn’t have a user research team back then, and I’ve never liked waiting, so this is how I rolled up my sleeves and got some work done, to start talking to several customers.

I’m sharing these three ideas, because they will help you quash blockers to user research in your organization. Let’s go.

1. Don’t wait for permission to email customers

You’re probably wondering if you need your sales, support or customer success team’s permission to start contacting customers, because the perception is that customers hate it when multiple people from the same organization approach them.

While that’s largely true, you’d be surprised to know that your customers totally love it when a product person invites them to listen to them – who doesn’t love to give feedback on something they bought and use? Unless you work for a behemoth (like Microsoft or Salesforce), you shouldn’t wait for permission or help from internal teams to connect you with customers. If you do, you will end up speaking to none or just two, when you could have spoken to fifty people to discover patterns and insights.

So, here’s the thing: don’t wait, don’t ask. Just grab a list of your paying users – from your internal tools or with the help of an engineer, or even from a team that has those details already. This is step one to get the ball rolling.

2. Take off the grunt work with Mail Merge and Calendly

The fun part of doing user research is talking to customers and being surprised by how they use your product. The really boring part of user research is emailing people and coordinating calls.

Two tools can save you from the boring bits so you can do more of the fun stuff: mail merge and Calendly. For those of you who don’t know: mail merge is a simple way to send bulk, personalized emails without using marketing automation software. With the help of Mail Merge It for Gmail, you can send personalized emails to a few hundred or a thousand people, in one shot. You just copy your list of customers with their email address into this sheet, run the script, and pick an email sitting in your drafts.

Because the emails sent via mail merge are sent through your own Gmail account, they land in your customers’ personal inboxes directly. If you instead choose to use some other tool to bulk email customers, you’re reducing your chances of your emails getting noticed, because they get buried in the Promotions tab.

You can send across a Calendly link along with these emails, so your customers can book available timeslots on your calendar, without having to exchange emails with you.

These two tools help take a lot of grunt work and cognitive load away, so you can happily connect with your customers faster.

3. Befriend some folks from your sales and support teams

I’m not great at this, but I’m trying to get better. When you offer sales and support folks help with anything they’re working on, it removes the hesitation they have in approaching you. This builds rapport, and also opens the door for you to get a seat when customers are sharing insights on how they want to use your software, with your sales or support teams.

How do you get in front of customers regularly, so you can learn from them? If you’ve got ideas on how you’ve built that habit, I’d love to learn in the comments section.

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