Introducing UserExpert 👋🏼

TL;DR

We’ve built a new app for Intercom that greatly simplifies the task of coordinating and scheduling user interviews. Here’s a quick peek:

The Problem

My journey started in Fall of 2017 in my last role at Hudl. My group was chartered with improving trial conversion. A couple of very talented designers on our team led the effort to talk to new users to better understand their needs, motivations and problems getting started. The process we followed should feel familiar to those that work at other user-centric companies:

Interview Setup

  1. Get list of users matching target criteria from an internal data warehouse/analytics solution. More likely than not rely on a data analyst, product manager or developer familiar with SQL to fine tuning the targeting.
  2. Optional step – send a survey to list from step 1 to better qualify prospects.
  3. Manually email an initial batch of prospects so as to not contact more people than needed.
  4. Wait a day or two to hear back, and if an insufficient number responded send out another batch of emails. Increase the incentive amount if response rates continue to be sub-par.
  5. For those that did respond, coordinate back and forth on a time that works on both ends.
  6. Send out personalized reminders to participants to reduce no-shows.
  7. Remind teammates about upcoming interviews and hope that they are free to join the meetings.
  8. Hope and pray that interviewees actually show up. 🙏🏼

During Interview

  1. Do the interview.
  2. Record the call with permission of the participant.
  3. Have someone take notes or transcribe live.

Post Interview

    1. Send the user a gift card.
    1. Transcribe the call if not done during the call.
    1. Synthesize insights, document findings and circulate to rest of team and company.
  1. Repeat the above steps when more users need to be spoken with.

As you may have correctly summarized, this is all so manual and takes up a ton of valuable time. It’s exhausting to have to do this manually and regularly, and the only reason we kept at it was because of the valuable insights we were getting throughout the process. 

We did automate this process somewhat by duck taping the following: a ruby script that used SQL to pull user emails, a transaction email service to message users, and a calendaring solution to streamline meeting bookings. While it did streamline things for us, it was brittle, lacked some critical functionality and wasn’t user-friendly enough for the rest of our organization to adopt.

In talking to friends and connections at other world-class companies, such as Adobe, Marketo, Runkeeper and Dropbox, I have come to learn that the issues we faced were not unique to our team but something that slows down teams industry-wide.

In the age of driverless cars that roam our streets and rocket boosters that land themselves, surely there has to be a better way of doing this.

Introducing UserExpert for Intercom 🎉

Fast forward to today, and I’m excited to announce the availability of UserExpert for Intercom as a beta. At this very early stage, it does one thing and one thing only: for companies that use Intercom, it automates user interview scheduling so that designers, UX researchers and product managers don’t have to do it themselves or hire others to do it for them. Basically, covering the setup steps 1-8 outlined above. 

Our main hypothesis is that by deeply integrating with CRM, usage analytics and communication solutions, such as Intercom, the tool’s users will automatically have the most relevant and up-to-date data in one-place from which to target, message and schedule interview participants, eliminating the need to do things manually or bridge data across silo’d systems, such as spreadsheets, email marketing tools and calendaring solutions. Plus, as the organization adopt platforms, such as Intercom, there’s clear visibility and more context on communication happening with users, including user interviews; this dramatically reduces over-communication and stale feedback cycles.

Here’s a demo video of how it works.

One step at a time … 

I keep asking myself the following question since I started working on this problem: Is this just a rewarding, ever-running side-project? Or does this pave the path to bigger things, such as building a broader customer experience focused business that helps companies better understand their users?

Candidly, I don’t know yet. What I do know is that I wish we had such a tool at my previous companies. Based on user discovery I’ve done, I think that this tool will benefit others as well and make their lives just a little bit better.

My ultimate goal is to continue building it in a mindful and sustainable fashion, and make it so valuable that people will be sad to see it not improved and maintained.

Give it a try

I hope you’ll put UserExpert to the test and that it helps you talk to your users without all the hassles that go with it. Sign up today at https://www.user.expert/intercom

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