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Can you interview over chat? Kind of.

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Interviewing over chat
I’ve had quite a few people ask me whether it’s possible to interview someone in text over chat, like Twitter DM or Intercom live chat.
I can see where this is coming from. You have a lot going on and async is easier than finding time for a call. Plus, if you’re afraid it will be awkward, it’s easier to be behind a screen than talking. It makes sense people would be eager to find ways to interview in chat.
Here’s the hard truth:
You can’t plunge to the depths necessary over chat, especially for big hairy challenges like what to build, figuring out why someone really bought, or whether they can use the thing you build, or how to stop churn.
On a call, you can hear tone and emotion, which doesn’t come through as easily over text. And the fact that you’re both doing other things means you nor the other person is fully submerged into the topic. (We talked about this a while ago, so I won’t go into it too much more here.)
You can use it as a way to dive into feature requests and pull out some of the reasons people came to you.
I thought it might be helpful to include some real-life examples so you can see how you might do this.
Example: Responding to a survey
This is a conversation I had with someone the other day over live chat right after they responded to our NPS survey. NPS responses come directly into Intercom and we can start live chat or email conversations from the replies. In the beginning, I jumped right to validating and labeling their emotion to get the conversation going.
Feedback Rating: 10
What did you use before you found Geocodio? : I used to do this manually from google maps. Search the address and right click on the map to copy those co-ordinates
Michele: That sounds quite time consuming!
Customer: It was! You have no idea how much time you saved me.
Something I used to spend 2 weeks on to compile a simple report, now can be completed in minutes.
Michele: Wow! Seriously, two weeks. So what led you to come across Geocodio?
Customer: research honestly.
cause I was tired that so much manual work needed to be don
Michele: Ahhh, that makes sense.
Sounds like you hit a point where manual just wasn’t tolerable anymore.
Customer: Yeah. was either find a solution or find a new job. Now i have so much free time during working hours
Michele: Wow! It was that bad? I’m happy we were able to give you some time back and you don’t have to look for a new job. (Or maybe you have time to now…)
Customer: Haha, I am super happy here now. Thank you! Have a great day. Sooner or later, I am going to convince my company to start using your API
Michele: Glad to hear you’re happy now! Excited for all of the more interesting work you can hopefully do now that you’re no longer spending weeks on reports.
Example: Feature request
This is from a conversation I had over Twitter DM with a podcast listener a few months ago. Note that this conversation relies more on summarizing than the above conversation.
Listener: Hey! New listener to the podcast, its been good so far. Super minor thing, but it was kinda hard to find your business through the podcast given I am a new listener. It may be useful to include a link to your business sites in the show notes. Thanks for to pod!
Michele: thanks! I’m curious - what prompted you to want to find it?
Listener: I found it through the Indie Hackers podcast website.
Michele: Ah, I meant our business sites. I’m wondering what led you to want to find them.
Listener: Ahh, gotcha. I just ended up searching for your twitter handles and found it through there.
I feel like knowing what you are building gave a lot more context to the conversations on the podcast. I felt like I was missing some of the detail not really knowing the businesses you were working on.
Michele: gotcha, that makes sense!
we’ve thought about doing a quick 10-15 minute “hey here’s the 5000 foot view if you’re new here” show – would that be helpful for you?
Listener: Yea, it would be! I’m not sure what the best solution is though. I found the pod because the topics seemed interesting. I feel like an overview show would be useful for me as I will see it pop up in my podcast feed, but new episodes are kinda ephemeral. If new listeners find the cast 3 episodes after that one then most podcast apps wouldn’t load it by default.
Michele: We can have a pinned episode on our website, kinda thinking it would go there: [link]
Listener: I think something that another inde business podcast (Release Notes) does that was useful for me was just to introduce the business name at the beginning of the podcast.
Michele: Do they talk about the same businesses every week, or different ones?
Listener: Its similar to your show. Two hosts talking about building their businesses.
Michele: Ah, interesting
Listener: “Hey I’m Joe, owener of Balmbing Brain interactive..” “Hi Im Charles owner of Rolonet”
Michele: Do you listen to a lot of indie founder podcasts?
Listener: I do! I am hoping to start something small after I finish grad school its cool to hear stories of people building out businesses.
I mostly listen to tech podcasts, but indie founder podcasts about tech companies is a nice break from just hearing about new frameworks or apple products lol
I am no expert in business or podcasting so take what I say with a grain of salt lol.
I use overcast and here is what I see when I listen to the podcast. When I first started it was kinda hard to dig into finding links (was driving), so I had to remember to do it when I got home.
Michele: ah, gotcha
that’s helpful context!
it sounds like having the hosts sort of “announce” themselves could also help transition you between shows if you’re listening to multiple in a row?
Listener: Yea, I guess I didn’t think of that. I didn’t realize that your show didn’t have “Intros”, maybe thats why it felt hard (all of 5 minutes) to find out what was going on? It felt like I was jumping into the middle of a conversation.
Michele: gotcha, that makes sense
I wonder if we could do something before the ad, like “Welcome back to Software Social. This week’s episode is sponsored by…”
Listener: Maybe? I think the start of the podcast seems fine. Starting with the ad feels like a bookend already (I think thats what happens today), its after that where I feel like I am dropped into the middle of a conversation.
I appreciate you taking my feedback. Sorry I don’t have any concrete suggestions and just came to you with a problem (that honestly may just be isolated to me).
Michele: yeah, I think we could work it better into the bookend… really helpful! I appreciate you letting me dig in :)
As the product creator, it’s my job to understand people’s situations and then translate that into things that solve it. That is not the burden of the customer (or the listener in this case). So you’re fine :)
Listener: NP, thank you! I guess just being in large companies I am used to having suggestions rather than just problems when giving feedback. I don’t want it to come off as complaining.
Back to work though, again appreciate your work! If you ever want feedback again I am open to sharing my thoughts. Take care.
Michele: I can see that. It’s okay :)
Michele, a week later: Hi [Name]! After thinking about how you listen to podcasts back-to-back and need a way to differentiate them, I added a “Hey, welcome back to Software Social” before this week’s episode. I’m curious, did that help?
Listener: I did notice that! I do think it was helpful
Michele: oh great! we’re also considering getting music of some sort - that’s how a lot of shows distinguish themselves as well
Listener: Nice! Ive heard them used at both the beginning and end of podcast (one or the other) and I think it’s cool. Kinda like the intros from sitcoms. The Darknet Diaries podcast does a nice version of that. Not sure having it would add/distract from me listening to a podcast. Granted I am a sample size of 1, but the main reason that would make me drop a podcast is the host, all of the other stuff are nice to haves.
Michele: That makes sense! We’d like to get coffee shop noise or something. It’s just something else that eases the listener in and creates mentally familiarity.
Listener: Yea, makes it feel familiar.
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