Four Hacks to Interview Customers at Speed

3 min readMar 29, 2021


Starting or working for high-growth companies means wearing multiple hats and moving fast. This is great because it provides the best opportunity to grow quickly and have an impact.

But product managers often need to slow down and listen to customers to empathize with their needs and circumstances. So how does one extract deep insights from customer interviews with limited reflection time?

I believe the answer lies in having an efficient process and habits. Here are four hacks from the 500+ interviews I’ve moderated over the last four years.

#1. Zap Your Toolkit

The last thing you need after a week of interviewing is disorganized data. Who made that comment? When did we speak to that person? Poor data collection will hinder your ability to see themes across interviews.

I’ve found that systematizing my tools with Zapier allowed me to automate the organization and processing of my data. There are three pieces to this.

First, I configured Calendly to send automated reminders and follow-ups. This has helped me lower my now-show rate to single digits.

Then, I use Zapier to publish all Calendly registrations to Google Sheets and also to transfer my Zoom videos to my translation tool (see Hack #4).

Finally, by adding screener questions to Calendly forms and UTM codes to the URLs in my recruitment emails, I’m automatically building a research repository in Google Sheets the moment that someone registers for an interview.

#2. Use This Notetaking Template

When conducting interviews back to back, it’s easy to lose track of your handwritten notes. It’s also difficult to take good notes while being fully present as a moderator.

To overcome this, I’ve developed this simple notetaking template to help me take handwritten notes during interviews. Most of my interviews span four to five topics; so this template helps me stay organized and capture key points.

Print a dozen of these templates before doing your next interview sprint. You may find that having separate interview records is helpful in processing your notes.

#3. Write Key Takeaways Immediately

The best way to ensure that research produces insights is to immediately reflect and write down key takeaways. This is essential because we have a tendency to overestimate our memory’s potential, as well as, the likelihood that we will go back and thoroughly relisten to our interviews.


According to researchers, humans forget over 40% of what we learn within 20 mins. If the goal of customer discovery is to unearth knowledge, then the immediate moments after an interview are the greatest opportunity for discovery.

It is also best practice to invite teammates to observe your research calls. The richest insights often come from debriefing with others.

#4. Choose the Right AI Transcription Service

There are a lot of companies offering transcription services for product managers and U/X researchers. I’ve tried all of the popular services — Trint, DoveTail, and Descript. I recommend that you choose the service that is best tailored to the deliverable you aim to produce.

My goals are to create:

  1. Written summaries of calls with key themes with quotes
  2. Video montages of key moments across interviews
  3. Repositories of user feedback aligned to Jira/Trello backlog items

The closest program that I’ve found for creating a research repository is Dovetail. However, integrating Dovetail with Trello and Slack is only possible through Zapier and still quite limited.

My favorite tool for transcription and analysis is Descript. It outperforms most programs on detecting speakers, removing “ah’s and um’s”, and creating compositions of feedback across interviews and topics.

I’m also intrigued with Milk Video, a Y Combinator company. Milk Video makes it effortless to create social marketing videos, such as case studies, from Zoom recordings.

Written by Colin Magee

Do you have any hacks for conducting market research? Please share in the comments section below.




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