40 product discovery questions for product managers

November 8, 2022
7 mins read
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What is product management all about?

Giving users the product that addresses their pain points, right?

Product managers and development teams put in all the efforts to offer the right solution to customer problems.

But how to understand the user problems? What can we do to identify the user needs?

That’s where product discovery interviews come into the picture.

Holding product discovery interviews lets product managers understand users and the market space. Especially, when building something new, product discovery interviews are important.

To gain deeper insights about product discovery questions, keep reading!

How to Conduct a Product Discovery Interview?

Product discovery interviews demand proper preparation.

Here, the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework for customer needs by Christensen can be a useful tool for product managers and development teams.

As Late Clayton Christensen said - “To get to the right answers you should be asking: What job would consumers want to hire a product to do?”

It helps product managers to understand what product can help them to do their jobs better. The more complex the job, the easier the product makes it for your customers. Thus, the chances of product success increase.

Using the JTBD framework, managers can define, categorize, capture, and organize all the user needs. The product teams can understand deeply the ‘jobs’ users are trying to get done. Also, they can identify the metrics customers use to measure success or effectiveness.

Product Discovery Interview Steps

Guide to Job-to-Be-Done Interviews

The JTBD framework can equip product teams with all the knowledge about customer needs. The teams can;

  • Identify the unmet needs
  • Find out customer segments with different unmet requirements
  • Conceptualize products systematically
  • Predict product concepts that may be successful in the market
  • Streamline R&D, development, and marketing actions to organize and systematically create customer value

Here’s a brief explanation of the JTBD framework.

The 3 Customer Types

The framework provides three customer types to consider before the teams can set out to identify their needs. Typically, most companies serve three types of customers.

  • Job executor – the customer using a product to get the core job done.
  • Product lifecycle support team – This category contains different groups that support the product lifecycle. For instance, people who install, maintain, repair, upgrade, transport, etc.
  • Buyer – this individual makes the financial purchase decision.

For most companies, the consumer plays all three roles. However, it may vary industry-wise. This categorization is useful as each customer type has different needs.

The 5 Job Types

The JTBD framework shows 5 types of jobs that the different customer categories are trying to get done.

  • Core functional job – The main job to be done and the reason why a market exists. The goal of building a product is to accomplish the core functional job in a way better than its competition. Repairing a car, protecting the company database against cyber-attacks, etc. are examples of core functional jobs.
  • Related jobs – The jobs that customers try to get done before or after the core job. With an understanding of related jobs, teams can build products that can help customers perform multiple jobs.
  • Emotional jobs – Involves the experience or feeling of the customer when executing the core job. This category includes social jobs. The emotional inputs are important when creating a value proposition that blends both functional and emotional elements to connect with customers.
  • Consumption chain jobs – Product installation, set up, transporting, storing, maintaining, and repairs are all consumption chain jobs that impact customer experience. These jobs vary depending on the product being offered.
  • Purchase decision job – Involves making purchase decisions considering the financial aspect to find out which product or service should be acquired. Here, the teams desire to know what financial metrics customers use to make their purchase decisions.
5 types of jobs for different customer categories

The JTBD Needs Framework

Keeping aside the planning part, here are a few tips that product managers must remember when executing the interview.

  • Keep an open mind. Avoid putting your ideas into the users’ minds. Interview the users to learn their insights instead of validating something you are already sure about.
  • Initiate the discussion. Product managers must start the discussion and lead it. Let customers do the real talking.
  • Record the interview. The managers must be fully focused on the interviewee. So, have someone take notes or record the interview.
  • Be kind and connect. Make sure to smile during the interview. Let your customers be comfortable speaking their hearts out. Try to be open and kind as it helps customers to share their insights without hesitating.
  • Ask about customer jobs and related problems. Let your customers talk about their job related to the topic. For instance, if your customer is a customer support manager, ask how they manage customers, what are the priority jobs, and what challenges they face in completing the jobs. 
  • Ask about the current product they use. What products or hacks does the customer use currently to address the pain and complete the job? Question them how satisfied they are with the current product.

How do you Ask Good Product Discovery Questions?

The goal of product discovery interviews is to find out what users are looking for, and what problems they are trying to solve.

But product managers must know how to conduct the interviews the right way. Let’s see how it’s done.

Plan

Start with understanding your goal(s). What are you trying to accomplish from the product discovery interview? What do you want to learn about?

  • Establish general or more specified goals. Product managers must create a list of goals or questions that they want answers to. Once the goals are chalked out, it helps to create the framework for the product discovery questions.
  • Identify the target audience. Who are you going to talk to? Customers or stakeholders? Is there a specific set of target users? What customer segments are you trying to reach out to?
  • Find out the specific attributes of the customer segments like demographics, buying patterns, etc. Specifying the target audience helps when managers want to focus on a certain area of product discovery.

Execute

To find out user needs, product managers must ask the right questions.

Product managers need to have conversations with customers to understand their problems. Not all product interview questions need to be formal. There can be informal chats too.

Set up formal product discovery calls following a pre-built template if you prefer formal. Regardless of whether you prefer formal or informal interviews, remember to stick to the goals. Focus on the user problems that you want to solve.

The most important thing is to ask good questions that lead to concrete answers. Ask open-ended product interview questions so that users can talk and you can learn.  

Reflect

Reflection is a crucial step. After the interview, product managers must reflect on the learnings, create notes, and share them with the product management team. It helps to understand the reason behind the product development and what it accomplishes.

The learning from the interviews reveals the user problems. It helps in identifying the existing gaps in the product that needs improvement. Also, at times, these learnings can bring up new product interview questions for later.

However, sharing the product interview details with the development team, engineers, etc. can help in brainstorming. Managers can get different opinions, perspectives, and important questions for subsequent product discovery interviews.

To ensure conducting product discovery interviews successfully, try to implement the following practices.

1. Be prepared

Product managers must have a clear vision in their minds about what they want to know and how they can know it. It is necessary to prepare a script that focuses on the interview objectives and shows how to achieve them.

2. Be ready for criticisms

As product managers, you may have your set of assumptions and insights based on industry knowledge and experience. But prepare to be proven wrong with a few customers disagreeing with your insights.

Product discovery interviews are all about learning new perspectives and customer problems. In fact, you may include at least one product discovery question that can change your current business imagination.

3. Prevent validation

Do not ask leading questions. ‘Do you want a new feature in the product?’ will mostly generate ‘yes’ as a response.

Customers generally validate or provide positive feedback to be polite. But this may lead to building something that no customer wants. Hence, ensure that your customers are brutally honest.

Also, try not to talk about your ideas in the interview. It will only lead customers to say how great the idea is.

4. Ask about customer experiences

When you want to talk about the future, ask customers about their last experience - the likes and dislikes. However, avoid projection bias. 

Also, frame the relevant questions in a way that customers get the chance to share their opinions and suggestions. Do not use close-ended questions. Simple yes or no questions do not help you discover customer issues. 

5. Limit the interview sessions

Keep a limited number of interviews per day, say around three to four sessions. Try not to overcrowd the room as it may scare customers. In case of calls, limit them to prevent exhaustion.

It is also a good practice to involve team members instead of conducting the interviews alone. It helps in taking notes and organizing the interviews properly.

6. Be grateful and ask for referrals

Thank the customers for their time and shared insights. Tell them how valuable the interview was and how it will help in developing better products.

Product managers must also ask permission to follow up with customers. Also, ask for referrals. Let them know that you would like to interview anyone interested.

40 Questions to Ask in your Product Discovery Process

To make the most out of the product discovery process, asking the right questions to the customers is significant. 

Here are 25 product discovery questions that will lead to insightful responses. Pick the ones that are relevant to your business.

Category 1: What is the pain point your product is trying to address?

Every product is created to solve a customer's problem. There may be multiple concerns that require addressing to build the relationship between the customer problem and the solution. These product discovery questions can help product teams make customers’ existing processes more convenient and efficient.

  • Does the product address your problem directly?
  • Is the product convenient?
  • Are there other competing products to solve the problem? 
  • Did the competing products address your problem successfully?
  • How many customers face the same pain point as yours?
  • What are the product strengths and opportunities that you can bank on?

Category 2: Who are you interviewing?

Product discovery questions vary according to the person or group being interviewed. Each of the groups (customers, stakeholders) may have a different set of priorities.

The product teams must consider asking the questions. It will help them get information about where the visions of the different groups overlap. Further, based on these insights, the team can develop a product that resonates with every stakeholder involved.

Product discovery questions for end-users

  • What is the current product or process you are using to solve the problem?
  • What are the challenges of the current process or product?
  • What improvements do you wish in the current process or product?
  • Are there any other products that you must or can integrate with your current process/ product?
  • What does your ideal solution to the problem look like?

Product discovery questions for business stakeholders

  • What are your primary business goals for the coming three years?
  • Does the product align with the business goals?
  • What are the metrics you’ll use to measure the success of the product?
  • What are the key industry trends that may impact the product's success?

Category 3: Which phase of the product discovery process are you in?

1. Early-stage discovery

Ask the following product discovery questions to discover customer needs and challenges.

  • How to accomplish the ‘job’ currently?
  • What challenges do you encounter when performing the job?
  • What products do you use to complete your job?
  • What do you like about each product?

Once you identify the solution to your customer's problem, ask the following questions to see if the idea resonates with the customer.

  • What is the best aspect of the solution you currently have?
  • What is it that you do not like about the current solution to your problem?
  • Would something like (the solution idea) make life easier for you?
  • How much are you willing to pay for (the idea)?

2. Prototyping

If you have the solution wireframe ready, ask the following product discovery questions to get customer feedback on the same.

  • What does think this prototype is for?
  • What jobs do you expect this product to perform?
  • Would you like to make any changes to the current prototype?

If you have options in prototypes that users can test, ask the following questions.

  • Which prototype version makes more sense to you?
  • Do you prefer any of the versions over the others?

3. Development and pre-launch

At this stage, interactive prototypes are beneficial as it lets the product teams watch users exploring them before the development begins.

  • Which features of the product do you find the most and the least useful?
  • Does any feature of the product seem out of place or not unnecessary?

4. Post-launch

Track the product after it has been launched. It helps product teams to improvise the product and continue to evolve the experience.

These post-launch product discovery questions will help you make decisions on adding or eliminating product features and functionality.

  • What features or functionality of the product would you like to remove?
  • Is there any feature you would want to add to the product?
  • What functionality would make the product easier to use and more efficient?

Category 4: Evaluate Value Addition

Every business stakeholder – employees, owners, customers, investors – must derive value from the product. The following product discovery questions can help the product management teams to shape their ideas in a better way.

  • What value can the product add to your life?
  • What does your current problem-solving process look like?
  • What is the degree of investment risk associated with the product?

Category 5: Resolve product limitations

The earlier the product constraints are recognized the better. It helps the product teams to decide how they can build the product and how much they want to spend doing it.

Ask the following product discovery questions to establish the perimeter or outline of the product.

  • Which customer problems need urgent solutions?
  • Does the product address the real needs of the customers?
  • What are the threats and weaknesses that must be resolved?
  • Can the ideal product be built?

In Conclusion

The product discovery process is critical. It helps in defining the customer problem and aligning stakeholders to build a product with the highest possibility of finding a market fit.

To ensure the success of this process, it is necessary to ask the right product discovery questions and choose the right team for the execution of the entire activity.

Further, the right product management software can help you make the discovery process easy and successful. Zeda.io is a platform that you must check out. 

With collect, analyze, plan, and execute your product management processes - all from a single platform. From collecting feedback to building roadmaps and sharing them with your customers, teams, etc. makes everything simpler and easy to execute. 

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