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You can't get right answers if you're asking the wrong questions

As I have been in Business Analyst (BA) and Product Owner (PO) positions for a long while, customer focus and feedbacks were always quite important for me. I am working at a company where we, POs can't really talk directly to clients (our end users) - or just once in a while. But luckily there are people at the company whose profession is talking to clients. But we POs obviously always want to be closer to clients, willing to be involved in client meetings as many times as possible, because that makes a lot of sense when it comes to implementing stuff based on client feedbacks. So we want to talk to clients directly, because we think we know the most about our product (as we are the owners of it, right?) so who could be more appropriate than us to talk to the client?
Well.. Today a phone call changed my mind... 

We have a weekend house and sometimes ago the pipes broke in the wall. We have insurance so I immediately logged this incident online. The insurance's online system was quite a surprise, it was easy to find everything and quick to log the incident there (comparing to logging a similar event few years ago in the same system, they improved a lot I think). So, I was satisfied with the user experience.

A few days after logging this incident I got an email from the insurance company to give them feedback about their online system. "Ok, I love giving feedbacks, so I definitely will give feedbacks for them but first I wait for the incident to be solved." - I thought. So I marked the email as a to-do. But they kept sending me reminder emails to fill in the form...

As I dont like outstanding tasks in my inbox, especially when more are about the same thing, I decided to fill in the feedback form even if the incident is not yet closed (hm, they maybe reached their goal by spamming my inbox?).. The feedback form was much worse than the experience with the system itself. Which is another issue here I think. Like there is a system you are absolutely satisfied with and easy to use. And then you get a feedback form to fill in about the well usable system. But its feedback form makes you annoyed and quite nervous as silly questions are put together in weird structure. I filled it in though. Feedback is feedback I take it seriously 😊

Again, one or two days later I got a call. It was a person from the insurance company. I suspect that she must've been a BA or some kind of product person of the online system that I used for logging the incident. But she didn't mention her role in the phone. She didn't ask me whether it is a right time for me to talk or she didn't state a clear goal of the call at the beginning. My first thought was that she should have been more polite. She mentioned they got my feedbacks, and "Is there anything else you might want to highlight?" - she asked. There was nothing specific really, so I said "No, there is nothing I could think of at the moment". But then she started to ask things like "do you have ideas where we should put new fields and what those fields should be?" And whether I missed any fields during my journey in the system. I asked back what she meant exactly on this but she just repeated herself; whether they should put a new field in there. When I asked where exactly she replied "any page in the system".

Wow. So we should stop here for a minute. WHAT KIND OF QUESTIONS ARE THESE??? 
I just hope that she checked my current role before she called and she probably saw I have been PO-ing a long while and that's why she thought she can ask me questions like the above ones. Otherwise I would be very sad if her approach is like this with everyone.

I am not saying that we product persons who sticked with development teams shouldn't reach out to clients. We definitely should, as much as we can. But first we need to think of a few things:
  1. Learn to ask the right questions from the right audience. No one wants to get these kind of questions I wrote above. And companies might not want their employees to ask these questions from any clients.
  2. Learn about user research - there are great articles, readings on this topic even if you are not a UX person you can learn the minimum from these that is necessary in situations like above.
  3. Consult with a person who is more experienced than you. Maybe you just need to do this one or two times and you are ready to go and call the clients.
  4. Step into the client's shoes a bit and imagine you get the same call you are about to make. How would you feel/react? If you imagine the conversation in advance, you would be surprised how much it can help. 
  5. Be kind - don't forget you are the one who asks for help!
And always think about the below: 


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