Talking to Real Customers

Hello, reader of this blog. We've missed you! We've been focusing heavily on our development - more on that to come soon. Here's a quick update on some of our non-development progress in the meantime.

Real Customer Profile

As part of the CS210B class, we were required to reach out to someone who fits the target audience for our app to get their feedback and do some more in-depth user research.

For this assignment, we reached out to an EV owner who had owned multiple EVs, was a heavy user of public charging, and was heavily involved in the EV community. Our discussion with him consisted of two parts: firstly, we asked him a series of questions, which you can find on this document here, and secondly, we showed him our Sketch/InvisionApp prototype and asked for his feedback.

We got a lot of great feedback from him, including validation that our idea was solving a real problem and that acquiring a significant user base was both necessary for the app to work and also really hard. But we also got something else. At the end of our interview, we asked him if there was anyone else in the EV community with whom we should talk. And that's where the real fun began...

Building Our Network

The customer who we interviewed put us in touch with several other EV owners with whom he recommended we talk. Since our discussion with him had been so fruitful, we decided that it wouldn't hurt to reach out to those EV owners as well. Those EV owners pointed us to more EV owners, and before we knew it, we had talked to several EV owners, with several more requests for conversations in progress (as of writing, we are juggling at least 11 requests for chats).

These chats take a lot of time, but they have proved very valuable in validating our ideas, improving our understanding of our target audience, shaping the software, and giving us new ideas for extensions. We've noticed that Tesla owners are unlikely to use public charging, with the possible exception of Tesla's network of superchargers, so our app is not necessarily that useful to them. For almost all other EVs though, most owners had encountered situations in which they would use Conduit many times, and had been frustrated by those encounters. Most said that public charging was broken, and a couple even said that this was because of lack of communication between EV owners. All were excited about our idea, and wanted to share the app with their friends when it is released.

Some of the suggestions that we have received have been ones that we have thought of: integration with charging networks or with PlugShare, for example. Others were new to us. One interviewee recommended we build an API so that car manufacturers, charging station networks, and PlugShare could all easily integrate with our app as it grows in popularity. Another suggested that we could get information about license plates and phone numbers from ChargePoint or another charging station network directly. A third argued that he'd want to see some sort of visual notification that a car is part of our network - a sticker, perhaps, on the back window. These are all excellent ideas, and we have to consider them as our app development moves forward out of the prototype stage and into the product stage

Takeaways

The biggest takeaway from this adventure is that talking to people is really, really valuable. It takes a lot of time to get to know your customers, but understanding them and their needs is essential to understanding how the product will work "in the wild" and what is necessary to make it work well. We've also learned a great deal about how to market/distribute our product, which is essential for the success of Conduit. As we move closer to launch, we will continue to perform these interviews, both to continue getting feedback and as a method of evangelizing our product to its target audience.