As noted in a previous post, video conferencing at the USPTO is a free option that might offer some strategic advantages. But there is another question - when is the best time for an interview?
Our friends over at bigpatentdata.com have some great stats and data on their blog to help answer that - everyone should check it out (https://blog.bigpatentdata.com/2018/06/do-examiner-interviews-live-up-to-the-hype/)!
While the statistics indicate that some times might be better than others, there is always the strategic question of whether the issues causing concern lend themselves to a discussion in the first place. And even if they do, does the record that will be created from the interview (examiner and applicant summaries) cause more problems (even if the interview is successful).
Clearly the data shows, as expected, that an examiner-initiated interview is always the best way toward allowance, but of course that is out of the applicant's control. Or is it?
Often an applicant can send some signals to the examiner in the written correspondence that they are open to an interview. While most responses have boilerplate language to this effect, making some specific statements in the remarks might be a way to spark more examiner initiated interviews. A specific offer to discuss a particular issue, with some specific reasons why a conversation might be helpful, could be more likely to receive a positive response than mere boilerplate.
Further, every time you have a positive interview, it creates an opportunity to let the examiner know that you are open to interviews in future cases. Over a career, there are often times where multiple cases end up before the same examiner. When the applicant's representative is reasonable, flexible, etc., in one interview (to the extent possible in zealously representing the best interests of the client), it creates increased chances for an examiner-initiated interview on a future case (for the same or different client).