3 Tips for a successful Customer Interview

Behavioural data is key if you want to know if your idea is wanted as THE solution for a problem your target audience is experiencing. Therefore, you’ll have to find ways to collect tons of data, straight from your potential customers. It is key to talk to them and really listen to their needs, problems, desires, etc. It’s the only way to find out if your idea is worth building.

Regardless of what everybody thinks, talking to your customers is still the best way to discover what really drives them. If you can't meet in person, don't hesitate to call or schedule a virtual meeting. But there is one more thing; Being a great interviewer is not an easy task. Here are three tips to help you with collecting the exact data you need.

Tips 1: Listen

Listen more than you talk

An obvious one, right? Well, not necessarily. There is a difference between hearing what the other person has to say and active listening. Many people are already thinking of an answer while their counterpart is speaking. This causes them not to listen to what is being said. You might not like this but your opinion doesn’t mean anything here so it’s not necessary to share either. You'll miss out on so many little nuggets by not focusing on the person in front of you. Just listen and grab the input you need!

Listen actively

What does that entail exactly? It means showing empathy and extracting as much information as possible from the person you're interviewing. You can do this in a variety of ways. Here are three great techniques:

  • Mirroring: Try this one with your friends or partners. You're going to repeat the last three words of what your interviewee said. Make it sound like a question, and I guarantee you the person will elaborate and rephrase what they just said. You might think it's obvious you're using this technique, but they won't notice at all! We promise!
  • Labelling: You're going to pinpoint the emotion of your interviewee in a statement. Use words similar to ‘It feels like..., It seems like..., it sounds like... ‘ to start your sentence. For instance, when someone is angry about another traffic jam, you can say: It sounds like you're frustrated. This simple label will reduce that negative emotion. Well, most of the time 😉.
  • Summarising: It is a compelling way to demonstrate understanding. It means repeating what they said shorter and in your own words. When you do this, your interviewee will see that you listened closely and that you understood what they were trying to say. Joe Rogan, the standup comedian and host of the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, does this when he interviews people. It really works!

If you want to know more about these techniques, go and read the book Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss.

Tip 2: Preparation

Always prepare for your interview exceptionally well. There are two critical aspects you need to take into account when you prep your interview:

  1. The logical flow and structure of the interview: Having a good flow will make the interview more comfortable for both of you. Being all over the place has the interviewee shifting focus constantly to something completely unrelated. This can cost you some good and deep insights. You need to guide the brain to the insights you need.
  2. The script or questions you're going to ask should give you answers that reveal your customer's real motivations. One of the most used techniques is the 5-why's model**.** Asking ‘why’ frequently will reveal what's motivating certain attitudes or behaviour. You might ask:
  • Why do you need to ...?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • Why is that such a pain?

Other questions you could ask that don't start with "why" are:

  • What about this is essential to you?
  • How do you currently do this?
  • What are you trying to get done?
  • What could be better about how you do this?

Tip 3: Facts, not opinions

Always chase facts and not opinions. Ask questions that get your customers to share facts and real experiences they had rather than opinions. For example, don't ask a question that starts with "Would you..?" Instead, ask a question that begins with:

  • When is the last time you...?
  • Tell me about a time you...?
  • How do you currently solve...?

One more thing, at the end of every interview, make sure you ask permission to keep their contact information so you can interview them again when new questions arise. Ask your interviewees if they would be willing to introduce people they know that might be interested in your product or service as well and, most importantly, who would be willing participate in your interview. Make this as easy as possible for them by having an email template ready they can use.

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