Best Buy Product Manager Sid Saladi shares some practical advice for maximising the opportunity for insights from customer interviews
– Talking to the right customers is crucial to solving problems for the right set of people
– Good questions reveal how customers feel and what frustrates them, which provides valuable insight into their needs and potential interest in your product
– Keeping interviews casual helps customers to feel more comfortable and encourages them to open up and share their true feelings and experiences
– Understanding the root cause of customer problems helps you to solve the right problem instead of applying a band-aid solution
– Listening more and talking less helps you gather more information about whether a concept will work
Uncovering valuable insights from customer interviews is crucial to create products that truly meet their needs. This article will explore five strategies to help you extract the right information from your customers, ensuring your products are loved and used.
1. Talk to the right customers
Defining the right customer segment is fundamental to solving problems for the right set of people. To do this, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Is the customer you’re talking to representing your future user base?
- Is this segment too broad?
- Can you further segment the user?
When you lack a clear understanding of your target customer, you can find yourself addressing multiple customer segments simultaneously, which leads to confusion.
Working with a broad customer segment presents three significant challenges:
- Being inundated with numerous options. It becomes difficult to make informed decisions.
- Progressing without the opportunity to test or disprove assumptions, as you engage with a new segment each time.
- Receiving conflicting feedback due to the different perspectives of the different customer segments.
To refine your customer segment, consider:
- Creating customer personas: Develop detailed profiles of your ideal customers, including demographics, interests and behaviors.
- Identifying your target market: Determine the specific market segment your product or service is designed for, and focus on customers within that segment.
- Contacting existing customers: Engage with customers who have already purchased or shown interest in your product or service, as they can provide valuable feedback on their experiences.
Fuzzy customer definitions can lead to confusion and mixed feedback. If you aren’t consistently identifying problems and goals, then you don’t yet have a specific enough customer segment.
2. Ask good questions and avoid bad questions
Asking good questions and drawing valuable insights will help you avoid bias or getting misleading information from the customers. Compare these examples:
- Do you think building a day planner app on Alexa is a good idea?
- Would you use a day planner app on Alexa?
- Would you buy a product that would plan your day?
- How do you plan your regular day?
- What apps do you use to plan your day?
- Why are you planning your day that way?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Are you actively looking for a replacement for the app you use?
- If you’re not looking for a replacement, why not?
- How much time do you spend planning your day?
Good questions reveal how customers feel and what frustrates them, which provides valuable insight into their needs and potential interest in your product.
3. Keep interviews casual
Learning about a customer and their problems works better as a casual chat than a long, formal meeting. Treating the interview as a conversation not only helps the customers feel more comfortable but also encourages them to open up and share their true feelings and experiences. Here are some tips for maintaining a casual atmosphere during your customer interviews:
1. Choose an informal setting: Conduct interviews in a relaxed environment or a casual meeting room. If the interview is virtual, use a friendly tone and a non distracting background.
2. Begin with small talk: Start the conversation with light-hearted questions or ice breakers to put the customer at ease. For example, ask about their day or share a relatable personal anecdote.
3. Use simple language: Avoid using technical jargon or industry-specific terms that may confuse or intimidate the customer. Speak in plain, everyday language that is easy to understand.
4. Be an active listener: Show genuine interest in what the customer is saying by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and occasionally paraphrasing their statements to show that you’re listening and understanding their perspective.
5. Encourage open-ended responses: Instead of asking yes/no questions, encourage the customer to elaborate on their thoughts by asking open-ended questions that require more detailed answers.
6. Allow for pauses: Give the customer time to think and formulate their responses. Don’t rush them or try to fill every silence with questions or comments.
7. Express empathy: If the customer shares a frustration or concern, acknowledge their feelings and express understanding. This helps build trust and rapport, making them more willing to share honest feedback.
4. Understand why and dig deep
It’s important to understand why people are saying something and the root cause of the problem. Delving into the details will help you solve the right problem instead of applying a band-aid solution. Look for commonalities in customer feedback, and prioritize the most popular problems first.
Ask yourself to understand why:
- Why does this product matter to the customer?
- Does this product solve a problem the customer cares about?
- Is the customer willing to pay for this product?
Here are some techniques and tips to help you understand why and dig deep:
i: The “5 Whys” method
The “5 Whys” is a problem-solving technique that involves asking “why?” repeatedly (typically around five times) to explore the cause-and-effect relationships of a problem. This method encourages you to move beyond surface-level issues and uncover the underlying causes. For example:
- Why are you dissatisfied with your current solution? (1st Why)
- Why does that aspect bother you? (2nd Why)
- Why is that important to you? (3rd Why)
And so on, until you reach the root cause of the issue.
ii: Use probing questions
Probing questions are designed to elicit more information, encouraging interviewees to elaborate on their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Examples of probing questions include:
- Can you tell me more about that?
- How did that make you feel?
- What was your thought process when you made that decision?
These questions help you gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s perspective and gather richer insights.
iii: Listen for clues
Pay close attention to the customer’s responses, and listen for clues that indicate an underlying issue or deeper emotion. If you notice a recurring theme or a particular point the customer is passionate about, explore it further with additional questions.
iv: Paraphrase and clarify
Paraphrasing the customer’s response and asking for clarification ensures you understand their perspective correctly. This technique can also encourage them to provide more information or delve deeper into their thoughts. For example:So, you’re saying that the main issue you have with the current solution is [XYZ], correct? Can you tell me more about why that is a problem for you?
v: Encourage storytelling
Asking customers to share specific examples or stories related to their experiences can reveal valuable insights into their motivations, behaviors, and pain points. For instance:
- Can you walk me through a typical day using the current solution?
- Can you describe a situation where you faced this problem, and how you tried to solve it?
By employing these techniques and focusing on understanding why and digging deep, you’ll be better equipped to identify the root causes of customer problems and develop solutions that genuinely meet their needs.
5. Talk less, listen more
Talking less and listening more helps you gather more information about whether a concept will work or not. The best discoveries are made by letting information come to you.
To become a better listener do this:
- Use verbal and nonverbal cues (e.g., nodding, saying “mm-hmm”) to show you’re engaged and listening.
- Resist the urge to immediately offer solutions or defend your product. Instead, focus on understanding the customer’s viewpoint.
By following these five strategies, you can uncover valuable insights from customer interviews and create products that truly meet their needs. Remember to talk to the right customers, ask good questions, keep interviews casual, dig deep into the underlying problems, and listen more than you speak. With these strategies in place, you’ll be better equipped to develop products that resonate with your target audience.
Inviting customers to interviews: An email template
Now that you have a better understanding of how to conduct effective customer interviews, it’s time to invite your customers to participate. Here’s an email template to help you extend a professional and engaging invitation:
Subject: Share Your Thoughts & Help Us Improve: Join Our Customer Interview Dear [Customer’s Name],
I hope you’re doing great! My name is [Your Name], and I am a [Your Position] at [Your Company]. We are committed to offering the best possible experience to our customers, and to do that, we need your help. We’re reaching out to select customers like you to gain valuable insights and feedback on our [Product/Service].
We would be honored if you could spare some time to participate in a one-on-one customer interview. Your perspective is invaluable to us, and your input will directly impact our future improvements and offerings.
Here’s what you can expect from the interview:
Date: [Proposed Date]
Time: [Proposed Time]
Location: [If in person, specify location. If virtual, mention the platform, e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, etc.]
Duration: Approximately [Duration, e.g., 30-45 minutes]
Appreciation Gift: [Incentive, e.g., $30 gift card, discount on your next purchase, etc.]
During this casual conversation, we’ll discuss your experiences with our [Product/Service], explore your needs, and gather your suggestions for improvement. Your input will be instrumental in helping us enhance our [Product/Service] for customers like you.
If you’re interested in participating, please click the link below to schedule the interview at a time that suits you best:
[Link to scheduling tool, e.g., Calendly]
Thank you for considering our invitation, and we hope to have the opportunity to learn from your insights and experiences.
[Your Email Address]
[Your Phone Number]
Customer interview discussion guide template
Having a structured discussion guide can help you keep the conversation on track while ensuring you cover all relevant topics during the customer interview. Here’s a template to help you create an effective discussion guide for your interviews:
Interviewer’s background information
Interviewee’s background information
Company (if applicable):
Length of time as a customer:
1. Goal 1 (e.g., understand customer’s experience with the product) 2. Goal 2 (e.g., identify pain points and areas for improvement) 3. Goal 3 (e.g., explore potential new features or solutions)
Introduction and ice breaker (5 minutes)
Introduce yourself and your role
Thank the customer for participating
Explain the purpose and goals of the interview
Assure confidentiality and emphasize that their feedback is valuable Sample ice breaker question: “How has your day been so far?”
Customer background and context (5-10 minutes)
How long have you been using our [product/service]?
What initially led you to start using our [product/service]?
What other products/services have you used in the past for similar purposes?
Customer experience and satisfaction (10-15 minutes)
Can you describe your overall experience with our [product/service]?
What do you like most about our [product/service]?
What aspects of our [product/service] could be improved or are causing you difficulties?
Pain points and challenges (10-15 minutes)
What specific challenges or pain points have you encountered while using our [product/service]?
How have you addressed these challenges or pain points before? What do you wish our [product/service] could do to better address these issues?
New features or solutions (10-15 minutes)
Are there any features or solutions you would like to see added to our [product/service]?
How do you think these additions would enhance your experience or address your pain points?
If applicable, would you be willing to pay more for these added features or solutions?
Closing and next steps (5 minutes)
Thank the customer for their time and valuable feedback
Is there anyone who you would recommend me to interview next ? Briefly recap the main takeaways from the interview
Explain how their input will be used to improve the [product/service]
If applicable, provide information on the incentive for participating (e.g., gift card, discount)