How Not To Screw Up Customer Interviews

August 19, 2014

Product Development

Leading interviews is a fine art. You might spend hours brainstorming what you want to know and the questions you plan to ask, but it’s important to watch out for traps that can undo all that good work. If your interview isn’t reliable not only do you waste an opportunity, but you might skew the data.

Here are some tips on conducting a successful customer interview.

Don’t go overboard on your interview squad

Whenever you’re going into a customer interview, you need to be sure you’re well equipped to make the most of it. But you don’t want to intimidate your customers. Two of you is plenty: one to talk, one to take notes. And for one-on-one interviews, consider recording it instead (if you ask nicely, of course).When you’ve worked so hard on a prototype of a new product idea it’s very exciting. And so it’s very tempting to show it off straight away to your customers in interview. Iif you want to get to the heart of their real problems, attitudes and opinions, save it for the end. Start instead with an open conversation.

Be careful with prompts

It can be difficult to get some people to open up, so try asking simple yes/no questions if open-ended questions don’t get you much of a response. Then follow up by asking “Why?” Prompts such as “tell me about” might also help you to trigger something.

Embrace silence

Perhaps an interviewer’s biggest fear is complete silence. It’s an even higher risk the more customers you have in the room at once. But as long as you’re not the one phased by silence, all will be fine. It might not sound friendly, but let your customers feel the pain of silence until they crack. In fact you can wait an entire minute before you follow up with another prompt

Don’t make it personal

Your products are your babies, but you want to avoid conveying this to your customers. If they feel like your pride is at stake based on their feedback, they likely won’t be honest. Caveat your hypotheses with the opinions of ‘others’, “people have suggested to me that…. Do you agree.” And be very careful to be light and breezy when asking for feedback. Remember that criticism is your best opportunity to learn, and you want to hear it.

For even more tips on what to do – and what not to do – during a customer interview, watch this great video from the LIFFFT Inc guys.

How not to screw up customer interviews: Click To Tweet

ProdPad can help you to tag, organize and link your customer feedback to your product roadmap. Sign up for a free trial here

Janna Bastow is co-founder of ProdPad, software that helps product managers plan and deliver better products. Janna also organizes ProductTank events around the world, including Mind The Product, a global community of product managers. She likes to inspire great product conversations by asking: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

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