10 Tips for Conducting Customer Interviews

Too often founders will start a company, assuming they know the issues they are tackling, and will go on to build a product based off of those assumptions. Many will spend an entire year (or more) and excessive amounts of capital building a product they thought people wanted, only to find out it really didn’t serve a real need.

If a founder includes customer interviews in his or her product development process, the end result will be much more successful than without it. However, the approach you take to conduct the interviews can dramatically change the quality of answers you receive. Read Why Customer Interviews are Critical. Making sure you don’t ask ‘leading’ questions that provide non-informative “yes or no” responses are crucial steps to making your customer interviews as effective as possible.

A great video from entrepreneur Justin Wilcox on how to interview customers, a central part of any product strategy but one often executed poorly.

Here are Justin’s rules:

1. Don’t talk about your idea

2. Don’t ask hypotheticals about the future, eg, “Would you like your existing product better if it did X?”

Here are his questions:

1. What’s the hardest part about [context for the problem]? (Don’t make it obvious what problem you’re trying to solve)

2. Can you tell me about the last time that happened? (stories are always better than yes/no answers)

3. Why was that hard?

4. What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem? (hopefully they’re already looking for a solution)

5. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried?


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