5 Signs Your Customer Interviews Are Going Poorly

Ned Dwyer
July 6, 2021
5 Signs Your Customer Interviews Are Going Poorly

Doing customer interviews well is hard work. It takes a while to master the art of asking non-leading questions, gently prodding down tangent paths, and the strategic use of silence.

Here are 5 signs that you might be running off track, and need to recalibrate.

Thanks to Rob Fitzgerald’s The Mom Test for the inspiration: “how to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you”.

1. You’re talking more than the customer is

Ideally the customer does most of the talking. As much as 90%. They’re guided by your open ended questions, but the questions shouldn’t require a lot of context. And your responses to their answers shouldn’t be trying to convince them otherwise.

This isn’t a casual conversation - there’s a distinct difference between talking to customers & doing customer research.

State your question clearly and stop talking. Give the customer enough time to think through their answer, communicate it, and add additional commentary. Then pick up the next thread.

2. They are complimenting you or your idea

It’s nice to be flattered, but that’s not what you’re here for. You’re looking for a specific understanding of your customer, their problems & behaviors.

A compliment is generally an indication the customer is trying to please you, not give you the honest truth.

Ignore the compliment, keep digging to get to the truth of the matter.

3. You told them about your idea and don’t have next steps.

You don’t have a plan on the questions to ask your customer beyond “what do you think?”.

You didn’t put together a learning plan or a conversation guide, you’re winging it.

Spent the time to write our your learning goals, and write a conversation guide to keep you on track.

4. You don’t have notes.

If you’re not taking notes you’re setting yourself up for having a bad time. The ideas that support your preconceived notions will stick in your mind, and the rest will be left behind. You will forget the wording used, the tone, the veracity of the claim - and it’s all for naught.

It’s not your fault, humans are flawed like that.

Your notes should ideally capture the language used, the way in which the item was said, and the severity of the issue. Better yet capture audio or video so you can replay the moment for yourself and your team and get back to the source of the insight.

5. You haven’t looked through your notes with your team.

The learnings you earn through every customer interview should be shared with the team - they’re no use silo’d in your head. This process of sharing the customer insights helps the team to push and pull to better understand what you’re hearing, gets everyone up to speed, and should make consensus building & decision making easier.

Notes reviews could happen at the end of every interview, as part of a regular planning meeting, or in a dedicated research-review session. It doesn’t matter how it happens, just make it happen.

Great Question makes it easy to include customer research as a part of every product release. We give you the tools you need to automate recruitment, scheduling interviews or surveys, and sharing what you learn with your team all in one place.

Ned is the co-founder and CEO of Great Question. He has been a technology entrepreneur for over a decade and after three successful exits, he’s founded his biggest passion project to date, focused on customer research. With Great Question he helps product, design and research teams better understand their customers and build something people want.

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