Agile Insights Blog

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8 Tips for Conducting Killer Customer Interviews

Oct 28, 2021 9:00:00 AM

While we’re sure you have the most creative, inventive, brilliant minds working on your product development and marketing teams, odds are that they are lacking clairvoyant abilities and can not accurately predict how your customers will react to new product features, branding or messaging.  And since your amazing team isn’t made up of a bunch of psychics, you must gather actual customer feedback prior to launching a new initiative or trust your gut. With budgets as tight as they are right now, do you really want to take your gut’s word for it?

The best way to determine how your customers will respond to a new offering is to simply ask them. There are many ways to gather customer feedback – through surveys, social listening, scouring reviews, live chat via your website – but today we’re focusing on how to get feedback directly from the horse’s mouth: interviews with your customers.

Unlike many other methods of collecting feedback, interviews mainly include open-ended questions in which your customers might address points and topics that you haven’t yet thought to ask, leaving you with incredibly valuable insights. In-person interviews also leave your customer with a sense of being really heard – building customer loyalty and trust. But conducting in-person interviews can be tricky and downright painful, especially if you are unprepared. We have you covered with these 8 tips:

1)     Choose carefully. Think about inviting a range of interviewees – loyal customers, churned customers, non-customers – and get everyone’s perspective, the good, the bad, the ugly. Be sure you have representation from the range of your target audience to avoid the results being skewed.

2)     Set expectations. Tell your interviewee what to expect. Give them a brief introduction of the company, who you are, what you are trying to achieve from the day, how long the interview will last – the details. People like to feel prepared. This is also the time to build a rapport and make the customer feel comfortable enough to share real thoughts. Ask them to tell you a little about themselves and give them some time to ask you a question or two. This will make things seem more conversational and casual, easing the customer into the interview.

3)     Don’t give away the goods too soon. If you lead with your idea, solution, or messaging, the interview has become about YOU, not the customer. You are trying to understand what your customers’ needs and pain points are so you can solve for them. It’s possible you are on the wrong path and if you start with your brand and not your customer, you eliminate the opportunity for real insights that might lead to an even better idea. If you are looking for feedback on a specific project, save it for later in the interview or perhaps even a follow-up interview after insights are gathered and ideas are fine-tuned.

4)     Bring a friend. Having another person in the room to take notes and observe body language and other visual clues, even if you are recording the interviews, is a great way to get another perspective and let the person interviewing focus all their energy on the conversation with no distractions.

5)     Why ask why? Well, because you are trying to understand why customers do what they do. You are doing this research so you won’t have to make gut decisions about your brand. Without asking why you’ll only be getting half of the answer. But be careful not to sound like you are questioning a customer’s judgment. Good examples of ‘why’ questions would be, “When this happens, how do you feel and why?” or “Why would solving this problem be important for you?” These are how you will get the insights you are looking for.

6)     Enjoy the silence. Instead of moving right into the next question, try a silent pause. Oftentimes, people will look to fill the silence and talk more. You might get your best insights this way!

7)     Wing it. Definitely not the entire interview - you do need to come prepared with questions. But if the conversation goes down a path you may not have prepared for in advance, go for it! You may be on your way to learning something about your customers that you hadn’t thought of before. But if the conversation gets too far away from the topics you are there to discuss, gently bring the interview back to your questioning. The key is to go with the flow, but not totally off the rails.

8)     Say thank you. Your customers have taken time out of their day to help you, be sure to thank them properly. If you’ve offered them an incentive, now would be a good time to give them more information on how to receive and redeem. And don’t just say goodbye forever, these people were willing to talk to you – keep them on deck for other research projects, special offers, incentives to advocate. If they feel as if their voices were really heard, you may have converted them into high valued customers!

Bonus tip: It’s extremely important to pick the right person to conduct your interviews. The person you pick should appear unbiased, empathetic, and trustworthy. They should be able to stick to a script, yet speak on the fly to encourage more meaningful discussions. You may want to consider hiring a third party - oftentimes if customers know that they can speak freely, they will reveal more. Most people are hesitant to give negative feedback to someone connected to the brand as they don’t want to offend. A third-party market research team, like Vennli, can get the deep insights you need to create a successful product, service, strategy, or campaign based on real customer insights.

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Tracy Corry
Written by Tracy Corry

Digital Marketing Strategist with 20 years experience, dedicated to helping brands create meaningful connections with their customers.

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