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Effective Customer Interviews: A Practical Approach

Elena Mitsiou
•  13.03.2024
Whether you are launching a new product or you’ve been in the market for quite some time, conducting a customer interview should be at the top of your list. In this article, we have collated everything you need to know about customer interviews, including a step-by-step guide on how to conduct one and our top tips to nail it.

In this ever-changing commercial landscape grasping the pulse of your customers and understanding their needs, aspirations, and preferences is critical for the success of the business. With consumers being more and more savvy, according to Forrester’s US 2023 Customer Experience Index, more than 80% of business leaders indicate that improving customer experience CX is at the top of their list.

If you are looking for ways to start on your customer interview journey, look no further. Keep reading to learn how you can unleash the power of customer interviews for your organization.

What Is a Customer Interview?

customer interviews

Before jumping into the benefits of customer interviews, let’s pin down a definition for it. A customer interview is a conversation that happens between a User Researcher or a CX expert and a customer. This conversion can be structured or semi-structured depending on the approach of the researcher.

The interviews can be conducted either online or in-person and, depending on the time constraints they could also take the form of a survey. The ultimate goal of the interview is to gather customer feedback and insights as well as learn more about the aspirations, motivations, and needs of the customer.

The customer interview is an unmissable opportunity for the researcher to step into the customer’s shoes and understand their perspective.

This way, user researchers and CX experts can uncover areas of improvement, untapped opportunities, or areas that are working exceptionally well. These insights can drive decisions not only when it comes to the development of the product but also to shape marketing, branding, and CX strategies.

Why Are Customer Interviews Important?

From understanding your customers to guiding strategic decision-making, conducting customer interviews is critical for the success of every business.

Here are some key reasons why customer interviews should be at the top of your list:

  • Get an understanding of the customer needs: A customer interview is the perfect direct source to better comprehend the needs, aspirations, and preferences of your customer base. Customer interviews allow to gain invaluable insights and fine-tune the product to better meet the needs of your target audience.
  • Pinpoint Sticky Points: Customer interviews offer a unique opportunity to identify pain points and areas for improvement when it comes to your product. You can then use those insights to refine your product and improve the overall customer experience.
  • Mitigate business risks: If you are thinking of launching a new idea or even a sub-product why not gauge reactions first before committing to it? Customer interviews are an excellent way to gauge initial reactions when it comes to a new business idea and see how potential customers view it.
  • Have a compass for your product development: Customer interviews, when done right, can offer invaluable insights into untapped opportunities and feature additions. You can use the insights gained from the interviews as a north star for your product roadmap and any other product iterations.
  • Refine your marketing, branding, and CX strategies: The insights gained from customer interviews can help you better understand how your audience interacts with your brand and can help you refine your brand strategies so that you can talk to the language that your audience speaks.
  • Build a sustainable competitive advantage: Customer interviews are an excellent way to gauge how customers feel about your product or service. It is also a great way to stay on top of the ever-changing consumer trends. Listening to your customers can help you navigate and stay afloat in an ever-changing market.
  • Boost the loyalty of your customers: Having a space to talk to and try to understand your customers will get you a long way when it comes to customer satisfaction. When feedback is taken onboard, the customer feels heads, and that strengthens their trust and loyalty towards your brand. On top of that, you can boost your word-of-mouth strategies! According to Uservoice.com 61% of customers will recommend products from brands they trust to others.

How to Conduct Customer Interviews?

customer interviews

Here is a practical guide for your first customer interview:

➡️ Before a Customer Interview

1. Define your Goals

Start by clearly defining the goals of the interview. From exploring a new feature to understanding customer behavior, having a well-defined scope for your study will help you create a relevant question guide.

2. Segment your audience

When it comes to your customer base, one size does not fit all. Make sure to segment your audience based on demographics, buying behavior, and other relevant criteria. This will help you collate meaningful data and insights that will apply to each of your target personas.

3. Craft a Customer Interview Guide

Before conducting your consumer interviews, write down the interview guide and questions, always in line with the goals of the interview. Make sure to add an introduction which will create a comfortable environment for your participants and then gradually move into more open-ended questions.

In the end, leave some time for further questions or clarifications that may arise.

 

💡Pro Tip

Before conducting the interviews, run a pre-test of your guide guide with a small group of people. This can be either your colleagues or a pilot group that matches the customer profile. This will allow you to identify any ambiguous, leading, or confusing questions.

➡️ During a Customer Interview

4. Use Warm-Up Questions

Begin with generic questions, and warm-up questions to help your participants feel at ease. These can be questions confirming their demographics, background, and experience with the product as well as the way or frequency of use.

Those warm-up questions can set the tone for the interview and create a comfortable environment for the participant.

5. Encourage Storytelling

For juicier insights, encourage storytelling and avoid asking direct closed questions.

Do not ask the participant if they liked your product or service. Instead, ask them to share a story where the participant thought the product or service came in handy.

You can even ask the participant to tell you a story about a time that the product did not live up to their expectations. This way, you will get richer insights with context.

6. Use the Five Whys Technique

The Five Whys technique is a methodology whereby the research asks ‘why’ multiple times to unearth the root cause of the participant’s statements. Although, in an interview setting this might not be 100% applicable, having in mind this technique and asking ‘why’ can help you drill down into a surface-level response.

 

💡Pro Tip

Practice active listening and do your best to understand the context, emotions, and underlying messages. Show that you’re engaged by summarizing points, asking for clarification, and responding to cues. And don’t worry if at some point in your interview you go off script. There’s always a human element that we can’t predict and sometimes you’ll have to improvize in order to get the actual insights. Make sure to always stay calm and maintain a natural flow of the conversation.

➡️ After a Customer Interview

7. Analyze the Results

After the interviews have taken place, it is time for the analysis. When analyzing results make sure you take into consideration both qualitative and quantitative data and always look for patterns or themes. To do so, you can use an array of methodologies such as affinity diagraming to identify key themes.

 

💡Pro Tip

Triangulate your data and compare your interview findings with data from other interviews, surveys, or market research. This cross-verification helps validate your insights and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the customer experience. This way you won’t draw any false conclusions based on just one data source.

8. Share With The Team

Your hard work will not pay off unless you share the findings with your team so that those can be actioned. When presenting to your team, make sure to use ample visuals and stick to the main research nuggets, making the information more accessible to the different teams.

Customer Interview Tips

customer interviews

If you are new to customer interviews here are some of your top tips to ensure a spotless execution:

Provide Incentives

The participants will need to carve out time to attend the customer interviews and this should not be taken for granted. If you are looking for an overall better response rate, greater attendance as well as more juicy insights, you should consider offering incentives to your participants.

Incentives can be monetary rewards or take the form of product discounts, amazon vouchers, or even a free trial of a product or a service. Incentives are a great way to show that you appreciate the time and effort that the participant puts into this.

Capture Non-verbal Cues

Costumer interviews are based on verbal communication but capturing and paying extra attention to non-verbal cues can leave you with additional juicy insights!

Facial expressions, intonation, hand gestures even the posture of the participant are all considered to be non-verbal cues and can tell us a lot about the emotions of the participant and give further depth and context to their verbal answers.

Use Screen Recordings

You might think that taking notes or relying on your memory will be enough when it comes to gathering insights from your customer interviews but take it from us, it is not!

Always record your sessions, so that you can revisit the conversation and take extended notes for your analysis. If the meeting is online, another useful tip is to add a transcription option that will allow you to better extract notes.

Before recording, make sure to obtain the written consent of your participant.

Include an Observer

Interview sessions can be very demanding so including an observer in your customer interviews might be a good idea. While you are engaging in the conversation, creating a comfortable environment, and building rapport with the participant, the observer can focus on the intricacies of the verbal and non-verbal cues, like facial expressions, of the participant.

On top of that, the observer is a great way to remove bias by adding a more objective perspective to the whole conversation. This can aid a lot in the analysis process and contribute to an overall better understanding of the feedback given.

To Sum Up

To sum it all up, unlocking the benefits of customer interviews can truly set your business apart in this ever-changing competitive commercial landscape. Unleashing their power involves meticulous planning. Start by defining your goals and do not forget to segment your audience so that you can tap into the correct persona or personas.

Finally, prepare your interview guides in advance and ensure that those align with the goals of your project. During the interviews, create a comfortable environment for the participant and take careful note of the non-verbal cues. For better and more unbiased data collection we highly recommend recording the session as well as including an observer.

After you have conducted the interviews analyze the results and do not forget to share the most important nuggets of the customer feedback with your team so that you can all collectively work on those actionable insights. Last but not least, if you are struggling to get participants, consider offering incentives to boost your attendance rate.

If you are unsure where even to begin with your customer interviews, UXtweak is here to help! Conduct customer interviews with our comprehensive Moderated Testing tool! Register for your free account today and try UXtweak in action.

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FAQ: Customer Interviews

What Is a Customer Interview?

A customer interview is a structured or semi-structured chat between a customer and a user researcher or customer experience expert. The main goal of the customer interview is for the business representative to dive into the motivations and aspirations of the consumer and gather invaluable insights and feedback about how the product serves the needs of the consumers.

How Do You Prepare for a Customer Interview?

Conducting meaningful customer interviews involves meticulous planning. Begin by clearly outlining the goals of the interview and selecting the right tool to conduct them. Once those have been set, segment your audience and create an interview guide with questions tailored to your audience.

How Many Customer Interviews Are Enough?

The number of customers that you will need to speak to make sure that you have obtained meaningful and actionable insights highly depends on the complexity of your product as well the number of different personas that you are targetting. The rule of thumb according to Planbeyond would be 8 to 10 distinct people per segment.

Do not forget that customer needs are evolving so customer interviews should not be treated as a one-off project but rather as a tool for constant iteration and improvement.

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