How To

June 8, 2023

How to do customer interviews

Customer interviews are the secret sauce to keeping customers happy. We dig into how to do them

Over coffee in Tallinn, delivery company Wolt’s product lead Murat Yiğen excitedly tells me that customer interviews are the secret sauce for keeping customers happy. “You can’t lock yourself up in your ivory tower, building new products and features presuming people will love them — you need to go out and speak to (potential) customers to figure out what it is they actually need.” 

Customer interviews are the way to do that. In a smaller business, this is easier to do as your early customers tend to be more enthusiastic and feedback can be gathered a lot more informally. As you scale, your customer base grows and it gets harder to understand what customers are thinking. So how do you do it? In our Startup Life newsletter, Murat shared his top tips. 

Figure out who your customer is

The first step is deciding who to speak to. Create groups of users. At Wolt, for example, we have three sets of customers: The merchants (restaurants, stores, etc), the couriers and the end customer. Within them, we have many subgroups we filter by — is it a big customer or a small one? Are they avid, "sticky" users or at risk of churning? What region are they in? Each group has needs and useful perspectives — don’t treat customers as one homogeneous group. 

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Interview your internal team

Product, design or engineering teams don't always have direct contact with customers, but other roles like customer success reps and country managers do — it makes them more aware of customer needs and pain points. Test ideas and features with them first before going to customers.

Set goals

Why do you want to interview customers? Is it to understand a customer’s overall feelings and perceptions about your product? Is there a specific concern you want to explore? Is it to trial new features, A/B test an idea or watch how someone navigates your product? 

Get organised

Once you’ve set a goal:

  • Create conversation scripts with questions that are direct and get to the point quickly — your customers' time is valuable.
  • Choose the right location: If your customer is a business should you go to their premises? Will they be able to focus or would it be best to jump on a Zoom call to avoid distraction? 
  • Determine what team members need to be present — if it’s testing a new feature, you may want to bring in a UX designer, for example, to see how a customer interacts with it. 

Don’t trust your customer

Not entirely, anyway. What they tell you and ask for is often not the actual problem — go deeper to figure out what isn’t being said. Use the "Five Whys" technique — ask “Why?” five times to get to the root of a problem. 

Also, review more data than just the interview — find evidence to back up what customers say: Do you have quantitative data, industry benchmarks, have you heard similar things from other customers or is this a common issue in other regions? 

Collate and review all the evidence — including customer interviews — before making decisions, rating how critical a challenge is or feeding learning back to the wider team. 

Provide incentives

Everyone’s busy and no one wants to join interviews — provide small rewards or the opportunity to win a prize to increase the probability of people joining. 

Record everything

Customer interviews take a lot of time and resources to create super valuable data — don’t let it get lost. Find a tool that works for your company (whether that’s your current knowledge base, a database, a tool like Confluence or Google Docs) and then make sure everyone conducting interviews is using it.

Google Docs is great for customer interviews. You can link one document to another, add links to relevant information like databases, conversation scripts or historical conversations. Share (anonymised where necessary and data protection compliant) information with all relevant parties and allow them to add any additional and relevant information.

On the subject of... Customer interviews

👐 Test and iterate. Get new things into your customers hands as soon as possible — don’t waste resources on something they hate. 

❓ Don’t just rely on customer interviews. HubSpot has put together a list of other ways to ask your customers how they are feeling about your products and services.

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👂 Listen for what you’re not being told. Here are some excellent tips to get nuggets of insight that customers don’t voluntarily share. 

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn