18 Tips on Conducting Killer Customers Interviews

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**** Learn more about Customer Interviews and other Pre-Agile methodologies by signing up for the announcement list for our upcoming book:

http://bit.ly/PreAgileBook

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Are you trying to build a new product? Add features to an existing one?

If you're going through the process of Customer Development, you'll want to know the best practices for conducting Customer Interviews.

And if you're not doing this already, this is a great primer on how and why you should start!

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18 Tips on Conducting Killer Customers Interviews

  1. 1. Everything you need to know in 100 slides or less* 18 Tips and Tricks on Conducting A Killer 
 Customer Interview Customer Interviews *The slides are short. It’ll go fast, I promise. Want to learn even more? We’re writing a book: Pre-Agile Methodologies: A Tactical Guide To Not Building The Best Wrong Thing. Go to http://bit.ly/PreAgileBook to never build the wrong thing again.
  2. 2. Startups, SMBs, or F500 How Do Companies Die? Customer Interviews Step 1) Stop building what people want.* Step 2) ??? Step 3) Run out of money. *This assumes no tax fraud or other illegal activity. But if you had to learn that from a SlideShare presentation, maybe you should be in another line of work. Like working for Enron.
  3. 3. No one TRIES to disregard customers. The Status Quo Customer Interviews Sometimes they listen to the wrong sources. 
 Sometimes the customers they’re listening to are no longer representative of where the market is going. And sometimes, like in the case of millennials, it’s a new customer segment that isn’t well understood.
  4. 4. How do companies listen now? The Status Quo Customer Interviews • Market Research Reports • Trend Analysis • Competitive Analysis • “Keeping up with the Joneses” • Intuition • Solving their own problems
  5. 5. Stuff people don’t care about Customer Interviews 1. Corporate initiatives 2. Internal Politics 3. Industry Trends 4. Features 5. Technology
  6. 6. Stuff people DO care about Customer Interviews 1. Having their problems solved.
  7. 7. So how do you know how to solve their problems? Customer Interviews
  8. 8. ... How do you even know what their problems are? Customer Interviews
  9. 9. By talking directly to customers. Customer Interviews
  10. 10. Because it turns out... Customer Interviews
  11. 11. You are not Charles Xavier. Customer Interviews
  12. 12. So why try to read minds... ... when you could just ask them? Customer Interviews
  13. 13. Part 1: The Rules to Customer Interviews Part 2: Techniques For Getting Stories Part 3: FAQ What do we need to know? Customer Interviews
  14. 14. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  15. 15. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  16. 16. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions The Rules Customer Interviews The answer to the question 
 “Do you want ice cream?” 
 is always “Yes!”
  17. 17. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions The Rules Customer Interviews What sane and rational person would answer “No” to this question?
  18. 18. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions The Rules Customer Interviews But the answer to the question “Do you want this ice cream that costs $250?” might turn out to be “... No.”
  19. 19. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions The Rules Customer Interviews Ice cream questions are when you withhold information and don’t reveal all the costs associated with a benefit.
  20. 20. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  21. 21. Rule #2: Pull, don’t Push The Rules Customer Interviews The goal of these interviews is to learn about their problems. You want to PULL information out of your interviewee. 
 You do not want to PUSH your ideas on to them. For example...
  22. 22. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  23. 23. Rule #3: No Leading Questions The Rules Customer Interviews Subjects answering the question: “Do you get headaches frequently and, if so, how often?” reported an average of 2.2 headaches per week.
  24. 24. Rule #3: No Leading Questions The Rules Customer Interviews While subjects answering the question 'Do you get headaches occasionally and, if so, how often?' reported only 0.7 per week. [John Hayes, Interpersonal Skills at Work. Routledge, 2002 referencing Loftus (1975)]
  25. 25. Rule #3: No Leading Questions The Rules Customer Interviews You’ve suggested the answer is by the phrasing of the question You’ve lead them to where you want them... which is Push. 
 Remember, you want to PULL information out of them.
  26. 26. Rule #3: No Leading Questions The Rules Customer Interviews Decisions based on bad data are worse than decisions based on no data.
  27. 27. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  28. 28. Rule #4: Past Behavior vs Future Behavior The Rules Customer Interviews “How often are you going to work out at the gym next year?” “I’m going to work out 3 times a week, every week.” “How many times a week have you been working out?” “Uh... zero.”
  29. 29. Rule #4: Past Behavior vs Future Behavior The Rules Customer Interviews “How often are you going to work out at the gym next year?” “I’m going to work out 3 times a week, every week.” “How many times a week have you been working out?” “Twice a week, every week.”
  30. 30. Rule #4: Past Behavior vs Future Behavior The Rules Customer Interviews It is incredibly difficult and rare for people to drastically alter their behavior. What a person HAS been doing is a great predictor of what they will do in the future.
  31. 31. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  32. 32. Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self The Rules Customer Interviews “Please describe your diet.” “I eat mostly Paleo. Meats, veggies, nuts... a little bit of fruit, sometimes milk.”
  33. 33. Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self The Rules Customer Interviews “Describe your last meal.” “We were in a rush to get to the Kanye concert, so I grabbed a slice of pizza on the way. After the show, we grabbed some Hot Dogs from a street vendor, then when I came home I had gummy bears and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”* *This example, unfortunately, is not fictional.
  34. 34. Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self The Rules Customer Interviews If you ask someone to describe themselves, they will tell you about their Ideal Self. How they see themselves. How they want to be. Ask for a story about “the last time,” and you will discover their Actual Selves.
  35. 35. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  36. 36. Rule #6: No Pitching The Rules Customer Interviews “Would you use a shampoo that made your dog not smell bad anymore?”
  37. 37. Rule #6: No Pitching The Rules Customer Interviews 1. Possible violation of Rule #1: There is probably more information they need to give a real answer. 2. Violating Rule #2: You’re supposed to be looking for (pulling) problems, not pushing solutions. 3. Violating Rule #4: Past behavior/Future Behavior 4. Violating Rule #5: Ideal Self vs. Actual Self
  38. 38. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  39. 39. Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof The Rules Customer Interviews “N” is a statistical term for sample size. “N of 1” means you have a sample size of 1. That’s not good.
  40. 40. Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof The Rules Customer Interviews You’re looking for qualitative data, not quantitative. You don’t need to achieve statistical significance. 
 But making decisions based on what you learned from a single person is dangerous.
  41. 41. Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof The Rules Customer Interviews Examples: 
 “I ride the bus. This product is solving my problem, so I know what I need to do.” “The guy on the bus said he doesn’t really care how long he waits for the bus, so we’re pivoting to something different.” “The woman at the bus stop said she always checks the bus schedule online before she leaves, so we’re definitely on to something!” 

  42. 42. Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof The Rules Customer Interviews Any one of these behaviors could be representative of a larger population. 
 But, any of these behaviors could also be exceptions to the norm. Keep interviewing people until you’re hearing the same stories over and over and over again.

  43. 43. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  44. 44. Rule #8: No Seeding The Rules Customer Interviews Jump straight into the first question. Do not tell the interview subject what your research is about. If you frame the context, they’ll answer within that context... which means they’ll try to give you the answers they think you want to hear.
  45. 45. Rule #1: No Ice Cream Questions Rule #2: Pull, Don’t Push Rule #3: No Leading Questions Rule #4: Past Behavior --> Future Behavior Rule #5: Actual Self vs. Ideal Self Rule #6: No Pitching Rule #7: “N of 1” is Not Proof Rule #8: No Seeding. Rule #9: Stories > Statements Part 1: The Rules Customer Interviews
  46. 46. Rule #9: Stories > Statements The Rules Customer Interviews “Have you traveled recently?” vs. “Tell me about the last time you traveled.”
  47. 47. Rule #9: Stories > Statements The Rules Customer Interviews “Yes or No” questions: • Don’t provide deeper insights • Constrict the conversation • Don’t build rapport Getting someone to tell stories • Lets them lead the conversation • Reveals insights you couldn’t predict • Builds rapport and trust
  48. 48. Once you get someone telling stories, it’s hard to get them to stop. Customer Interviews
  49. 49. So how do you get someone telling stories? Customer Interviews
  50. 50. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  51. 51. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  52. 52. Technique #1: Tell me about the last time... Getting Stories Customer Interviews It’s hard to come up with “the best/worst time” something happened, but it’s easy to remember the last time. 
 And often, once they tell you about the last time, they’ll say “But that was nothing compared to THIS OTHER TIME...”
  53. 53. Technique #1: Tell me about the last time... Getting Stories Customer Interviews “Tell me about the last time you travelled out of the state.” 
 “Tell me about the last time you went to a concert.” “Tell me about the last time you went on a first date.”
  54. 54. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  55. 55. Technique #2: 5 Why’s Getting Stories Customer Interviews Every time they make a statement, ask why. Use this technique to get to the underlying cause or to identify some root emotion. (5 isn’t a set number. It could be 3, or 7, or 12.)
  56. 56. Technique #2: 5 Why’s Getting Stories Customer Interviews “I want to start going to the gym.” Why? “Because I want to be strong and fit.” Why? “Because I want to be healthy.” Why? “Because I don’t want to die of a heart attack when I’m 40.” Why? “Because my dad died of a heart attack when he was 40..” Okay. That’s interesting! Now we understand their motivations. But why so many why’s?

  57. 57. Technique #2: 5 Why’s Getting Stories Customer Interviews “I want to start going to the gym.” Why? “Because I want to be strong and fit.” Why? “Because I want to girls to like me.” Why? “Because I’ve only ever dated one person.” Why? Because I’m not good at connecting with people on an emotional level.” See how their motivations diverged... but only a few levels down?

  58. 58. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  59. 59. Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Getting Stories Customer Interviews Sometimes people will stop talking or end a story, but it feels like there’s more. Maybe it feels like a good place to end, maybe they feel like they’ve been talking too long, or they’re a little hesitant to share the next part. Simply prompting someone to “tell you more” will often result in deeper, more interesting stories.
  60. 60. Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Getting Stories Customer Interviews “I went to Sicily last summer. I figured I wouldn’t end up sorting through a bunch of pictures, so I didn’t bother taking any.” 
 Tell me more?
 “I used to take thousands of pictures of vacations with my fancy DSLR, but I have never looked through a single set. So I just stopped taking pictures.”
  61. 61. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  62. 62. Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Getting Stories Customer Interviews Another technique to get people to elaborate on something they just said. “What do you mean by ‘If it wasn’t for your horse, you wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”
  63. 63. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  64. 64. Technique #5: “How are you dealing...” Getting Stories Customer Interviews Does the interviewee have any solution to their problem right now? Does it do the job effectively? Are they happy with it? ... or are they ignoring the problem completely?
  65. 65. Technique #5: “How are you dealing...” Getting Stories Customer Interviews You can learn a lot by knowing how they deal with their problem today.
  66. 66. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  67. 67. Technique #6: Silence is Golden. Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  68. 68. Technique #6: Silence is Golden. Getting Stories Customer Interviews See. Wasn’t that a little awkward? People seek to fill silence. Look expectant that there’s more they want to say. 
 Let them be the one to fill the silence.
  69. 69. Technique #6: Silence is Golden. Getting Stories Customer Interviews Often this is when they’ll start talking about something you never thought to ask.
  70. 70. Technique #1: “Tell me about the last time...” Technique #2: “5 Why’s” Technique #3: “Tell me more.” Technique #4: “What do you mean by...” Technique #5: “How are you dealing with your problem now?” Technique #6: Silence is Golden Technique #7: Walk away. Part 2: Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  71. 71. Technique #7: Walk away. Getting Stories Customer Interviews When you end the interview, the dynamic of the conversation changes. 
 If you’re having trouble getting an interview subject to open up, end the interview a bit abruptly. As you prepare to move on, make small talk. Often the subject will be much more relaxed, forthcoming, and you can continue without them realizing it.
  72. 72. Question #1: “How do I get them to talk to me?” Question #2: “What if they never talk about the problem I’m trying to solve?” Question #3: “How do I put these into a survey?” Part 3: FAQ Customer Interviews
  73. 73. Question #1: “How do I get people on the street to talk to me?” Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  74. 74. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews If you’re approached on the street, your typical response is probably either: 
 “No thanks.” 
 “I’m busy.” *Ignore*
  75. 75. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews But now the tables have turned. How do you get people to stop and talk to you?
  76. 76. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews According to a study by Langer, E., Blank, A., and Chanowitz, B. (1978) published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a researcher approached a line of people waiting for a photocopier and asked: “Excuse me, I have five pages. Could I use the copier next?” with a 60% success rate. Not bad!
  77. 77. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews But when the researcher added the phrase “because I’m in a rush,” the number soared from 60 percent to 94 percent! Totally awesome!
  78. 78. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews But here’s the thing. They ran the experiment again. This time asking “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies.” 
 How many people do you think said yes to this silly request?
  79. 79. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews 93%. A mere 1% less than when you gave a real reason. 

  80. 80. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews The secret word here is “because.” Even if your “because clause” is meaningless, simply using the word will bypass peoples’ natural defenses.
  81. 81. Question #1: The Approach FAQ Customer Interviews So try opening with 
 “Excuse me, I’m working on a project and I was wondering if I could ask you a few quick questions.” “Working on a project” doesn’t MEAN anything... but behavioral psychology says that’s apparently okay.
  82. 82. Question #2: “What if they won’t talk about the problem I’m trying to solve?” Getting Stories Customer Interviews
  83. 83. Question #2: Not Cooperating FAQ Customer Interviews Remember Rule #2? “Pull, Don’t Push” If they won’t talk about the problem you are trying to solve without prompting... If you can’t get them to independently say “Hey, you know what sucks? This thing!” Then maybe...
  84. 84. Question #2: Not Cooperating FAQ Customer Interviews It’s not that big of a problem for them.
  85. 85. Question #2: Not Cooperating FAQ Customer Interviews If you’re not solving a “Top 3 Problem” chances are... They’re not going to care about your product. They’re not going to pay for your product.
  86. 86. Question #2: Not Cooperating FAQ Customer Interviews So instead, explore into the problems they ARE talking about.
  87. 87. What have we learned? Wrapping up Customer Interviews 1. The rules for a good customer interview 2. Good techniques to get stories 3. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
  88. 88. Where can I learn more? Wrapping up Customer Interviews Enjoy this? Want to learn even more? We’re writing a book: Pre-Agile Methodologies: A Tactical Guide To Not Building The Best Wrong Thing. Go to http://bit.ly/PreAgileBook to never build the wrong thing again.
  89. 89. So what’s next? Wrapping up Customer Interviews Go forth. Interview. Build great products.

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