I love this piece by Giff Constable outlining his 12 Tips for customer development interviews. Giff does a great job of helping you understand both your goals and mindset when trying to figure out a problem worth solving and a solution that customers are willing to buy. Here’s a quick summary:
- One person at a time – It’s always better to interview individuals rather than focus groups. Interviewees by themselves are going to be a lot more honest and less likely to be influenced by others the way they can be in a focus group.
- Know your goals and questions ahead of time – Figure out which assumptions about your business model you want to test through customer interviews. Before you start, have an idea of what it will look like when you prove or disprove your assumptions.
- Separate behavior and feedback in discussion – Separate out your problem interviews from your solution interviews because your goals for gathering feedback are going to be different in the two scenarios.
- Get psyched to hear things you don’t want to hear – You want to seek responses that disprove your assumptions. That’s the only way you are going to get honest feedback on whether your idea is worth pursuing.
- Disarm “politeness” training – During your interviews, create an environment where people can give you negative feedback. Your goal is to find out the truth, not to try to sell something nobody wants. One way to create this environment is to follow #4 above.
- Ask open ended questions – You’ll get a lot more value out of interviews if you let people talk about their preferences, rather than limiting their opinions with yes/no questions.
- Listen, don’t talk – this one is pretty self-explanatory. You should be listening at least 10 times as much as you are talking.
- Encourage without influencing – Don’t just clam up and expect them to fill up the entire conversation on their own; encourage their thoughts with comments like “I see,” “interesting,” and “tell me more about that.”
- Follow your nose and drill down – Whenever they say something that peaks your interest, prod further with questions.
- Parrot back or misrepresent to confirm – When they say something important to the interview, repeat it back to them to make sure you understood it right. They can either correct your misinterpretation or expand on their idea.
- Ask for introductions –Use each interview to gather leads for additional interviews.
- Write up your notes as soon as possible – This will help you ensure that you don’t lose valuable content.
Customer interviews are a staple in defining your product/market fit. Follow these 12 guidelines to make sure you are spending your time wisely. Let me know if you have any tips to add in the comments.