How to Generate Valid Customer Insights From Customer Interviews (Complete Guide)


As you’re going through series of customer discovery interviews, it’s a good idea to write down your notes and impressions right after the interviews to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

Then, with the benefit of distance, listen to the interviews.

By re-listening to the interviews, you’re able to:

  • Objectively assess your performance as an interviewer;
  • Evaluate the quality and validity of the information collected.

Share the recordings (not your notes or a summary of the interview) with colleagues and team members.

If you share summarized versions of the interviews you won’t be able to get feedback on your interviewing techniques or the customer discovery process you’re going through.

It will also limit your team’s interpretation of the customer data; they’ll have a hard time helping you identify lies and half-truths. You might also have a hard time getting them to buy in afterwards.

Let your team and partners extract their own customer insights. This will lead to better internal discussions and limit the risks of working off false assumptions.

If you’re a solo founder, you might want to get trusted advisors or mentors to listen to some of your interviews. This added step proved extremely useful for me when we were working on HireVoice.

Centralize customer interview data for rapid comparison and analysis by focusing on:

  • Qualification data (Role, Goals, Organization type, etc.);
  • Answers to your big questions (Business problems, priorities, etc.)
  • Next Steps/Follow ups/Referrals.

Categorizing Customer Interview Data

Fellow author Rob Fitzpatrick says that “You can’t build a business off a lukewarm reaction”.

To that end, you can’t simply average the response you got from the stakeholders you interviewed. If you were to do that, you’d focus on an opportunity that wouldn’t be particularly exciting for any of your prospects.

What you’re looking for is a problem…

  • In a business which is already aware of the existence of the problem;
  • That has already tried to solve the problem;
  • Is unhappy with the current solution to the problem;
  • Has a budget to get the problem fixed;
  • Knows how to evaluate the impact of a solution.

You want to be solving one of the top 3 problems of the organization. A problem that’s so visceral that they can’t live without a solution.

It’s getting harder and harder to get businesses to adopt technology from new, unproven vendors.

For this reason, if you’re solving a problem that’s business-critical, businesses will be more likely to overlook the costs of implementing a new solution (training time, risk, effort, etc.).

Home in on a core problem, park the remaining customer interview data and refine your segmentation.

Averages have no value here.

You’ll be better off expanding your segmentation to find more stakeholders with similar pain points, than building a solution to a secondary problem or building a nice-to-have solution.

Analyzing Customer Interview Data

It’s important to understand that business problems were not created equal.

Choosing which problem to solve is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make in the course of the customer discovery process.

So, how do you identify the problems that matter most?

As we mentioned, it’s very hard to build a business based on a problem outside of an organization’s top 3 priorities.

So, the first key part of the equation is a problem that causes a lot of pain:

We can tell that a problem is painful if:

  • The same person repeats it frequently with passion during the interview. Repetition is a sign that the problem is current and top-of-mind.
  • The company is actively trying to solve the problem or has assigned a budget to solve the problem. In that case, the company thinks it’s critical and they have a vision for the solution.
  • The problem is frequently listed in the top three of your early adopters. If it’s not part of the top five, it may be too far ahead of the market.

That pain, however, must be the pain of a buyer or someone who has access to a budget in the organization:

How far removed is the budget? How is that money currently being spent?

You want to make sure that your business can actually get paid for solving the problem.

You also want to make sure that you’re actually going to be able to build a solution that’s incrementally superior to the current solution.

So, what’s the current solution?

Excel? A manual process? Legacy software? Another product?

Replacement Products from Customer Insights

If they haven’t looked for ways of solving the problem already, they’re not going to look for (or buy) your solution.

Thinking Through The Solution With Customer Insights

You’ve maybe heard of the 10x rule stating that your product needs to be 10 times better than the known alternative.

Well, your product needs to be 10x better than the competition on a key evaluation criterion to get businesses to buy and switch over. Is that actually possible?

What kind of ROI can you expect if you solve this problem? What impact will it have on the organization?

  • Will it increase revenue?
  • Decrease costs?
  • Increase customer satisfaction?

Those tend to be the main reasons why businesses buy. It will be easier if you can frame the value around one of these three reasons.

The clearer the outcome for the customer, the easier it will be to create a powerful value proposition.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that there’s as little market education required as possible.

Is there currently competition? Would you need to create a completely new paradigm?

You want to build a business, not educate the market on the virtues of solving the problem you’re hoping to solve.

When you take a step back, which parts of this are clear and can be considered as validated learning?

Now, which parts would you consider gaps preventing from making a sound decision?

Is it safe to move forward?

This analysis will help create specific tasks for validation. It will also help you refine your customer discovery process.

More on Generating Customer Insights


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