How to Improve Your Customer Interview Techniques


I train almost a hundred people every year on user and customer interview techniques. The exercise we do in class is interviewing people for ten to fifteen minutes to understand how they use email (just email in general).

Although some people do really well, most people struggle to keep the discussion going without leading the interviewee on.

Ten minutes feels like a very long time. Most participants fall victim to response and interviewer biases. They ask loaded questions (Would you say retrieving email is a big problem?), give their opinions, and only remember information that matches their thesis; all because they feel they must contribute to the discussion.

To excel at this type of research, you must be a great listener and let your prospects do the talking.

How to Evaluate Your Customer Interview Techniques

The following questions will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your interviewing techniques.

Were you able to:

  • Sustain the interest of your prospect?
  • Make your prospect talk and dig deep into their problems?
  • Direct the discussion without controlling it?
  • Abstain from selling a vision or trying to convince your prospect?
  • Steer clear of confirmation, interviewer or response biases?
  • Learn about your prospects’ problems and situation?
  • Earn references or a follow up interview?

In other words, did you learn what you wanted to learn?

Practice makes perfect. Run a retrospective on how the interviews went and how you could improve your interviewing techniques. Make the appropriate adjustments and move forward.

As a rule of thumb, if you were unable to find consistent problems and goals, you don’t yet have a specific enough customer segment.

Adjust your recruitment and keep slicing your segmentation into smaller pieces until you do.

More on Customer Interviews


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