I get it. Interviewing your customers or potential customers isn’t the easiest thing there is. But once you accomplish that are lots of insights you can garner from the same.

An email survey can offer up hundreds upon hundreds of data pieces that you can use immediately to get started in bettering products. However a live interview offers up much more data you can use.

However daunting it may seem, the set of unique advantages it offers is going to help you out. Also the quality of data you get from these live interactions is way more effective than what you get from email surveys.

You get information on several points such as these:

  • The way customers are using the product.
  • The barriers stopping them from purchase.
  • Phrases and words they use to describe pain points or features
  • The motivations driving a purchase; the emotional triggers and so on.


Interviews provide much-needed context helping you understand the drivers behind customers’ decisions.

They help you with deeper insights. That’s one reason why customer development interviews are gaining so much popularity now.

P&G developed a spray that was marketed as something that would eliminate stenches from homes. But the product failed to pick up among the masses.

The problem?

Some people’s homes smell like a burp. But those living in it do not realize that. They get used to the smells in their homes. And if there’s no overwhelming stench they are pretty happy mostly. So people are not going to purchase something to solve a problem they believe doesn’t exist.

P&G’s research team spoke with a housewife who kept her house especially clean and was a customer of Febreze. She used Febreze as part of her home cleaning ritual.

After cleaning a room she sprayed it to create a feeling of being done with the work.

This made P&G realize that Febreze was to be made part of people’s everyday cleaning routine and not something that removed tough odors. It needed to be part of a reward that someone felt deserving after cleaning a room.

The new ads showed women spraying Febreze over freshly made beds and rooms. This inculcated the sense of reward they were trying to create. After two months sales doubled.

Almost everyone knows about Moz’s homepage redesign case study . To arrive at the new design they interviewed hundreds of existing customers and resultantly got a 52% improvement in sales.

Groove did in-depth customer interviews to get a better understanding of their customers’ objections, challenges and fears. They used that feedback to re-write copy (using verbatim words and phrases from the interviews) on their website. The new copy helped boost conversions on the website from 2.3% to 4.3%.

GrooveHQ implemented this tactic to discover loads of information on customer that doubled conversions and opened up gates to even more.

And he isn’t the only one to get such spectacular results from conducting interviews.

  • Your product >> Customer feedback helps you fix your flaws or develop new angles
  • Your audience >> You’ll develop new personas or refine existing personas based on use cases
  • Your relationships >> If you do a good job, you can actually build more brand loyalty (people love talking about themselves. And if you give them the chance, well…<3)
  • Your social proof >> You’ll get authentic testimonials, stories, even case studies… But best of all, you’ll optimize your messaging. And that means you can optimize everything.

The key to conversions is understanding and compartmentizing customer experience

Customers rise far above statistic points to something else.

Which also means that all the data we gathered in building virtual customer personas doesn’t measure up to emotional triggers, feelings and motivations that in reality drive decisions. Buyer personas are built on expectations, on people following an ideal path. That’s far from true.

Emotional drivers are what motivate decisions and they need to be applied to your copy, to design and to messaging to pommel up conversions upwards.

You might be following CRO best practices but if the copy or design doesn’t appeal to people who make decisions— the target audience, you’re not achieving anything much with all the effort.

Landing pages that reflect the true voice of the customer can lift revenues by many percentage points.  This new landing page would convey the idea behind the product effectively and as such resonate immaculately with target audiences.

The key is to communicate well in order to be able to drive the message home.

Customer reviews can help conversion goals by realizing what to communicate with the target audience.

What’s your goal?  

Begin by setting the goal. Before a customer starts chat it’s important you set a goal you want to achieve with the interview. Then ask questions that will take you closer to achieving these goals. This will help collect data that’s useful and fit for your audience’s need, thus avoiding meandering around things that don’t matter.

However there’s the problem that you might not get good answers from the current group you’re targeting. In that case ask different questions to see if the responses improve. If you get better quality answers this time you’re on the right track.

At the very root, the root of all problems can be understand by framing questions around four ideas which are:

  1. What’s right?
  2. What’s wrong?
  3. What’s missing?
  4. What’s confusing?

These questions are internal questions to be asked to members of your team to gain further insights into the product and how it influences people using them.

Armed with these insights you may begin the interview process, as these questions offer tons of insights into questions you ought to be asking customers.

Let’s say the first problem you encounter is this: You have a trial program and people aren’t converting from the trial program to paid users.

To fix the trial here’s what you need to do:

There are two sets of people in any trial group. The first group has happy customers who are happy to sign up and have peaches and roses to say about the service. You can ask them to outline reasons on why they signed up.

The second group of customers are ones who don’t sign up after the trial. They’re facing issues and your time is better spent analyzing and asking them why they didn’t move up from trial to paid customers.

Confusion can persist on which subset of customers you ought to talk to? Which signed up customers and which trial customers.

The goal next is to whittle down to this group of customers.

To find people willing to talk to you one of the best ways to achieve this is by sending out a customer survey to find out the subset that’s most willing to talk. This way you easily discover the most helpful ones right off the bat.

From the surveys find out the ones who share interesting use cases and include them in the survey.

Surveys give you awesome interview candidates. And help you form hypothesis which can help you discover even better questions to kick start questioning.

Setting up your interviews

So now you have a clear idea about the subsets to whom you’re going to ask the questions and also which questions you’re going to ask them. It’s time to get started with the interviews now.

#1: Start with the basics

Using phone calls you may field questions.

A video call is much better because voice alone doesn’t speak everything. Coupled with the body language of the customer you get the entire message across.

Verbal cues when matched with non-verbal messaging such as those conveyed through body language can help you form the entire picture regarding what the customer is feeling at a point.

Also recording the sessions rather than note taking or short hand typing is recommended. Because you can go over the exact language and find phrases and intent that’s getting repeated across the board and then use them in your copy.

Conversations seldom go as planned. In your mind you might have planned a basic rhetoric of questions from which you wouldn’t have wanted to stray the course. But often times you might find yourselves repeating or altering the questions based on how the conversation is going. You may have new questions and suggestions you want to implement and that means you need to bring a proactive approach rather than sticking to course.

#2: Send out the call

Step 1: Crafting an invite the right way

There should be clarity in the interview invite call you’re sending out. Who you’re inviting at what time and the purpose of the invite call. Additionally, you should be offering an incentive to them to take up the call. An emotional call often does the trick but an entry into a raffle is much more lucrative and gets the desired action.

While an emotional call is way more effective if you’re launching a new product like beard oil for men. For an existing SaaS product, a bribe is often much more effective and calls in contributions from all possible channels.

Whatever you say has to appeal to their innate desire. Work it up and then sell to the desire that you created in them.

Step 2: Being clear about your intentions

Also be clear about what you want the interview to be about. If you describe it in uncertain terms the same uncertainty will prevail when you’re asking questions. There will be a feeling of disconnect which will not go away.

You should also set up automatic follow-up reminders to send clear cut calls to action. They must contain compelling CTAs that help you sell almost immediately.

#3: Write the questions you’d like to ask

It’s better to write down your questions before you begin any interviews. That way you have a list you can go through time and again.

Keep the call to action focussed and write an engaging script around which you’d want to ask your questions.

#1: Establish rapport

People generally talk to people who they deem friendly. If you appear hostile, the responses are going to be muted. There’s more than one way to establish this rapport.

The first one is the oldest trick in the book. Compliments.

To establish a sense of rapport start by giving genuine compliments. Being a video interview establish a smiling face to disarm any apprehensions they might have.

:Be authentic.

Considering the world we live in, trust has always been on the decline. To show you are authentic and to establish rapport one of the better ways is to be authentic.

Most people would end the advice with just that but there’s more to establishing honest dialogue and ooze authenticity than that meets the eye.

Being Curious can help. Research conducted by Carol Gilligan shows that subjects begin to trust and collaborate more when they felt authentic curiosity from the interviewer.

Curiosity lends the obvious advantage that it gives more information about who you’re curious. But there’s also the additional benefit that it helps identify changing trends and influences and also people who are trendsetters and influencers.

Don’t try to imitate interest. Let it flow naturally and allow it to capture the attention of the prospect.

  1. Validate your customer’s emotions and experiences

Uncovering vulnerability or encouraging customers to be vulnerable with you is a great way to encourage them to talk more about their pain points. People aren’t open to speaking about them because they feel opening up brings emotions that may not be validated. They’re often right. Others do not feel the same way as they do. But if you appear as someone who can listen and validate their emotions, it means you get to hear them talk about all their problems. This creates rapport and a sense of emotional bonding.

  1. Listen. Really listen

Our brain uses a lot of things to minimize the use of brain power and maximize processing. One of these tricks is to anticipate what others are going to say rather than actual listening.

We predict what others are going to say beforehand based on past conversations and our interaction with humans in general. And this evolutionary strategy has worked really well for us all these years.

But when we are looking for new material to inform our copy, to better our product and improve the general experience people have with a product we need to abandon pre-conceived notions and take to really listening and caring about what others are saying.

To begin with ask speculative questions:

For instance

Why did you buy the product?

Were you concerned with the pricing tiers when choosing the product?

Why didn’t you use the particular feature after signing up

How did sign up affect the business?

The tier you choose what were the factors behind that?

Sometimes people won’t be coaxed into giving descriptive answers or being vulnerable. There’s little you can do to pull them out of their shell. In those cases where whatever you do has no impact on how the interview goes it’s time to end it and cut the call after thanking them. Provide them the incentive even then.

The customer just wants to give feedback

If the call to action and the description in the email isn’t clear enough customers will think that you have invited them for feedback. It can also happen when customers do not take the time to read through the email and assume everything.

What to do next

Now that you have feedback gathered, it’s time to take care of the next few things which are:

Organize the information you gleaned from each customer

Note down what you felt about the call after each step. The first impressions count as do authentic expressions and thoughts from your customers.

  1. Write down what you felt
  2. Write down if the answers were what you expected
  3. Things that surprised you
  4. Things you expected in the least

Add case studies or anything else you might want to add.

If you want to upgrade your offering, find out: the features they’re using, ones they aren’t using and their budget.

  • Note down
  • Interesting use cases
  • Messaging themes
  • Instances of heightened emotion
  1. Double check that you included all action items – now that you have the full transcript to pull from.
  2. Finally, add some tags to the top of the sheet so you can sort easily when developing outcomes.

Step 2: Answer your core questions

Once you have all the customer information organized, type your core questions in a new tab. Plug in any unexpected data in a Misc. column as well.

Step 3: Summarize your findings

Open a new tab and summarize all repeated or primary themes you copied into other parts of the sheet.

Time to take action: turn those themes into outcomes

Based on your company’s goals focus on outcomes that seem most valuable to you. Look at the data to discover and separate those.

  • Add new features to your product
  • Engage a copywriter (I know a good one!) to write a customer re-engagement sequence
  • Engage a UX designer to restructure your site

Make sure that you use the insights you discover. And when you do, send your customer with a personal thank you. They deserve it.


Examples of interview-worthy questions

In this section we will guide through questions you could ask your potential customers.

Writing out the questions in advance can help tame anxiety to an extent.

Here are the kinds of questions you should cover:

  • Asking about motivations: Ask them the motivations behind searching for and zeroing down on your particular software or product.
  • Asking about the value they receive from your product: Ask them about the problem the product solves and how well it solves the problem. Get insight filled answers.


Some interviewees may not be open to answering these questions especially when you use words like motivations and desires but some will and it’s important not to give up and dig up all you can.

Also make sure you’re not making people lean towards a particular answer or particular line of thinking when framing the questions. The key here is to arrive at the customer’s inputs and thought process and not the other way round. By making it about you, you’re defeating the entire purpose of conducting live interviews and gleaning feedback from them.

1. Asking leading questions:

To that end don’t ask questions that are suggestive and suggests a particular answer. It’s easy to fall into the trap and lose sight of your goals especially when the interviewee isn’t particularly forthcoming with answers to questions you’re asking.

Don’t let such slips happen.

Here’s an example that illustrates this point:

DON’T SAY: Were you happy when the app improved its speeds

DO SAY: What were you feeling when the app didn’t start up properly?

2. Asking ‘why’:

Avoid asking direct why questions. Why questions often lead the person being interviewed to feel that there’s only one right answer . He shouldn’t be made to feel like that.

The rational mind is always working to come up with a rational sounding explanation of their behavior of their thoughts and actions.

And we don’t want well thought out expressions explaining a situation. What we want to capture are raw emotions that drive decisions. What is right and not what they think is right.

Such answers happen quickly. The emotional answers are mirror to the truth. The play it safe answers are rational and slow to come by.

3 Essential Interviewing Tips

OK, it’s time to finally pick up the phone (or head on Skype) and start chatting with your customer.

It remains to be said that an interview is by no means an exact science that you can be prepared for. Changing parameters like interviewees, geographical locations and time influence how the interview will move ahead. YOu will have to develop a style that doesn’t come at one go. It arrives at stuttering bouts slowly and steadily.

  • Emphasize on building a friendliness so that the interviewee is disarmed and builds a rapport.
  • Practice listening to them and practice that with others as well.
  • Asking probing questions to get deeper insights.

Build rapport and make them feel safe

Research shows that building rapport is the key to customer’s hearts. When you build rapport you win their trust and that’s key to helping them feel comfortable with you. Another thing is to take things over at a relaxed and slow pace.

The key is to take a relaxed pace and not jump into questioning making them feel like a deer caught in headlights. Make them feel relaxed and let them know they’re in safe company. Use a conversational tone to get things going.