How to do customer interviews

Customer interviews are the secret sauce to keeping customers happy. We dig into how to do them

In a captivating discussion over coffee in the charming city of Tallinn, Murat Yiğen, the esteemed product lead at Wolt, eagerly divulges to me the invaluable secret to ensuring customer satisfaction: conducting customer interviews. With fervor in his voice, he emphasizes, “Imprisoning oneself in an ivory tower, concocting new products and features under the assumption that people will adore them is a fallacy. One must venture forth and engage with (potential) customers to unearth their genuine needs.”

Indeed, customer interviews serve as the vehicle for such understanding. In the realm of small businesses, this endeavor proves more manageable, as initial customers tend to be more enthusiastic, enabling a more informal exchange of feedback. However, as a business scales, the customer base expands, and deciphering the thoughts and sentiments of customers becomes increasingly challenging. So, how does one embark upon this journey? In our esteemed Startup Life newsletter, Murat generously shares his expert advice.

The first step entails identifying the target audience for the interviews. It involves creating distinct user groups. For instance, at Wolt, we recognize three primary customer segments: the merchants encompassing restaurants and stores, the couriers, and the end customers. Within each group, we further categorize based on various parameters—whether they are large or small customers, whether they exhibit unwavering loyalty or are susceptible to attrition, and the geographical region they belong to. Each subgroup possesses unique needs and invaluable perspectives. It is crucial not to view customers as a monolithic entity but to recognize their diversity.

Murat also emphasizes the significance of engaging the internal team in these endeavors. While the product, design, or engineering teams may not always have direct customer interactions, other roles such as customer success representatives and country managers play a vital role. Their close proximity to customers renders them more attuned to customer needs and pain points. Therefore, it is prudent to test ideas and features with internal team members before seeking customer input.

Setting clear goals is the subsequent imperative. One must ascertain the purpose behind conducting customer interviews. Is it to gain a holistic understanding of customers’ sentiments and perceptions regarding the product? Is there a specific concern or issue that requires exploration? Or is it an opportunity to trial new features, perform A/B testing, or observe how customers navigate through the product?

Once the objectives are established, organization becomes paramount. It is essential to create well-crafted conversation scripts featuring direct and concise questions, respecting the value of customers’ time. Additionally, selecting an appropriate location for the interviews is crucial. For business customers, visiting their premises might be appropriate, but considerations should be made regarding their ability to focus. In certain cases, conducting interviews via platforms like Zoom may help minimize distractions. Moreover, determining the presence of relevant team members is vital. For instance, when testing a new feature, involving a UX designer allows for firsthand observation of customer interactions.

While it is vital to listen to customers during interviews, a degree of skepticism is warranted. The expressed desires and requests of customers may not always unveil the underlying issue. It is necessary to delve deeper, employing techniques such as the “Five Whys.” By repeatedly asking “Why?” up to five times, one can unearth the root cause of a problem.

Furthermore, relying solely on the information gleaned from interviews is insufficient. It is essential to corroborate customer insights with additional data sources. This includes analyzing quantitative data, industry benchmarks, and identifying similar sentiments expressed by other customers or common issues in various regions. Collating and reviewing all available evidence, including customer interviews, facilitates informed decision-making, prioritizing challenges, and disseminating learnings to the wider team.

Incentivization holds its place in this endeavor. Recognizing the busy nature of individuals, providing small rewards or opportunities to win prizes enhances the likelihood of their participation in interviews.

Another crucial aspect is diligently preserving the wealth of data acquired through customer interviews. Given the substantial investment of time and resources, it is imperative to prevent its loss. Identifying a suitable tool for the company’s needs, whether an existing knowledge base, a dedicated database, or platforms such as Confluence or Google Docs, ensures that all interviewers adhere to a standardized system. Google Docs, in particular, offers a seamless experience for customer interviews, allowing the linking of documents, incorporation of relevant information such as databases, conversation scripts, or historical conversations. Sharing anonymized information, in compliance with data protection regulations, with all pertinent parties ensures comprehensive access while allowing for the inclusion of additional relevant information.

In conclusion, the journey of customer interviews demands a commitment to test and iterate. It necessitates swiftly placing new elements into the hands of customers, avoiding wastage of resources on undesired features or products.

While customer interviews are invaluable, it is important to diversify the avenues for gathering customer feedback. HubSpot offers an insightful list of alternative approaches to gauge customers’ sentiments regarding products and services.

Additionally, one must remain attentive to the unspoken words of customers. By employing expert techniques, one can extract invaluable insights that customers may not voluntarily share.

The path to customer satisfaction lies in the art of listening, understanding, and adapting. Through customer interviews, businesses can forge lasting connections with their clientele, ensuring continued growth and success.

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