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Doing Customer Interviews? Be Sure To Cover These 7 Topics

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Generating insights from customer interviews is one of the 9 Cheap (But Powerful) Steps To Get Your Startup Idea Going.

But, what kind of insights should you get from these interviews?

To avoid turning customer interviews into just nice conversations, I always have in mind the following seven insights.

P.S.: I Consider items 1 to 4 for the Problem Interviews and items 5 to 7 for the Solution Interviews.

1. The Context

Your customers’ context means the conditions in which the problem arises. Once you’ve finished the interviews, you must have a clear picture of these conditions.

So, pay a ton of attention to the following elements in your customers’ narratives:

  • People involved: “my wife”, “my daughter”, “my boss”, “my friend”, “my colleague”
  • Places: “in my house”, “at work”, “in my family’s ranch”, “in the restaurant”
  • Times of the day, week, month, year: “after finishing my work”, “on the weekends”, “on holidays”, “when I’m doing laundry
  • Events: “on my vacations”, “when I visit my grandmother”, “when we visit our clients”, “when we plan our budget
  • Goals: “I want to be more productive”, “I need to do it faster”, “I wish I could be a better father”, “one day, I will…”, “I want to save more money”
  • Constraints: “I would if I could”, “I cannot do X because of Y”, “I don’t have a good memory”, “but it’s so expensive for me”

2. The Relevance Of The Problem

If I told you I can solve the biggest problem in your life… Wouldn’t you be absolutely crazy to hear what I have to say? That’s a great reason for you to do customer interviews: to be sure you’re solving a problem people really care about.

To do that, during the interview, check if:

  • The customer mentions the problem before you do: instead of asking how your customer deals with the problem you want to solve, ask her how she handles the situation (in which the problem should be happening). If she doesn’t mention the problem, maybe it’s something not relevant at all (or she doesn’t realize its relevance yet).
  • The customer expresses a strong negative feeling about the problem: even if your interviewee mentions the problem, you still need to check her reactions about it. Can you sense a high level of frustration in her narrative? If you can, they definitely may be crazy for a solution. If not, try to understand why she is not as frustrated as you expected her to be.

3. The Consequences Of The Problem

During customer interviews, your mission is also to uncover and understand every single consequence the problem causes to customers. Sometimes, customers are not even aware of all the consequences.

So, have in mind all the chain of consequences the problem can cause to your customers. When customers are talking about the problem, pay attention to everything that happens after the problem emerges:

  • Do they get angry? Frustrated?
  • And what does that anger make them do?
  • And by doing that, what happens next?
  • And so on…

4. Customers’ Wording

The words your customers pick to describe their thoughts and feelings about the problem are magical.

When you know these magical words—and understand their meanings—you start entering your customers’ minds.

Once these magical words find their way back to your customers’ eyes (in a sales page, for example) or ears (in a podcast episode or a video) these customers get instantaneously sucked into your narrative.

Therefore, avoid doing your own interpretation of the words you hear. For example, don’t hear ‘exhausted‘ and register ‘fatigued‘. Nor write down feeling ‘upset‘ when your customers said ‘miserable‘.

5. Current Alternatives (to your solution)

To understand how amazing your solution is to your customers, you must first understand what alternatives to your solution they have on their hands.

And I suggest you look for alternatives in three different categories:

  1. Products and services that solve—even if partially—the problem you’re addressing.
  2. Adaptations or self-made solutions your customers might have created to solve the problem or reduce the effects the problem has on their lives.
  3. Doing nothing: Yes. Doing nothing about the problem and accepting its consequences must be considered as an alternative. Sometimes, simply facing the consequences is preferable to investing time or money in any kind of solution.

6. Level of Excitement About Your Solution

The more excited your customers are about your solution, the higher the probability they’ll pay for it. And you can capture this level of excitement by paying attention to customers’ keywords such as:

  • “How much is it?
  • “Where can I buy it?”
  • “Is it already available?”
  • “I would love to use it even if it’s not finished yet.”

These and other statements that clearly show your customers’ strong intention to take action, should be considered too.

CAVEAT: Statements like: “This is a great idea.”, “You’re brilliant!”, “You’re going to earn a lot of money from it.”, “This is what the world was missing.”, “How hasn’t someone come up with that before? SHOULD NOT be considered as evidence of excitement (especially if they’re coming from your mom or best friend).

7. Rationale and Friction Points

Finally, customer interviews will help you to anticipate your customers’ rationale to decide if they’ll buy your solution or not. Inside this rationale, you’ll find several potential barriers that can make them say ‘no’—instead of ‘yes’—to your product, like:

  • “It’s too expensive.”
  • “It’s too complicated/hard to use.”
  • “It’s too boring.”
  • “It’s too big/small.”
  • “It’s too ugly.”
  • “I’m not sure it will solve my problem.”
  • “It’s too unstable.”
  • “It’s too risky.”
  • “It’s too laborious.”
  • “It’s not good enough.”

Every time you hear one or more of these negative statements, don’t be sad. Use them to start digging deeper into your customers’ rationale and to find ways to overcome these barriers.


Okay. Before investing a lot of money, time, and energy in building a solution, go talk to your customers and build THE solution they’ve been looking for.

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© The Traction Stage 2020

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