Executive Guide to Customer Interviews

The core success factor of any startup or innovation is building a product or a service that the market wants, finding the market's weak spot, or developing something that is strongly desired by the market. Knowing the weak spot and identifying the willingness of the customer's to 'pay' to have their problem solved is a key hurdle for any new venture. The best taught leaders in the space all advocate customer development, particularly problem-market-fit development, as vital on ensuring all efforts of a startup are in alignment with the needs of the market.

“If you don’t talk to your customers, how will you know how to talk to your customers?” –Will Evans

Steve Blank, who is recognized for developing the Customer Development Methodology, is often heard saying, “There are no facts inside your building.” And he is absolutely right. If you want to move your company forward, the best people to ask which direction to go to are your customers.

Here’s a mantra that you should always repeat to yourself:

You are not the customer. Only through research can you uncover people’s pains, needs, and goals in their context.

To know more about the market, you should figure out your customers’ persona. What’s their context? What are they trying to achieve? How can your company add value?

But you shouldn’t just ask these questions literally. You need to probe deeper. You need to use the right approach to get more insight. Your customer shouldn’t feel like it’s an interview. It must be natural and should feel like a conversation.

How do you achieve this?

First, and probably the most important, is to listen. Comprehend what your customer is saying. Reflect on their answers and empathize.

Next, ask for stories. The best way for you to show that you’re genuinely interested in what your customer has to say is to ask for their story. Let them openly share what their experiences are with your product or service.

Third, ask open-ended questions. Remember that you are trying to discover things about your market. You need to let them tell you without leading them on. This is the best way to learn about new things.

Last, but not the least, is to identify an observation from an insight. More often than not, discovering an observation from your customer can lead to something unknown that you can use in developing your product/service.

The best innovators on the planet have one thing in common: they work with the demands of the market to build meaningful solutions to existing problems. Far too many organization decision makers assume they know the market needs because they hired a research or a consulting firm that have flashy presentations. But true insights, and empathy, can only come from decisions makers getting first-hand experience from customer interviews, in the context (space & time) of where they need the solution.

In my latest book, Innovation Wars, I will take you through the good and the bad in customer development. The book will provide you the tools, and frameworks to turn your customer research into insightful thoughts that lead to the shaping of impactful ventures. To order a copy of the book, head over this link: PRE-ORDER NOW