The Art of Conducting Customer Interviews by Microsoft Product Lead, Nirav Patel

Types of customer interviews, and what to expect.

  1. During market research & analysis

  2. Right after pilot or soft launch

  3. Part of run and growth phase

  4. To analyze need of new features

Identify right audience for interviews - "type of users".

Identify right audience - "known" vs. "stranger".

When known, keep the interview... Precise, can be detailed, recurring.

When stranger, keep the interview... Brief, can cover more topics, one time.

Balancing "what" and "how" sides in interviews.

When you create a product or launch new features. "What" - what do you want to build, what new features do you want to create, what checks do you want to add, what thoughts should come from your site based on market research, how do you want to implement this site, should be focused in the interview.

Catch the thoughts of users, and then you can decide how you will implement this or that feature. The conversation partner should focus on learning how your products and features work.

Recognizing untold stories

  1. What motivates your customer to use the product!

  2. Does product support their JTBD (Jobs To Be Done)?

  3. Dive into their Problems and Struggling moments

  4. Find out how same functionalities are used differently

  5. Learn customer's habits (watch their action/usage)

  6. Any buying barriers? (budget, current product etc.)

  7. Any usage barriers due to seasonality factor?


How many customers you should interview?

  • Generally, 5 to 6 customers in each category and/or persona

  • No more than 10, or it will most probably fetch repetitive outcome

Bring consistency in conducting interviews for same topic

  • It helps to stay focused on desired outcome and driving interviews efficiently

  • It will also help to uncover specific usage patterns and trends, if exist.

How to approach it?

  • Start with easy, fact-based questions

  • Keep it casual and relaxed

  • Make it face to face (or video call)

  • Include some broader questions

  • Show genuine interest in what customer explains (his/her point of view)

  • Ask probing questions, to fetch better insights for the topic.

How to make it effective?

  • Building rapport with customer in advance always helps

  • Practice effective listening, to isolate the noise during conversation

  • Focus on questions that help you to validate your understanding of problem statement

  • Cross check your understanding, to be on same page (reflective listening).

DON`Ts, to avoid FAILURE!

  • No Presentations or Product demos

  • Don't ask Leading Questions

  • No WHY, or it triggers rational mind

  • Don't keep asking lot of questions

  • Control strong reactions to response

  • Don't reflect negativity in your tone

  • Don't be defensive for negative responses from customer

Interview Management Framework - “Diaper”

Nirav Patel, Microsoft Product Lead