Conducting customer interviews and asking the right questions.
In a data driven world, customer interviews are often overlooked. However, they can redefine your positioning and act as a catalyst for new hypotheses. But before starting your customer interviews, it's important to understand why these interactions are so important. Here are some important insights you should look for when conducting your interviews:
- Learning the language - Being able to “talk shop” with customers in the future will make them feel more comfortable. Also using their own words in marketing copy will feel more personal and relatable instead of classic marketing jargon.
- Understanding why they chose your business over the competition - Allows you to really understand what they value and how you can ensure that you are broadcasting your strengths to new potential clients.
- Understanding customers' personas - Who are the decision makers, where do they spend their time online/in real life. This will allow you to target them with the proper messaging in the proper places.
- Understand the customer journey - From initial discovery, like the keywords used in their first google search, to what ultimately sold them and closed the sale at the end.
Which customers should you interview?
Start with the low risk/high response customers first: i.e. those who are the friendliest, were happy with the results that you delivered for them, and the most likely to chat with you over the phone.
Once you build up more rapport with the friendlier customers, then start interviewing a couple clients who were not totally satisfied with the results that you provided, asking them how you can improve.
Finally, get in touch with someone who was almost a customer but backed out at the final stages of the buying process or chose to go with the competition instead. This will allow you to understand any weaknesses/hesitations and how you can address those going forward.
Example of when customer interviews completely change a business strategy: Febreze.
When Febreze first came out with their odor eliminating spray in the 1990s, market research and focus group studies were promising but sales were drastically underwhelming. The team went to the field to conduct some one-on-one interviews with their target audience to find out “why”.
In one interview, they met with a woman who had 9 cats in her home. When the marketing team asked her what she did about the smell, she replied “Isn't it wonderful? My cats hardly smell at all."
This simple research interview and observation created a colossal shift in the marketing strategy of Febreze. Their customers were “nose-blind” to the smells in their own home.
Brilliantly, this insight sparked a new campaign where Febreze educated would-be customers about the blind spots in their smell detection. They also reinforced the habit of spraying Febreze only after cleaning the entire house, creating a habit that is more likely to be replicated because it has a trigger.
This one insight gleaned from a customer interview drastically changed the marketing strategy at Febreze and led to massive increases in sales.
So if customer interviews are so important, what kinds of questions should you be asking?
The best way to ask customers for truly valuable insights, is to reverse engineer a successful sale:
- Where were you in your life when you realized you needed my product/service?
This takes them back to the first time they realized they needed you. It will help you contextualize the buyers mindset when they first began the discovery phase of the buyers journey.
- Where’s the first place you began your search?
Understanding which media the customer uses will help you make informed decisions about where to allocate your marketing resources. Are they looking for training videos on YouTube, simple Google searches, or maybe asking online forums of local experts.
- How did you ultimately find us?
This digs a little deeper and if you don't have the means to track offline conversions it can again reinforce your marketing allocation decisions.
- Did you look at alternatives? Competitors, not using a product or service at all?
Understanding your competition is important but the second part of this question is key. Often times your real competition is a spreadsheet or a simple pen and paper, not necessarily the competition you immediately think of.
- Why did you choose us over the competition?
This is where you’ll really discover your unique selling proposition (USP).
- Who else on your team was involved in the evaluation and buying process?
Helps you understand all the decision makers involved in the process.
- Did you have any objections/hesitations about choosing us for your product/service?
Asking about hesitations allows you to uncover potential blind spots in your copywriting and messaging. If you can address those hesitations on your landing page, for example, you’ll increase conversion rates.
- Would you recommend us to others, how would you word your recommendation?
Asking how the customer would recommend your product/service is a great way to use the customer’s own words in your marketing copy. This makes it more relatable and again, uses industry specific languages that ensure you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Want to get qualitative insights at scale? Try some of these questions in a voice powered survey. Sign up to see how Voiceform can help.
Things to avoid when conducting customer interviews:
Don't ask leading questions
As a marketer it’s often tempting to have the customers validate your preconceived ideas. However, some of the most valuable insights from customer interviews are the ones you didn't expect!
Don’t just list off your questions one after another.
Make it conversational and flow naturally. If the questions seem more friendly, you will get more candid answers.
Once you are ready to start talking to customers, it’s important to ask them in a way that doesn't feel like additional work for them. Make them feel like they are an expert and you are privileged to speak with them — which is really the truth.
How to ask customers for an interview:
Example Email Introduction:
I wanted to introduce our new marketing hire: Philip Brook.
He’s eager to chat with some of our past customers to learn about your experience with Voiceform. If you have time for a quick 15 minute phone call it would be tremendously valuable for us.
Please let us know and I’ll let Philip take it from there.
Should you provide incentives for customer interviews?
If you are finding it hard to get past customers on the phone, you can also consider an incentive, whether financial or additional products or services in the future. Be wary of this, as it may cloud your customers' responses when trying to get honest answers from them.
After the interview Bonus:
If you feel the interview went, ask if they are open to rating you online and send them a link in a follow up email. They will be much more likely to leave a positive review after talking about how they love your product/service.
How to scale customer interviews:
Actually talking to your customers is a great way to get some really valuable qualitative insights, but it does come with one downside: it’s impossible to scale.
That’s part of the reason why we created Voiceform. It allows for qualitative data (customers candid answers to your interview questions) but at scale (you can send thousands of voice surveys to your customers, prospects, or target audiences).
If you’d like to learn more about the power of voice surveys, please don’t hesitate to reach out!