Customer Interview Best Practices Questions

6 Best Practices for Better Customer Interviews
It goes without saying that asking the wrong questions during a customer interview will surely result in your interview participant providing you with invalid and useless feedback. If the questions in your discussion do not align with the goals of the project and its stakeholders, then the feedback from those questions will be irrelevant and uninteresting. Along the same lines, asking the right question, but in the wrong way can also lead to potentially bad data. Present your question in a particular way could result in the interview participant providing you responses they think you want to hear, or even worse, drive the participant to shutdown altogether.

Formulating good discussion guide questions is essential to receiving the best possible feedback from your interview participants. Asking the right questions will increase the chances the feedback you receive from your interview participant is both relevant and interesting. And asking question the right way will decrease chances your participants tell you only what they think you want to hear or shut down during the interview. Here are five best practices for writing questions that will help you to conduct a better customer interview.

Keep Interview Questions About Problems, Not Solutions
When formulating your interview questions it’s important to stay focused on understanding your customers’ problems. Do not depend on your customers to provide you with solutions. Focusing on the customers’ problems keeps you open to a wide variety of potential ways to improve your product for them. Focusing on solutions limits your possibilities for improving the product.

Keep interview Questions About The Participant’s Recent Experiences
When formulating your interview questions, design your questions so the participant responds to recent events and experiences. You don’t want to have them trying to remember events and experiences from years ago or even months ago. If at all possible, have the interview participant draw on the most recent memories available to them.

Keep Interview Questions Short
When asking the interview participant a question, it will be difficult for them to process long and complex questions. Try to keep your questions short, less than twenty words. Keeping your questions short will increase the chances that your interview participant will understand the question and respond with the most appropriate feedback.

Keep Interview Questions Simple
Try to keep your questions focused on one concept at a time. Do not try to get your interview participant to address multiple issues at once. Keeping your questions clear will increase the chances your participant will address the question fully. Additionally, keeping interview questions simple and singularly focused will make analyzing your data easier.

Keep Interview Questions Non-Biasing
Using interview questions that incorporate one or more of the five non-biased question formations encourages your interview participants to speak freely and tell you what they truly think and how they really feel—as opposed to what they think you want to hear or what is most acceptable. Non-biased interview questions include one or more of these five key characteristics:

1. Nonjudgmental
2. Nonleading
3. Open-ended
4. Grounded in a real time, place, activity, and situation
5. Able to elicit first person responses

Test Your Interview Questions
Once you have a final draft of your discussion guide and interview questions, it is super important for you to conduct a pilot study. Because customer interviews are often time consuming and expensive, the pilot will be the last opportunity you have to validate that you are asking the right questions and asking them the right way, before bringing in real participants.

A successful customer interview results in feedback that is interesting and valuable to you as a designer or product developer. An unsuccessful customer interview results in customer feedback that is not useful and a session that is a waste of time. A Customer Interview is just one way User Research can play a role in creating better UX. If you want to learn more about how to Improve your Product with UX Research, you can get a copy of my Guide to Understand User Experience Research when you subscribe to my newsletter.