Interviewing customers a Startup guide

Interviewing customers a Startup guide

Simon Jenner

Tuesday, 24 October 2023

Interviewing customers

Customer interviews are the most engaging and direct way for businesses to gain invaluable insights into their customer base

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Starting a new business comes with the need to learn more about the target market, identify perceptive customers, and understand their needs and expectations. The conception of new and innovative ideas for products or services is mainly dependent on these customers. This is where customer interviews come into play.

Customer interviews are the most engaging and direct way for businesses to gain invaluable insights into their customer base. Not only does it enable the business to collect direct and factual feedback, but it also greatly helps in forming personal, emotional connections with clients. The following guide elucidates how startup founders can conduct efficient customer interviews.

Identifying and connecting with interview subjects

Firstly, distinguish between the types of customers to talk to. You can find these customers through channels such as social media, webinars, sales data, or even through face-to-face networking events. Initially, opt for a casual approach, express your interest in their ideas, and ask if they’d be willing to share their insights. Show them what's in it for them to provide their time and information. This could be anything from a discount on your product, an opportunity to influence the product’s design, or simply the chance to share their opinions.

Formulating the right questions

The creation of the right questions is one of the most crucial aspects of conducting a customer interview. Avoid questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no". Instead, focus on open-ended questions to encourage the customers to elaborate on their answers.

Such questions could be:

  • "What issues are you facing with our current product?"

  • "Which features do you use the most?"

  • "What changes would you suggest to our product?"

  • "How often do you use our product?"

The Don'ts of Questioning

Besides understanding what to ask, it's equally crucial to know what not to ask. Avoid suggesting answers to your own questions or being biased. Don't interrupt the interviewee or assume anything about their experience. Stay neutral and listen objectively to the information they are providing.

Documenting the interviews

A thorough record of the interviews is crucial for later analysis. Take comprehensive notes during the interviews, focusing on non-verbal cues and emotional responses besides the actual words. It's also a good idea to record the interviews, with the interviewee's consent, for a detailed review later. Documenting these interactions ensures a rich pool of accurate data for further evaluation.

Extracting answers from data

After the interview, categorise and break down all the data collected in several ways for different perspectives. These could be categorized based on themes, patterns, overall sentiments expressed, product issues, suggestions, etc. By gleaning insights from these interviews, startup founders can address customers’ needs and concerns effectively and swiftly, thereby ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. This rich feedback also sparks new ideas for innovation and improvements to the business offering.

In a nutshell, customer interviews are an invaluable tool that can help you understand your customers and their needs. Remember to approach them with an open mind, listen carefully, and value their input. Used in the right way, this strategy will provide your startup with a wealth of insight and direction.

Example interview

Here's a fictional interview between Alex, a startup founder in the financial tech (fintech) space, and Jordan, a potential customer.

Alex: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, Jordan. We're working on a fintech solution that aims to simplify personal finance management for individuals. Before we dive in, can you tell me a little about your current financial management habits?

Jordan: Of course, Alex. I currently use a combination of mobile banking apps and spreadsheets. The apps help me keep track of my expenses and savings, while I use spreadsheets for budgeting and financial planning.

Alex: That's insightful. What are some pain points or challenges you face with your current setup?

Jordan: Well, sometimes it's cumbersome to manually update my spreadsheet with data from various sources. Also, the apps I use don't offer comprehensive insights or suggestions on how I can better manage my finances.

Alex: Got it. Have you tried other fintech solutions in the past? If so, what did you like or dislike about them?

Jordan: I've tried a couple of budgeting apps. I liked that they could automatically categorize my expenses, but they often mis-categorized items, and I had to correct them manually. I also wish they offered more personalized advice based on my spending habits.

Alex: That's valuable feedback. Our solution aims to integrate various financial data sources and provide actionable insights using AI. Would that be something of interest to you?

Jordan: Definitely! If it can save me time and offer accurate suggestions, I'd be interested.

Alex: Great to hear. How do you feel about sharing financial data with fintech platforms? Are there any specific concerns you have?

Jordan: Privacy is a big concern for me. I'd want to know how my data is being used and ensure that it's encrypted and stored securely. I'm also wary of hidden fees or charges.

Alex: Understood. We prioritize user privacy and data security, and we aim to be transparent about our monetization strategies. Lastly, are there any features or capabilities that you wish your current fintech solutions had?

Jordan: I'd love a feature that allows me to set financial goals and track my progress. Also, it would be great if the platform could integrate with other financial products like investments or insurance and give me an overall view of my financial health.

Alex: That's a fantastic suggestion, Jordan. Thank you for sharing your insights with us today. Your feedback is invaluable as we develop our fintech solution.

Jordan: Happy to help, Alex. I'm looking forward to seeing what your startup comes up with!

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