Interviewing your customer for a case study can be scary. Usually, you only have one shot to get it right. Do you have a nagging feeling that you are asking the wrong questions? And that you’re not getting the information you need? Here are 7 ways to get your interview on the rails and to unleash your inner journalist.
A few blog posts ago, we covered how you can prepare for a customer interview. If you have already done that, it’s time for the real deal.
Here are a few tips for during the interview.
1. Let go of your questionnaire.
Don’t get me wrong: a good questionnaire is important to have, and you should make sure your questions will cover the stuff you want to know. But don’t bombard your customer with a list of 50 questions. Most of the times, you should be able to cover the whole story in about 10 questions. Don’t feel like you have to tick off every question.
Good journalists try to maintain a good conversational flow during an interview, and that’s what you should try to do too. The more casual and conversational your interview is, the more interesting questions you will probably get.
Not every question on your list necessarily needs an answer if you feel like it will not fit into the story. At the same time, you should be prepared to ask additional questions and go off-topic when the opportunity arises. If you feel your customer says something interesting that is not on your to do list, then by all means strike the iron while it’s hot.
2. Ask open ended questions.
Ever asked a lengthy and perfectly interesting question, just to hear your interviewee say ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Bummer isn’t it? The idea is to have your customer expand as much as possible about your subject and say nice things about your product or company. In order to do that, you should use ‘open ended’ questions. In other words: questions that start with interrogative pronouns: how, why, where, when, what ...
Consider these two examples:
- Do you like this product feature?
- What do you think about this product feature?
Or this example:
- Did you consider other brands?
- Which other products did you consider and why?
Which question do you think will yield the best result? Right, it’s the second question.
3. Ask simple questions.
Sometimes, we tend to be too greedy in our quest for information. That’s where we start asking difficult questions, consisting of different parts. Try to avoid that, because it will confuse your interviewee and you risk missing important information. Instead, try to ask one simple question at a time, and when you feel that one is answered, follow up with another question. This will help your customer to follow your train of thought.
4. Ask dumb questions.
When you are doing an interview, your customer usually assumes that you are an expert on all of the company’s products. That is not always the case, so you should not be afraid to ask so-called dumb questions. It’s okay if you don’t know everything, so don’t be afraid to ask again if you don’t understand the answer fully.
The people who are going to read your story probably don’t know anything about your product either, so you should always try to make your story dummy-proof.
This type of questions might help:
I’m not sure if I completely understand …. Could you please further explain …
So, if I understand this correctly …
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, is it correct to say that …
5. Tell your customer exactly what you want.
If your product has a nice little feature and you want your customer to say something about that, then just ask. This is a totally allowable type of question:
“I would love to have a quote on this feature. What would you like to comment on that?”
6. It’s not the Spanish inquisition.
How long should an interview be? We already mentioned that you should not stick too feverishly to your questionnaire. If you have been interviewing your customer for about an hour already, it’s probably a good idea to just call it a day. An interview usually takes about 30 minutes. If it’s longer than that, your customer will grow tired and start to lose focus, which will result in bad answers.
7. And the last question is …
Finished the interview? Think you had it all? Before you go, it is a good idea to ask your customer that last magical question:
Is there anything else you would like to say that our readers should know about?
It’s amazing what can come out of that question sometimes. We are sometimes so focused on what we know and on the typical benefits of our products, that we forget that our customer might have a totally different view on our product. Try it out and see how it works!
Good luck with your case study interview!
Do you have any additional case study tips? Let me know and I’ll include them in the list.