Customer Interviews for Startups

Top 3 Questions Founders Ask About Customer Interviews

Jul 28, 2022

We know.

You want to get to the fun part of entrepreneurship: building your product, creating your logo, and brainstorming names.

And here we are talking about validation and customer research (again) and how sending out surveys, while helpful, rarely tells the whole story of your customer’s experiences.

Fact: The most powerful tool in your customer discovery arsenal is 1:1 interviewing, and interviewing people who align with your customer profile uncovers insights into your customers’ habits, values, and pain points. It’s also the most accessible and inexpensive validation tool.

We’ll be exploring our top three frequently asked questions about customer interviews:

  1. How many people should I interview?
  2. What should I ask?
  3. What do I do with the information I learn from the interviews?

How many people should I interview?

Well, there’s no hard-set number. It’s more about the profile of the people you are asking. So, make sure they fit your customer persona as tightly as possible. But to answer the question, you can use this framework…

  • For B2C (Business to Consumer, aka products for individuals): Minimum 3–5 IDEAL customers (emphasis on the ideal). Interviewing 3-5 people who tightly fit your customer personas is a good starting point and reasonable representation of the market segment.
  • For B2B (Business to Business aka products for businesses): Minimum of two IDEAL companies. Getting in front of the right person in a company can be challenging. Again, aim for quality (ideal customer) over quantity (lots of random interviewees) 

What should I ask?

The most powerful questions you can ask are open-ended, and get your interviewee to tell a story. Questions like “Tell me about a time when…” can help you excavate critical insights. Also, keep your customer interviews short and sweet 15-20 minutes and 3-5 questions is a good start.

If you get stuck on questions, here are a few to add to your toolbox. Bold = what to ask. Italics = why you are requesting. 

Ask them how they solve the problem or show you how they solve the problem

  • You’ll learn what they are willing to do to solve the problem

Let them talk about what they love and hate about the ways they currently solve the problem

  • You’ll learn what is working and what is NOT working and gaps your product could fill

Ask other tools they are using to solve the problem

  • You learn if the problem is big enough for them to form their solution

Ask how did they find out about their current solution to the problem

  • You learn marketing channels you can use later when your product is ready

Ask them how much they pay for the solution used to solve the problem

  • You learn about the price points for your product

Ask them what happens if they fail to solve each problem

  • You learn the lengths they go to solve the problem

What do I do with the information I learn from my customer interviews?

Once you complete interviewing customers, creating an interview snapshot on one page will help you synthesize what you learned. A snapshot has five parts.

Part 1. Customer Info

  • Includes identifying information about the customer (i.e., name, affiliations, interview date, etc.)

Part 2. Quick Facts

  • Insert facts about the interviewee. This includes hobbies, interests, motivations, goals, and any relevant information that stood out.

Part 3. Memorable Quote

  • The quote should represent a memorable moment from the interview.
  • When a participant uses vivid language, capture their exact words.

Part 4. Insights & Opportunities

  • An Insight = descriptions of unique behaviors expressed by the customer and don’t represent needs, pain points, or desires. Example: A customer insight from an Appthink interview was that they “had a side hustle but want to explore entrepreneurship full-time one day.” At the same time, this isn’t a pain point and gives insight into a particular customer’s motivations and headspace.
  • An opportunity = a need, a pain point, or a desire expressed during the interview. Example: A customer insight from an AppThink interview was, “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information that is out there on launching a startup.”

article by Kellie Clark

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