Learning from your customers is one the most critical things you can do to be successful in business. I talked last week about four different ways you can get insights from your customers. While they are all valuable, interviews are absolutely the best.

Interviews don’t have to be formal, stuffy conversations. Your customers wouldn’t want to participate in that, anyway. I’m talking about one-on-one conversations where you are asking questions about their experiences and problems and what would make their lives easier. This not only provides you with good information to help move your business forward, it makes your customers feel heard and cared for. It helps build real, genuine relationships. And people buy from people they know, like, and trust. So it’s a win-win.

Interviews are better than other forms of gathering insights because you can gather so much more information. If you are inperson (or on video) you can see facial expressions and body language. You know when someone frowns, looks confused, or gets uncomfortable by your question. Then you can probe deeper into why the question affect them. You can adjust your questions as you go, based on responses to get to information you might never have considered.

In-person or on video is the prefered method. Phone calls work as well. As a last resort, you can email or text, but a lot can be lost in translation when you are typing. (I’m sure we’ve all experienced that.)

Not sure who you should be talking to? Hint: It’s more than just people who have bought from you. But that’s a great place to start.

  1. People who are currently using or have used your services. Pretty self-explanatory right? They will have to most insights on whether or not your product or service is actually solving a real problem for them.
  2. People who struggle with the problem you are trying to solve, but are not currently using your services. Don’t talk to these people about why they haven’t bought from you. Talk to them about their problem. Get really deep to the root of the issue.
  3. People who have already solved the problem on their own. Talking to these people—known as Positive Deviants* in the research world—have the same circumstances and resources as those around them, but have somehow managed to figure out a workaround to the problem. This is not other business owners that provide a solution to the problem. This is people who didn’t buy a solution but solved the problem anyway. They can be an incredible source of information about ways to lessen the struggle or solve the problem that you might never have thought of.
  4. Other people indirectly affected by the problem (family members, friends of those who could use your service). Often people in the middle of a problem can’t see the whole picture. Much like you observing your customers, their friends, family, and customers observe them. Talking to these people gives you an entirely different perspective on what your client is going through.  

Now that you know who to interview, find out the most important kinds of questions to ask by downloading my free interview question guide.

*Positive Deviants and using their behaviors to solve problems became well-known in the 1990’s thanks to Jerry & Monique Sternin working with Save the Children in Vietnam. A few families in the village had children that were not malnourished to the same extent as the other families. Researchers began studying these families to see what they did differently. It led to new solutions they could implement throughout the village.