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Last updated on 5/11/20

Use the customer interview template

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Taking notes of the interview conversation is essential. The best time to do so is immediately after the interview has concluded. The benefits of completing a customer interview template are:

  • Keeping records that you can refer to later.

  • Remembering the most important conclusions/discoveries as you felt them just after the interview.

  • Reviewing the demographics of the most interested customers (likely early adopters). 

  • Turning conversations into data (e.g., 7/20 people interviewed said they were nervous about paying by credit card).

  • Recording a list of referrals that need to be contacted later.

Preparing for the interview

  • Write down your current beliefs or assumptions. For example, if you are building a product to help people find dog walkers, you may have assumed that "Dog owners will let a stranger walk their dog," "Dog owners will pay $20 an hour for dog walking," or "Dog owners are happy to drop off the dog as long as it is within 10km of their home." The motivation behind customer interviews is to challenge these assumptions and prove them true or false.

  • Think of ways to make a connection or begin with small talk. For example, if you are stuck in traffic on the way to the interview, you could start with "Is the traffic often bad?"

Sticking to the script

You don't need to stick to a script when you use a customer interview template.  Your job is to discover. True discovery will happen when you "dig deeper" at appropriate moments and use the five somethings.

Therefore, you are not following a script when asking questions. Rather, this template is a checklist of a few basic things to ask (you should ask more questions when needed). If the interviewee talks about their problem (or their job-to-be-done), then describes things of great distress/ huge value, then that's your cue to dig deeper.

Also, remember to listen. Don't interrupt and don't try to sell. Conversations are supposed to flow so try to let the interviewee guide the discussion if they want to.

Customer interview template

You can download a customer interview template here.

Let's examine the three main sections of this template.

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Section 1: Demographics

The first section of the downloaded customer interview template allows you to input:

  1. Date of the interview

  2. Interviewee name

  3. Interviewee email address (although you can leave email address blank or add other contact details if you wish)

  4. Demographic information

  5. Customer perception of problem's importance

Demographic information

Demographic information can be their age, sex, nationality, number of children, income level, marital status and any other factors you deem relevant as buying factors. For example, if the product is an app to find dog walkers, you might ask them how many dogs they have and what type of dogs they own.

Customer perception of problem importance

There is an area to indicate how much of a perceived problem this is for the customer. It might not be a problem at all (end interview!). It may be a problem, but no action has been taken. The interviewee may have researched solutions, have a budget or have already bought a similar product. Interviewees like this are exactly whom you want to talk with.

You should choose one of the following options:

  • No real problem/no serious consequences

  • Is aware of having a problem/taken no action yet

  • Has researched solutions

  • Has a budget

  • Has bought a solution 

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Section 2: Last time

In this section, you will try to learn two things:

  1. What the customer has previously done to solve the problem

  2. If they bought your product (or a competitor's product), which events led up to this decision (perhaps some events triggered a purchase)

If the interviewee does perceive a given problem worth solving, the next natural question is "Last time this happened, what did you do?" This is a great question because it talks about the past (which removes bias and gets to the truth) and because you get to find out how big a problem this is. If the interviewee says that this problem is costing millions of dollars a day, but they haven't even tried to solve it, then these two responses aren't consistent.

The ideal person to interview is one who has recently bought your product or a competitor's product. The evaluation of alternative products and the decision process will be fresh in their minds. The best insight to learn from someone who has recently bought a product is what events led up to the purchase.

If the interviewee is researching or has previously bought a solution, which situation (events) triggered this action? For example, a customer might decide to purchase password management software because their colleague's computer at work was hacked. Or a customer might download a fitness app because they didn't like what they saw when they stepped on a scale. People who have previously bought something, in particular, go through the following phases (and you want to determine which real-life events motivated them to move to the next phase):

  1. Not looking

  2. Passive looking (keeping an eye open)

  3. Actively looking

  4. Evaluating a short list of potential purchases

  5. Purchase

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The 'timeline' and events that lead to purchase

If you know the events that triggered a purchase, then you'll be able to identify with confidence the customers intended "job-to-be-done."

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Section 3: Currency

The third section of the customer interview template is where you reflect on whether the interviewee really is a potential early purchaser of your product (often called an early adopter). If they really have a problem they care about solving, you might be able to obtain currency (i.e., one of money, more of the customer's time, referrals, and/or a letter of intent).

The idea is to find a number of customers who have a set of characteristics/demographics that describe a problem that they have, its effect on their lives, and an intense need to improve and cure this problem. When these customers indicate that your suggested product is something they believe would do this (and they give you a form of currency), then you know that your suggested product has product-market fit with the users that have these demographics.

Another way of saying this is that these types of users (not all users in the world) have a problem they care about and your product and its features are something they are willing to pay for in order to fix this problem.

In the final section of the template, you want to note:

  • If you obtained currency (money/time/referrals/letters of intent)

  • Next steps (if this customer is genuinely interested, you can follow up with them later)

  • Referrals (the names and potentially email addresses or phone numbers of others you can talk to)

  • Thoughts (anything else to write down that you might want to remember later, including unexpected insights and overall conclusion)

Let's recap!

  • A customer interview template is a way to write down interviews just after they have happened.

  • Immediately after an interview, spend 5-10 minutes writing notes, which is important when you reflect back after a large number of interviews.

  • Finding customers who have this problem, are trying to solve it or have made purchases are the ideal interviewees and give you the insight you need. You can ignore the input of "non-customers."

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement