Gathering Voice of Customer information is just about the most useful (and least executed) of all marketing activities. Face-to-face interviews are costly in terms of time and effort, but they’re also of incredible value, ensuring your business is guided by what is important to customers.
Here’s a step-by-step plan for conducting interviews with your customers:
Determine what you want to learn and how you will use these insights.
The first step is to think about how the resulting information will be used:
- As input into wording questions for a larger client survey
- To prioritize new product development directions
- For marketing messaging or value proposition
- To improve customer service or client communication
Determine your representative sample or the group of people that would best describe your customer base.
You want to be sure that you are hearing different voices where it counts. The key here is not to pick differences based on pure demographics but on characteristics, you think may really matter when the customer is shopping for products or services you offer. You then ideally select customers to interview making sure you have a complete representation of your customer groups.
Here are some common characteristics to think through:
- Race, ethnicity other cultural background characteristics
- How long they have been a customer, length of time using product/service
- How “big” of a customer – regularly purchase, first-time purchaser
- Life stage: young professional, first child, retired, etc.
- Role in making the purchase decision (usually for B2B sales)
- Type of problem you solve
- Product/service used
- Satisfied vs dissatisfied vs not a customer
Ask for interviews.
People are busy, and it is a generous act for them to give of their time and candor. You can offer an incentive, such as a drawing for a gift card, etc., or you can just reach out as a business owner who cares about a customer-driven business. It is best if the request come from the person most closely connected and known by the customer, whether that be the owner, salesperson, or customer representative.
The key here is to be clear in what you are asking and how much time it will take:
Subject: Request for Interview
Dear <<Customer Name>>:
As I make plans for the future of << company name>>, I want to make sure that our priorities reflect what is most valuable to you. I would therefore like to ask you for your thoughts on our current product/services and what you would like to see moving forward.
<<name of interviewer>> will be reaching out to capture your honest and candid feedback. The interview will only take 10-15 minutes of your time and can be conducted over the phone or at <<location>>. Let me know of a few convenient time slots over the next week, and we will send you a confirming calendar invite. Or feel free to decline if you feel uncomfortable in any way.
Thank you. Your time and comments are certainly valuable to us.
Assign a neutral party to conduct the interviews.
In order to get the most candid feedback possible, enlist the help of an independent party (not a client-facing employee) who has experience in conducting and capturing feedback.
Keep the survey questions open and broad.
You want to capture what is “top of mind” and important to the customer. Therefore, keep the questions of a general nature on value such as:
- What was the trigger that made you decide to get <<product/service>>?
- Was there a problem you wanted to solve?
- Why did you select <<our company>>?
- What did you expect from us?
- Describe the value you receive as a <<company name>> client.
- How best should we be interacting/corresponding?
- What else could <<company name>> be doing for you?
- What products or services are we NOT doing that you wish we did?
The interviewer should be open and encouraging but quiet, allowing the customer to speak in his or her own way. Record exact wording as much as possible. Communication is largely non-verbal, so capture tone, pauses facial expressions, overall energy, and enthusiasm. Thank the customer after the interview is complete.
After a number of interviews (usually a few in each category defined in step x), look for patterns and insights.
Adjust as needed.
Adjust to ensure the data you are gathering will get you to your goals defined in the first step.
Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.