Structure a customer interview

Business Benefits

Gain audience insights to build accurate buyer personas.

Define what you want to learn or validate about your customer to understand them better.

Categories that are typically covered in persona research interviews include personal background, professional info, buying and research behaviors, challenges, goals, values, and questions specific to your brand or niche. For example, a surfing company will have questions related to surfing experiences and a SaaS company that targets businesses will focus more on careers.

Brainstorm a list of open-ended interview questions that address your desired insights.

Open-ended interview questions do not have a set number of answers and allow full elaboration. Do you have any challenges? is a close ended question, while What challenges do you face? is an open-ended question. Use mostly open-ended questions during interviews. For example:

  • Personal information: Where do you live? What’s your educational background?
  • Job: What is your job title? What skills are important for your job?
  • Interests and communication: Describe your typical workday or weekend. What social media do you use? Which blogs do you read?
  • Goals, challenges, and fears: What are your personal goals? What challenges prevent you from reaching that goal? What solutions have you looked into? How would you measure success for your goal?
  • Values: What do you look for in a product to solve your problem or help you reach your goal? Which characteristic for that product is most important to you? What do you value in your personal life?
  • Shopping behavior: How do you perform research when you’re looking for a product? How do you prefer to interact with vendors? Have you ever attended a webinar?

Create an interview outline by sorting questions into thematic categories, assigning priority levels based on importance, and narrowing down questions to fit in your allotted interview time.

Most audience research interviews are around 15-30 minutes. Expect personal background questions or questions that need less explanation, like What social media platforms do you use?, to take less time than more thorough questions, like Take me through each step before you purchased the product.

Include every question category that you want answers for within your high-priority questions. Include more questions than you expect to have time for, so you can ask lower priority questions if time allows.

Consider sending your interview questions to your interviewee ahead of time, so they can start thinking about their answers.

Start the interview by introducing yourself, thanking the customer for being there, asking permission to record the interview, and asking the customer to introduce themselves.

If there are other people in the room or on the call, like a customer service rep or note-taker, let them briefly introduce themselves and their role to make the interviewee more comfortable.

Keep introductions short to avoid having to cut interview questions to fit in the allotted time.

Start with shorter, more straightforward questions about demographic and background information.

To save time on this section, consider having the interviewee fill in a pre-interview questionnaire that answers straight-forward personal information. For example:

  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • What is your job role and title?
  • What social media platforms do you use? Which is your favorite?

Spend the majority of the time asking your high-priority questions that address challenges, goals, and other insights your brand is highly interested in.

One way to structure the interview is by asking one big question, like, What is your biggest challenge?, and then working through that question’s multiple facets. That first question can then turn into other follow-up or guiding questions to get the full story. For example, What is your biggest challenge? may lead to How do you know when you’re facing that problem? > How do you feel when facing it? > Which part is the most frustrating? > Which methods to overcome this challenge have you considered? > Have you tried any solutions? > How did you go about finding that solution? > What words did you use in your search? and What information did you find?

Ask unscripted follow-up questions if an answer needs expansion, clarification, or surprises you.

If an interviewee is not elaborating enough, follow up their answer with a why, why not, how, or can you think of an example. Help them add more detail or better answer the question by asking them about a certain part of their story.

Allow some digression from your interview outline if an answer is particularly intriguing or needs more time to explore, but return to the interview outline afterward to ensure all important questions are answered.

Ask the customer if they have any questions for you, comments, thoughts, or concerns.

This may include general brand questions, specific product questions, an additional related story, or an insight about your brand, product, or competitors.

If they don’t have anything to add, use this time to ask a few more questions on your list that you wanted to ask if you had extra time.

Conclude the interview by thanking the customer and providing next steps.

Provide your contact info and information about any potential follow-up. Provide a discount, free trial, or other incentive to show your appreciation.

Send a follow-up email shortly after the interview to continue a line of communication, thank them again, and provide additional resources or a call to action.

Review interview notes to help develop or enhance your buyer persona profiles.

Generate an interview transcript from a recorded interview by using a transcription service like Rev or Trint.

To review and apply your interview notes:

  • Create a spreadsheet to collect all interview notes for this persona, with categories like Goals and Demographics per interviewee. Create a mind or word map with a tool, like Miro or Visual Paradigm Online, to visualize the data.
  • If you have already conducted other interviews for this buyer persona, add the information and notable quotes to your existing spreadsheet in a different interviewee category. Look for similarities and differences between the interview answers.
  • Turn the interview insights into a presentation for stakeholders with PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Canva.
  • Use a tool like HubSpot’s Make My Persona to make your buyer persona using the interview answers, or make your own buyer persona template.

Last edited by @hesh_fekry 2023-11-14T11:40:17Z