Preparing for Early Customer Interviews

UnknownOnce you have identified potential target customers, you can prepare for interviewing them. You have two objectives for these early customer experience interviews. The first objective is to validate your preliminary assumptions about the problem your venture hopes to solve. The second objective is to find evidence that your assumptions about your target customer are indeed correct. See our earlier post, Five Assumptions We Make about Target Customers. 


Let’s start with the first objective. To learn about your potential customer’s experience and whether it aligns with your assumptions and proposed business model, you should structure the interview to explore important elements of the customer’s experience as it relates to the problem, solution, expected benefits, and purchasing process.
Preparing Customer Interviews

While the customer interview itself can be conducted in a semi informal manner, preparation should be structured and well organized. We recommend that you start by listing the core assumptions you have about each of the customer experience components. What do you see as the problem? How important is it that your customer finds a solution? Are there other solutions and are they missing something that your venture will supply? Is the customer willing to pay for solutions? Once you have listed your core assumptions, you should also identify any measures or metrics that you can use to quantify the assumptions?For example, can the customer provide a measure of the problem’s pain point? If the customer spends X amount of time on a task that they feel is onerous, how much time do they actually spend? This will quantify the problem. Upon further exploration, you can then explore how much time is saved with current solutions? Are customers satisfied by the time savings? If not, what degree of time savings would be considered valuable? The answer to this will provide you with a measure of the customer’s perceived severity of the problem as well as what gain they would expect from a new solution.

On ProblemOnce you have listed your core assumptions and quantifiable measures, you can generate the questions you plan to ask during the customer interview. We suggest that you create a short series of questions about each customer experience component. Starting with questions about the problem, followed by questions relating to current solutions, expected gains from current or new solutions, and how much they pay or are willing to pay for effective solutions. Your questions should be open-ended, allowing the customer to openly and freely drive the conversation without being led by any of your assumptions. We have listed some starting questions for each area to get your started.
On Solution
After you have created your list of questions across each customer experience area, it is time to identify people who meet your customer profile. As a starting point, list five potential customers and their contact information. Once you have your questions organized, schedule a time to speak with each of these customers. Of course, you will need to speak to many more customers during the venture discovery process, but this first five can provide you with a sense of whether you are on to something or not. It also helps to evaluate whether you are asking the right questions to the right customers.
On Benefit

As part of these interviews, it is also important to validate your assumptions about the target customer profile. It is important that you record selected demographic information and behavioral characteristics about each interviewee. Do they fit your initial assumptions about the customer?  At this point, it does not matter whether you focus on a specific customer segment, in fact diversity at this point is recommended. You will begin to see how people with differing demographics and characteristics perceive the problem, solution, and expected value.

On Purchase
After you have completed your interviews with the first five potential customers, you can assess what you have learned about the problem, current solutions, what would be considered a better solution, and generally, is your product solution on the right track. You will also have gained insight into your target customer, what is really important to them, and what they value the most in solution. Additionally, do the most passionate potential customers have similar characteristics, interests, lifestyles, that you should consider as you move forward.

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