Customer discovery questions
The only scripted question I ask is:
Tell me about why you started using [our product]?
I do customer discovery work in the context of existing products and I only interviewing existing users.
Traditionally, discovery work is done before you build a product. There’s lots of great writing out there about that sort of discovery work. I’m going to talk about discovery in the context of improving retention and making an existing product better.
The goal of an interview is to understand the problems people are trying to solve with your product, so that you uncover opportunities to make it better as solving those problems.
The point of this opening question is to elicit a story. You want people to paint the picture of where they were before they started using your product and where they were hoping your product would get them.
If you get a one-sentence response (“I downloaded you app to get fit”) then you can follow the question with
What’s the hardest part about [X]?
X being the core problem your product helps people solve.
Most of the time you can recycle a one sentence response into the follow-up, “What’s the hardest part about getting fit?”
I’m not big on using scripts. They can be helpful. I usually have a list of fallback questions if the conversation stalls. People will only tell you a story if you demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in listening to what they have to say. Running through a list of questions doesn’t invite someone to share a story with you.
If you’re just after a bullet points to a list of question then you should send out a survey instead. Much less hassle on both ends.
Rather than relying on a script you’re listening for emotional highs and lows in the conversation. When you see someone is talking about something they care about, redirect the conversation with prompts like:
- Tell me more about that.
- Please say more.
- And what else?
- What happened after that?
I know I said that I am not big on scripts but there is one question that I like to end every conversation with:
Is there anything else I should have asked?
This is a great question because sometimes people understand what you are trying to do but you haven’t given them an opening to say what they want to say. Other times you can sense that the conversation isn’t over yet and it’s because they have questions. Worst case scenario, they just say no.
- Speaking to people is critical to building badass products.
- If you’re interested in the more traditional discovery work that happens before you build a product then checkout The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. The four steps has since been revised into a new book called ‘The Startup Owners manual’.
- This super short video by Justin Wilcox is an oldie but it’s on point 🎯.
- 💸 I cannot talk about the customer interview process without referring to Rob Fitzpatrick. His book is the single most useful resource I have ever read on the matter. The Mom Test. It’s a short book, just read it, you can thank me later.
- 💸 If you don’t have time to read Rob’s book he’s also put together a fantastic Udemy course that covers all the important bits.
- Eric Migicovsky has a great video on the basics of talking to users in YC’s startup school library.
- 💸 You can also look into learning how to start conducting jobs-to-be-done interviews.
- 💸 If you want to go deeper on interviewing product in the context of existing products, one of the best courses I’ve done on customer discovery interviews is by Terresa Torres. She has a 4-week course, full of practice sessions, and it’s amazing.