Chapter 6. Get Ready to Interview Customers

The fastest way to learn is to talk to customers. Not releasing code, or collecting analytics, but talking to people. We’ll be using customer interviews as a learning tool[13] throughout the rest of book. This chapter lays some groundwork for conducting good interviews.

No Surveys or Focus Groups, Please

When asked to do the smallest thing to learn from customers, many founders’ first instinct is to conduct a bunch of surveys or focus groups. While running surveys and focus groups may seem more efficient than interviewing customers, starting there is usually a bad idea.

Here’s why:

Surveys assume you know the right questions to ask.

It is hard, if not impossible, to script a survey that hits all the right questions to ask, because you don’t yet know what those questions are. During a customer interview, you can ask for clarification and explore areas outside your initial understanding.

Customer interviews are about exploring what you don’t know you don’t know.

Worse, surveys assume you know the right answers, too.

In a survey, not only do you have to ask the right questions, but you also have to provide the customer with the right choice of answers. When taking a survey, how many times has your best answer been “Other”?

The best initial learning comes from “open-ended” questions.

You can’t see the customer during a survey.

Body language cues are as much an indicator of Problem/Solution Fit as the answers themselves.

Focus groups are just plain wrong. ...

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