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Deeper Insights: 10 Precision Customer Interview Question Framing Techniques for Powerful and Usable Feeback


Are you asking the right questions to get useful feedback from customers?

We’ve already shown you how using data can boost customer loyalty, especially if you’re adapting to your market’s needs by doing customer interviews and using that information to differentiate and stay competitive through advanced techniques like design thinking and prototyping and MVPs to keep innovating in retail.

Naturally, when you’re building smart by letting your customers guide you toward creating the product/service they really want, it’s important to ask the right type of questions, so you get the best possible feedback.

Here are 10 tried-and-tested customer interview question techniques…

10 Advanced Customer Interview Question Framing Techniques

1. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions (i.e. ones you cannot answer with a simple “yes” or “no”) are crucial because they encourage respondents to provide more detailed answers, offering richer data than simple yes or no answers. This technique, a staple in qualitative research from psychology to sociology, opens the door to greater insights. 

For example, instead of asking, "Do you like our website?", you could ask, "What features of our website stand out to you and why?" This not only provides more depth but also guides specific improvements.

2. Experience-Focused Questions

Experience-focused questions delve into the customer’s journey, revealing specific experiences and pain points. Rooted in ethnographic research, this approach helps understand real-world user interactions with your product or service. 

Asking customers to "Describe a recent experience where our service didn’t meet your expectations" can pinpoint exact areas needing enhancement.

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3. The “Mom Test”

Championed by entrepreneur and customer-feedback specialist, Rob Fitzpatrick, the Mom Test works on a simple principle: If you ask people for feedback, they don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they give you “false positive” advice to make you feel good (like your mom or a cheerleader would).

That’s not very useful when building a business product – you need actual, candid to improve. So the “Mom Test” is about circumventing this issue by framing all your questions without directly mentioning your product, instead only asking about the person’s normal behaviour when performing the tasks you are trying to help them solve.

For example, in e-commerce, you might ask: “Tell me, how do you normally buy… ?" then “Have you ever bought it online?” This technique is particularly effective for validating early-stage product concepts without leading the conversation.

4. Follow-Up Probes

Sometimes people give answers without divulging the underlying thinking that drives their opinion. And, as useful as knowing their opinion is, it’s even more useful to know WHY they think/feel that way.

Follow-up probes are vital for digging deeper into a response to understand the context and specifics, which yields more detailed insights. It’s basically following up every answer with a “why” or “please explain…” to help you get deeper insights into the person’s thinking around the topic.

Common in cognitive interviewing, this technique helps refine understanding by asking for more details, such as inquiring, "What would have improved your experience?" after a customer expresses dissatisfaction.

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5. Usability Questions

Usability questions address how easy and enjoyable your platform is to use, an area highlighted by usability experts like Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman. 

By focusing on specific functionalities, such as asking, "What steps confused you when making an online purchase?", you can identify and rectify user interface problems. You might even consider employing several variations and follow-up questions:

  • Task Completion: "Were there any tasks that you were unable to complete during your last visit? What hindered your progress?" This question helps identify specific blockers in the user journey.
  • Error Identification: "Did you encounter any errors while using our site? What were they, and what were you trying to do at the time?" Understanding the context of errors can help in prioritising bug fixes.
  • Comparative Usability: "Compared to other similar websites/apps, how easy is it to navigate our site? What makes it easier or harder?" This allows you to gauge your platform’s usability against industry standards or competitors.
  • Suggestion Solicitation: "What changes would make our website/app easier for you to use?" Directly asking for user input on improvements can guide future design updates effectively.

6. Expectation and Comparison Questions

Sometimes the fastest way to get to a useful answer is to candidly talk about what customers experience in the real world – and that includes your competitors!

Expectation and comparison questions assess how your services stack against competitors and understand customer expectations, a fundamental aspect of competitive analysis in business strategy. With this one, you ask customers to directly compare facets of your product/service with that of competitors.

For example, by asking, "How do our product delivery times compare to other online shopping experiences you’ve had?", you gain insight into your competitive position and areas for improvement.

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7. Feature-Specific Questions

When you’re building tech solutions, feedback can become extremely broad and varied, because people have their own perceptions and needs. That’s why some iterative builders choose to isolate and centre questions around specific existing features of a product.

Feature-specific questions focus on individual features to gather detailed feedback for targeted improvements, aligning with the principles of feature-driven development (FDD). 

An effective question might be, "How often do you use the wish-list feature and what would you improve about it?" This approach helps prioritise feature enhancements based on direct user feedback.

8. Priority and Value Questions

Related to feature-specific questions, but taking a slightly broader view to give you a full-product perspective, priority and value questions help you quickly prioritise which features or improvements are most valuable to users. 

A practical application could involve asking customers to rank features such as the search function, product images, and checkout process by importance, guiding development focus to maximise customer satisfaction.

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9. Future-Oriented Questions

Most customer interviews work best when you focus on past and present experiences, but there is a technique for helping you discover how to build out your product in the future: Future-oriented questions uncover customers' desires for future features, guiding product development in line with user expectations. 

Inspired by the Lean Startup methodology by Eric Ries, asking "What new features would enhance your shopping experience on our site?" can spark innovative ideas that align with user needs.

10. Demographic and Behavioural Questions

Somewhat similar to the “Mom Test” (no. 3 above), behavioural questions are all about uncovering the customer’s usual shopping behaviours, which is crucial for knowing how to effectively segment your customers. 

Questions like, "Can you tell me how often and for what types of products you shop online?" help tailor marketing strategies and product offerings to specific customer segments.

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How to Execute Effective Customer Interviews

Questions are only the first (albeit important) part of the process. You need to create an environment and structure that promotes quality feedback from your customers.

Fortunately, we have a system for that: From planning interviews with a best-practice structure to making interviewees feel comfortable and how to get really good insights, get more useful feedback with the 12-step process in our post on how to do customer interviews.

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