Customer interviews can help you learn a lot about how and why people use your products and where they may fall short. They provide an excellent avenue for product feedback, enabling you to dig into the root of customer challenges, uncover new opportunities, and better understand the “why” behind customer needs and behavior. Though, getting customers to open up takes some skill. Luckily, with the right set of open-ended customer interview questions, you can get to the heart of understanding customers’ user cases and pain points in no time.
First, what exactly is an open-ended question anyway?Open-ended questions are an interviewer’s best friend. They encourage the interviewee to respond with more context than a simple “yes” or “no” and often lead to more thoughtful customer feedback responses. They typically start with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” or “how,” and provide the opportunity for existing customers to decide what and how much to reveal
.You will almost always learn more with open-ended questions. When you use this style of question, you invite someone to explore and share what’s important to them. Furthermore, the use of open-ended questions goes a long way to building rapport with those being interviewed, as they feel their perspective and answers are respected. (Building rapport is one of several customer interview techniques that can help you get better insight from interviews.)
This question is a great way to kick off a candid interview and sets you up to capture a customer’s thoughts verbatim. This is a great way to validate your value propositions, and may even help you discover new ones.
When asked this way, customers are encouraged to focus on the parts of the product that are currently falling short for them, and discouraged from focusing only on the things they like. By getting to the route of their challenges, you're pushing your product further in the direction that your users need it to go.
You’ll find that customers often share bigger picture concepts with you when responding to this question, which can help you understand how customers view their long-term needs with respect to your product.
This question makes a great ice-breaker if you’re finding the customer is slow to open up (for more ideas on questions like this, check out Claire Suellentrop’s Jobs to Be Done workshop and customer interview template). An answer to this almost always confirms (or questions) that your product is alleviating the issues it's been set out to solve.
Getting interviewees to open up on an emotional level and share how your product (or its absence) makes them feel can deepen the customer conversation. We found that when users feel they have an emotional or situational driver then they’re more likely to contribute feedback.
Great follow-up questions to this one include:
You may find that customers try to take the easy way out by not suggesting any product behaviors to stop, so be prepared to rephrase the question.
No matter how good your product is there will always be room for improvement, so keep digging. A good follow-up like this one can help:
Throughout your customer interview, be prepared to dig deeper into a customer responses—asking “Why?” or “Why not?” will surface the details your product team needs to understand any underlying issues.
While you may hear some competitors’ products mentioned in response to this question, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn how resourceful your customers are when it comes to problem-solving.You can dig in a layer deeper on this question by asking follow-up questions such as:
Quick tip: When conducting your customer interviews using open-ended questions like the ones above, be careful to avoid “Happy Ears.” Don’t assume a customer wants a feature when actually they may not be comfortable telling you “No” directly. To get the best product feedback from your interviews, plan your questions ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to go “off-script” to collect deeper insights from your customers.
Keep these eight open-ended questions in mind so you can make the most of customer interviews. The meaty responses that these answers solicit provide fantastic context for what is and is not working with your product, helping you improve your product, and better solve customer problems.