“Start-ups don’t fail because they lack a product; they fail because they lack customers and a proven financial model. ”

Steve Blank, The Four Steps to the Epiphany

When you start a new business or launch a new product, it is important to learn what your customers want. In addition to a lack of capital, start-ups fail because they ignore customer needs, according to CB Insights.   

We have already talked about what customer discovery is and how it works in business. Now, this guide will discuss how to do customer discovery interviews to help you go further in your business. Tips and examples are also shared to help you discover customers’ pain points. Keep reading!

If you’re interested in more insights related to the big world of business, or want to jump into your own entrepreneurial adventure, check out the EWOR Fellowship.

Brief of Customer Discovery

Before we begin, it is necessary to review the term customer discovery so that you can get a better understanding of how to complete a discovery interview.

Steve Blank, by reflecting on his experience and course context, wrote his first book The Four Steps to The Epiphany. In this book, Blank created the customer development model for anyone who wants to build a company. The main focus of the model is identifying customer needs and any related problems as early as possible. Consisting of four parts, the first element in this model is “customer discovery,” or finding customers for your product and solving the problems that are important to them. 

Gaining traction, the coined term “customer discovery” gained popularity from the early 2000s till the present day, where it is now a common term in entrepreneurship.

customer development model by Steve Blank

How to Do Customer Discovery

Blank mentions four steps of how to do customer discovery: define hypotheses, test problem hypotheses, test product hypotheses, and verify.

four steps of customer discovery

A start-up usually begins with a vision of people buying its product or service. The founder believes that there is a potential market and his/her product will reach customers. However, it is just a hypothesis. It is customer discovery that turns the vision into reality.

After forming hypotheses, the second and third phases help you get out of assumptions to talk with your customers, understanding them as well as their problems. What you need to do is do customer discovery interviews.

Customer Discovery Interviews

Conducting a customer discovery interview is not easy. In this part, we will explain the dos and don’ts during a customer discovery interview and share some examples.

Preparation

The first thing you need to know is the goal of customer discovery interviews: collect information from potential customers, and know their feelings, thoughts, and attitudes. So it is important to ask yourself before doing customer interviews:

  • What are the problems a customer wants to solve?
  • Does our product or service solve these problems? 
  • Who are your customers, and who will use your product daily?
  • Have we learned enough to sell?

To sum up, in the preparation phase, you need to have an idea of the problem you want to solve, and you know the specific group of customers you want to serve.

Customer Discovery Interview Plan

Conducting a good customer discovery interview needs an organised plan: 

customer interview plan map

You should begin the interview by introducing yourself and the purpose of the interview. Then you should guarantee the quality and quantity of customers by asking some screener questions. 

During the interview, you should not start with the problems immediately. Instead, ask some warm-up questions to comfort customers. When wrapping up, show appreciation for customers’ participation. You should also take this opportunity to inform them whether there would be a follow-up interview and if they could recommend someone with a similar profile.

More Listening

Once you start interviews, there is one golden rule you should follow to improve the interview process: more listening and less talking. 

As the goal of this interview is to collect information, listening is much more important than talking. Remember, this interview is to not sell your product or convince customers, but to understand your customers’ needs and problems. 

Asking the right questions can help your customers speak willingly and provide profound insights into products or services. On the other hand, the wrong questions will not give you useful information, but instead waste your time, your money and lead you in the wrong direction.

Questions to Avoid

  • Do you think it’s a good idea?
  • Would you buy this product?
  • Would you pay for a product that solves this problem?
  • How much are you willing to pay for it?

When customers say, “Of course I would buy it!”, it doesn’t mean that they will. If you believe in it, you can make the wrong decision to improve your product and service. 

Avoid asking any closed questions (yes/no questions), why? Because your customers will not share their real opinions and honest behaviour. Instead, you should ask open-ended questions and give real-life situations.

Questions You Can Ask

Here are some good questions you can try:

  • [Identify problem] What is the hardest part about solving the problem? 
  • How do you currently try to solve that problem?
  • [Problem context] When was the last time that you confronted this problem/ How often do you confront the question?
  • Why was this hard to solve the problem?
  • What have you done to try to solve this problem?
  • What happens if they (methods) fail to solve each problem?
  • Why don’t you love the solutions that you’ve already tried?
  • How much are you currently spending to solve the problem? 
  • Imagine I am a fairy, and you can name three wishes to change anything in solving the problem, what would they be?

It is important to put the questions into a context in which your customers can relate. This way you know in which case they identify the problems and solutions. By talking with customers, you understand them, their pain points, the potential market size, and even your competitors. Such insights help you market your product and explain its benefits to new clients.

Finally, you should be ready to hear things that you don’t want to hear: ask at least one question that may destroy your current product assumption. Although you have made good use of your knowledge, experience, and ability to start your own business, you might be wrong about the blueprint. Thus, it is better to be wrong early in this stage rather than after you have spent lots of time and money developing it. 

Conclusion

Through interviews, you learn your customers’ perspectives, attitudes, buying habits, and much more. As a result, you obtain proof to support your hypothesis and can continue investing in your product. 

Customer discovery is the cornerstone of developing and marketing your product or service, and conducting interviews is an essential step to help you gather information and understand your customers.

Next time you want to have meaningful insight into your future clientele, don’t forget to conduct customer discovery interviews. Not only will it be positive for your product or service, but you will also deliver the best experience possible to your customers.

About the author
EWOR Team

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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