Let’s take a look at how a problem interview script could look like as well as some resources you might find interesting when building your own script. As usual the example is with BARconWIFI.com
The problem interview script
So you figured out you are going to go talk to people in order to find out if your idea has some future. Once you decide on running your experiment, you want to be prepared. It would be a waste of time and resources if you forget to ask something, or if all the interviewees answer different and unrelated things, because that would make it hard to get useful information out of it.
In order to have some consistency in the context and way in which the interviews are performed it is a good start if you have a script for the interview.
Now, there have been several articles on the subject of customer interviews. I particularly like the series from Justin Wilcox of custdevlab on most of the aspects of running successful interviews: like what to ask and how to get people to interview using cold emails. You should definitely check them out.
Ash Maurya (the author of Running Lean) talks in this post about his view on doing problem interviews and the structure he follows to do this.
I use this same structure also, with some small modifications. However for the notes I am using Matthieu Garde’s customer development interview sheet and it has worked pretty well so far. I still have a printed copy of the script at hand, but for dissecting the interview and summarizing everything it works.
When I don’t have a printed copy I just write down the note on the computer.
As promised this is the script for the first BARconWIFI.com problem interview with annotations.
- Hi, thanks for your time and agreeing to meet me. I appreciate it.
- Did you have trouble finding the place?
- [How are you feeling or some other genuine question about how they are doing].
(The objective of this is to make them feel at ease and comfortable. This will also alert you of their state? Are they in a hurry? Worried? Even make them aware of their state. etc.)
- Like I mentioned before on [previous channel of communication], I am looking to interview "[profile]" to understand better if some of the things I have in mind are really a problem for them.
- [Insert heartfelt compliment or referral reference]
For instance: I know you have been in the industry/sector for some time and I am hoping that with your experience you could shed some new insights with your point of view on some of the situations that I am going to present to you.
Another example: [Mutual friend or colleague] mentioned that it would be interesting to hear your point of view on some of the topics I’d like to talk about.
- Before we start, I would like to ask you a few general questions really quick if that is okay with you. They are mostly demographics.
- Usual demographics like name, email, phone, etc. (in case you don’t already know them)
- How long have you been a [profile/persona]? (You can use whatever name you think they will understand. This is to establish maturity of the business and potential experience.)
- Do you have an office? (Based on my assumptions about early adopters, they don’t, that is one of the reasons they meet in other places)
- Which language do you usually use? (Again, if you want to make them feel comfortable and can speak that language, you could ask if they would prefer to continue the interview in that language. Also, to understand target language for communication. In my case maybe a better question or accompanying question would have been: Which language do you usually use to look information up. Google, etc. )
- Do you travel for business?
(This could be interesting, since when you are traveling you usually don’t know in depth the locations)
Thanks. That part is over. :)
Now, 8 years ago, when I first moved to Barcelona I was sharing a flat. Like many young people do, but the flat that I was sharing did not have internet, so I used to spend a lot of time in close by places getting online.
(Possible problem context)
A few years later also I faced this problem again only a little different. When I was starting to work as a freelance and wanted to meet clients or collaborators, since I didn't have an office, we would usually meet somewhere.
Other times I just needed to get work done, or eat while working but wasn't feeling like being at home because of the distractions.
Three months ago I had a similar problem, when I moved. For some inexplicable reason the phone company wouldn’t change the line in time and I ended up not having internet at home for almost a month. So, I did some of my work elsewhere.
(Telling a story to present the context in which I believe the problem arises without specifically guiding the person into what you may think the solution is.)
Does any of these things resonate with you? Do you feel identified with any of these situations? Whichones? (Are they familiar with the context? Do they see themselves identified with it? Have they had problem themselves?)
Have has any of these happened to you in the last 4 month? (Are these my customers according to the experiment criterias?).
Tell me about the last time. (Asking to tell a story)
When was it? (Last happened.)
How often does this happen? (Frequency)
What was the hardest part about it? (Pains)
How do you solve this problem now? (Current solutions if any)
Are you satisfied with your current solution? (Also pains and wording for UVP)
If you had to order by priority each of the situations described, which one would you say is the most important to you? Second? Third? (Prioritize them)
Can you rate them in a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means I don’t ever think about it and 10 means I am constantly worrying about this. (Rate pain)
When you are looking for a place to do any of the things we mentioned, what do you look for? Could you order them by importance to you. (What do they look for? What’s important for them.)
Can you tell me some of these places? (Getting content, and also to get an idea of the kinds of places)
Would you mind if I follow up with you in the future in case I need more information? (Permission to follow up, in case you need to. If yes, this is probably an early adopter and by the end of the problem solution fit, he could be using your solution.)
Is there anyone else you think it would be interesting for me to talk to, regarding this topic? Maybe a friend or a colleague? (Ask for referral.)
Thank you for your time. It’s been very helpful.
(Again, be thankful. I sometimes pay for the drinks. After all they are doing me a favour. :)
5 things to remember.
Don’t talk about your product, service, etc. The objective is to understand how they think about the problem, and if they even see it as a problem, not pitching. So don’t, even if they ask. If they ask you can hook them up for the solution interview.
Smile and be empathic.
If the interviewee start’s talking about other unrelated stuff try and keep him in track with the script. Even if he goes into MVP or solution territory, it’s fine to have the feedback but remember you are not there. Besides, most of the times people don’t know what they need. It’s your job to find out.
If the interviewee is in a hurry, stick to the core questions. That way you can have a quick interview and at the same time get some useful information.
Use BARconWIFI.com to find nice places to meet with your interviewees (see what I did there.. ;)
As usual, leave a comment and share the article. I would love to know more about how do you conduct your interviews and if you have other insights you may want to share. Until next time!