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


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.

The script.

As promised this is the script for the first 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.
(Problem context)

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.
(Problem context)

(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 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!


Once you decide you want to run an experiment everyone is faced with the question: where do I get the people to run the experiments with. These are some of the methods I have tried to solve this dilemma.

1st: Your address book.

The first place you want to start looking at is your address book. Thats a simple yet very overlooked place to start. Figure out who in your contacts fits some of the criterias you defined for your early adopters and shoot them an email asking them if they would like to help you out by giving you 15 minutes of their time. If you are afraid of interviewing your own contacts, or for some reason you don’t know anyone who fits your defined criterias, then the next solution is for you.

2nd: Referrals.

Asking for referrals to your contacts or during interviews is a must. Because asking the interviewee for referrals or introductions is a good way to meet new candidates for the experiment but also a way to break out of the “cold email” situation. In fact, referrals have the highest probability of a close, the lowest cost, and all you have to do is ask for them.

If you are being introduced by someone you have a much higher chance that the person would agree to meet with you.

3rd: Go to the places where these people meet or go.

Sounds simple, isn’t it? This is very overlooked also. Most of the times there is a good chance that the kind of customers you described for your experiment, are already meeting somewhere else. Let me give you some examples.

For instance, if you targets are parents or people with kids, there is a good chance you will find them at schools either dropping or picking up their kids, or at football practice, etc. If they are runners, there are particular locations in your city that are very well known by runners as great places to go practice, you could go there. If its people looking for a place to work with their computer, you can go to coworking spaces, starbucks, libraries, etc. You get the idea.

In general there is a really good chance they are already going to a particular place easy to find and get to. Just show up and ask.

4th: Find communities where these people engage.

If it exists, there is a community about it. How else would you explain this and this.

Online communities are a great way to get to know your customers and how they think about the problem you are trying to solve. It is a good way to understand them and to find information and early adopters since people who join and engage in online communities are usually very motivated and passionate about it so they will probably be happy to help you understand.

The moral of the story being, you just need to find those communities, or create them! Although that last part is very demanding and time consuming.

Also, lurking or posting in communities is not a replacement for actually talking to your customers.

These are just a few places you could look for them:, mailing lists, google groups, reddit, linkedin, facebook, etc.

5th: Paid advertisement + Landing Page

This is a very well known method. If you have heard Eric Ries’ talk or read The Lean Startup, you probably know about it. However, the times where you could do this for $5 a day are over.

Competition for certain keywords in most Adwords campaigns is pretty high nowadays. Meaning you need to spend more. Not something you want to try if you are on a tight budget.

6th: Your current product or service.

If you already have an existing customer base, you can take advantage of that by A/B testing some of your assumptions with them.

There are several tools that will allow you to do that with little or no effort. Google Analytics Experiments is one of them.

Just be careful not to end being booed like Facebook.

7th: UX testing sites.

You can run your own user experience tests, either by A/B testing or by interviewing people directly. However there are ways to do that in an easier way and in some cases for free.

Sites like UsabilityHub, UserTest and others allow you to submit your questionnaire and mockups, chose a segmentation criteria and run a number of experiments to test some of your assumptions regarding the user experience of your site.

Don’t underestimate the power of user experience testing. You can find real gold nuggets there.

8th: Cold emails.

Cold emails are hard to write for most people. When you are trying to contact someone you don’t know and get the to pay attention to you it is not so simple, especially if they are busy people. But is it available, if you know how to do it.

Here are some a good articles with some practical advice on how to use cold emails to build relationships with the press or others.

9th: Message boards. (like craigslist)

By posting a real or fake ad, you can get people to give you the feedback you need.

10th: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Although this could be considered some kind of “cold” communication, a very good ways to find people that fit some of your profile characteristics are to use the already established social networks that exist.

By searching and filtering results on these networks by demographics etc. you can find potential people to interview. I use to segment and find people to follow, or just monitor what people are saying.

11th: Amazon Mechanical Turk or similar.

I have a friend who hates the whole concept of the Turk Machine. But like this article explains it can be very helpful if used right.

That’s all for now!

Which other ways do you use to find your customers? I would love to hear about them. Remember to share this article or comment I would really appreciate the feedback!

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