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3 Power Questions for Customer Experience Interviews

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Customer experience interviews generate the deepest insights into your customers feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. These insights empower organizations to design customer experiences that improve customer loyalty, retention, and revenue.

Getting these insights isn’t easy. Conducting customer experience interviews is a skill that you must learn and practice. As you’re developing customer experience interview skills, add these three questions to your repertoire.

The Before, After, and Else Questions are power questions that expand the conversation so you can discover deeper customer experience insights.

1. The Before Question

In customer experience interviews, the customer often launches straight in to a story about an experience. These experiences are the “moments of truth” the customer wants to share with you, and will shape the course of the interview.

We need to understand these stories to truly understand our customers. Many times, in a hurry to get to the important parts, the customer starts in the middle of the story.

The Before Question will take you back to the beginning.

The Before Question is simply, “What did you do before that?”

  • What did you do before you called the customer support number?
  • What did you do before you stopped at the coffee shop?
  • What did you do before you went to the store to buy a new camera?

Knowing the beginning of the story adds context to the experience and deeper understanding of the customer’s behavior. Sometimes, you need to ask the Before Question multiple times to get all the way back to the beginning.

You could find:

  • Before calling the 1-800 number for help assembling furniture, the customer searched for how-to videos on YouTube. Maybe the company should create how-to videos to make assembly easier and deflect incoming call volume to customer service at the same time.
  • Before stopping at the coffee shop on the way to work, the customer completed an intense workout. Maybe the company should create a post-workout “recovery coffee” for the health-conscious customer.
  • Before going to the store to buy a camera, the customer read articles online about “the best camera for beginners.” Maybe the company should create an online photography blog targeted at first-time camera buyers to position the brand as beginner-friendly.

Interviews provide the ability to explore the origins of an experience with the customer. Make sure to use the Before Question to take advantage of this opportunity.

2. The After Question

The After Question is very similar to the Before Question, but it helps you understand the end of the story.

The After Question is, “What did you do after that?”

If you understand the end of the story, you have the ability to shape it, and possibly write a different ending.

You could find:

  • After the movie was over, the customers weren’t ready to drive home, so they stood around near the exit talking about what to do next. Then the manager asked them to leave so they wouldn’t block the exit. Maybe a new theater design should include a post-movie lounge where customers could hang out and have a round of drinks.
  • After purchasing the new novel, the customer drove to a coffee shop to read the first chapter. She knew that once she got home, she wouldn’t get another chance until after the kids went to bed. Maybe the bookstore could create a reading nook with a self-serve coffee machine to enhance the in-store experience for avid readers.
  • After saving the document, the customer opened the folder to make sure it was there, then emailed a copy to his collaborators. Maybe the application should have an “Email a copy” button next to the “Save” button.

The After Question provides powerful information for designing experiences that customers want to repeat. When you understand what your customers do after interacting with your product or service, you can make that next step in their lives easier.

3. The Else Question

The Else Question expands creative possibilities.

Over the course of your interview, you should be asking open-ended questions that make the customer think. Questions that start with “How” inspire your customer to generate ideas. (“Why” questions should be avoided, as they can make people feel defensive.)

You might be asking questions like:

  • How could we make it easier to find the assembly instructions you needed?
  • How do you find out about new movies that are coming to theaters?
  • How could we make the online forum more valuable to your team?

When you ask the Else question, you turn one idea into two ideas. Ask it again, and you have three ideas.

These questions invite the customer to brainstorm ideas that improve the experience. However, the first thing the customer thinks about is usually not very innovative. You’ve probably thought of the same idea yourself.

The Else Question sparks creativity by asking, “How else …”

  • How else could we make it easy to find the instructions?
  • How else do you find out about new movies?
  • How else could we make the online community forum more valuable?

With the obvious ideas already expressed, the customer’s ingenuity comes alive and they begin to think of alternate possibilities. When you ask the Else question, you turn one idea into two ideas. Ask it again, and you have three ideas.

These ideas may not be feasible in their initial incarnation, but they generate insights and possibilities that can be shared and refined in your organization. The more ideas you have, the better your outcomes will be.

Take advantage of this special time with your customer to generate as many ideas as possible.

Conclusion

Customer interviews are a big investment for organizations and their customers. Make sure you’re maximizing that investment by asking questions that generate the most value.

Learn and practice customer experience interview techniques. Use these power questions to uncover insights that fuel innovation. Then design and deliver experiences that customers value.

3 thoughts on “3 Power Questions for Customer Experience Interviews”

  1. Great perspective, Dave! Too often we dive right in to the problem we are trying to solve from our point of view, without taking time to consider the context. This is an easy framework to use to uncover deeper insights! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks for pointing out that “Why” questions make people defensive. I might not think about that asking one, but instantly resonated with me from past interactions!

  3. I’m a big believer in “Team work makes the dream work”. And these questions seem to be able get clients to open up about their experience, and allow them to be a part of the team that shapes the dream.

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