#F90D Week 5: Customer Interviews

My first 90 days as a VP of Marketing (#F90D), is a series of posts following my work as the new VP of Marketing at Mindspace.me, a Workspace as a Service provider. If you’re just joining, you can start with Week 1 here.

To learn more about Mindspace and the Flexible Space market, I started interviewing customers (you can read more about how you can find the truth about your company here). Before starting the interviews, I wanted learn what to ask and how to conduct an effective customer interview. After my LinkedIn cry for help yielded only a few likes and no real ideas, I turned to Google for some help.

Customer interviews are not a new thing. Companies all around do them for various reasons: market research, product feedback, customer service, new product scoping, usability testing and more. I wanted to focus on value and brand perception so I can compare what we think our customers like about us to what they really do.

After a short search on Google, I found these two great posts on customer interviews. The first one, by Emily Palermo of Drive Research, offered 5 questions to ask in a Voice of the Customer interview. The second, a great post by Dustin Walker on CrazyEgg, offered tips, questions, and ideas on customer interviews. Between these two posts, I felt I had everything I needed (I did read/skim about 20 other posts though, just to be safe).

My Initial Interview Questions

To my first customer interview, I prepared the following questions:

  1. What is the first word or phrase that comes to mind when you hear the name Mindspace?
  2. On a scale of 1–10 how likely are you to recommend Mindspace to a friend or colleague?
  3. Which of the following factors matter most when selecting a company for co-working/flexible space (please only choose 1)? (I listed 6 factors I collected)
  4. How satisfied are you with each of the following factors with Mindspace? (I listed the same 6 factors)
  5. How did you hear about us?
  6. What made you sign with us?
  7. What would make you stay?
  8. What would make you leave?

I went to the first interview armed with these questions and the tips I collected and after the first few minutes of introductions and pleasantries, when I tried to jump right into the questions, the customer simply started talking about Mindspace: what they liked, what they didn’t like, why we’re different, why they chose us, what we’re doing great, what we’re doing badly, and a bunch of other stories and information I was trying to capture as fast as I could. It was a goldmine of insights and information, and I didn’t even had to ask a single question. At the end of the 30 minutes I scheduled for us, I looked down at the questions I wrote, and realized I had most of the questions answered, but trying to ask the questions I didn’t get answers for seems too forced, so we ended the interview and said goodbye.

Back at my desk, I organized my notes and prepared for the next interview. I rearranged the questions and changed a few of them to make them “flow” better. The next interview was nothing like the first one. This time, I had to lead the interview and follow my list of questions until I finished all of them with about 10 minutes to spare. I then improvised a few follow up and deep-dive questions and ended the interview a few minutes early.

The other interviews I conducted were also very different. Some were organized and structured, some were free form and flowing, and some were simply a mess. At some point, I started recognizing the connecting themes that I was looking for. It wasn’t explicit, but once I recognized a theme, I started asking more questions about it to uncover more insight on that topic. For example, the sales experience was brought up in the first two interviews as a positive highlight of their overall experience. So in the next few interviews, I purposefully asked about it to see if there’s a common experience that we can build on. I tried to identify more of those themes so I can use them in future interviews.

My Final/Current Interview Questions

After several interviews, I started having a better structure to the interview and the list of questions I needed to ask. Since I will continue to conduct these interviews in the next few weeks, I suspect that these structure and questions will also evolve.

  1. Tell me about your company and about what you do
  2. Tell me about your first experience with Mindspace
  3. What is the first word or phrase that comes to mind when you hear the name Mindspace?
  4. What made you sign with us? Did you look at competitors or alternatives? Why did you choose us over them?
  5. What were the most important factors for you when you chose Mindspace?
  6. On a scale of 1–10 how likely are you to recommend Mindspace to a friend or colleague?
  7. How did you hear about us?
  8. What would make you stay?
  9. What would make you leave?

I plan on interviewing a dozen more customers in the next few weeks, cultivating insight and feedback that I can use to clarify our value proposition and the areas we need to work on. For now, it feels that with every interview I get closer to the truth , I just wonder when it will start feeling repetitive or confusing.

Additional Resources