Instead of Surveying Your Customers, Interview Them

Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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Many companies use surveys to get customer feedback, but often surveys are a pain to complete and people don’t put much thought into filling them out.

o A better way to learn what your customers want (or don’t) is to interview them. Real conversations can unearth more-detailed insights than tick-the-box questions can — and they don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.

o Whether in person or over the phone, ask open-ended questions that will help you learn how the customer thinks and makes decisions. For example, something like “How did you decide to buy our product instead of our competitor’s?” will probably reveal more than “How satisfied are you with our product?”

o You’ll likely hear a variety of responses, so keep interviewing customers until their answers start to repeat each other; 12 to 16 interviews is a good place to start.

Remember, you’re after quality of information, not quantity. It may take fewer conversations than you expect to find out what you need to know.

Adapted from “Customer Surveys Are No Substitute for Actually Talking to Customers,” by Graham Kenny

Here’s a direct link to dozens of other Management Tips.


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