Ready, Set, Ask: 5 Minutes with Your Customer

Let’s say you have an opportunity to meet some customers but you only have about five minutes to spend with them. What would you ask to maximise this time to gather invaluable feedback on your launched product?

Taking key concepts from qualitative market research we can quickly prepare a set of questions for when these opportunities arise. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Know what information you want to obtain from the customer

Are you looking to understand your customer better?
Do you want to check whether certain features of your product meet specific needs?
To see how your product is positioned against competitors in your customers mind?

You might want to ask your customer a series of questions on a variety of topics but it’s important to prioritize what data is the most important to gather and then focus your questions on that one topic. The goal isn’t to find out as much information as possible but to obtain quality, actionable feedback from your customers.

2. Ease your customers into providing answers

Start with simple questions to help build their confidence in providing you feedback. For example, “Have you used Product X recently?” The next few questions should increasingly become more specific to the topic you’ve chosen to explore.

It’s also important to reaffirm or encourage your customers to provide open and honest feedback by saying things like, “there are no wrong answers”, or “please continue your feedback is invaluable”. Invite them to provide more feedback at the end of your conversation.

Be sure to listen intently and to not react to their positive or negative comments. Your reaction may cause the customer to respond differently to adjust feeling awkward or they may start over-emphasizing positive feedback to please you.

3. What kind of questions and comments to avoid?

It’s always best to avoid using complex or technical language:

“Did you like the virtually indestructible LED emitter and precision micro-textured reflector that produce 70 lumens of smooth tactical-level light?” Re: a flashlight.

Don’t make assumptions about the customer:

“Did the flashlight increase your enjoyment of outdoor camping?”

Try not to ask burdensome questions that cause your customers to spend a lot of time thinking for an answer:

“When was the very first time you saw an advertisement with the micro-textured reflector feature?”

Avoid loaded and double-barreled questions:

Since you bought our flashlight, you must feel it’s a better value than our competitors? (loaded)

Do you think there is a good market for the flashlight and that it will sell in the UK? (double-barreled)

And, save ranking and scaled questions for more in-depth market research surveys.

4. Think through different scenarios of answers that your customers may provide and prepare extra questions to accommodate them.

If you have time you may want to think through how an actual conversation might change its course when different answers are provided. It may be that the customer you have talked to did not buy the product but actually just uses it so questions related to price and value against competitors may not be relevant.

Asking your customers the right questions becomes easier the more you practice. The answers you receive from your five personal minutes with your customer could be just as valuable, if not more, as paid market research.