Great Customer & Client Interviews: Dos and Don’ts

Client and customer interviews are the basis for testimonials, case studies, insight papers, and videos but getting valuable content from customers or clients is not easy. All too often, you’re struggling to find that one accurate, clear, well-phrased, and interesting quote. So here are a few dos and don’ts of interviewing based on my 20 years of experience working for businesses across industries and borders.

  1. Let go of your preconceptions. What you delivered for your customers or clients may not be the part of the project that they remember most fondly. Maybe you thought you built a great deck suitable for family gatherings or lounging in the sun; the interviewee remembers how you took their idea for the railing design and made it work. A testimonial about a specific benefit to the interviewee has major long-term value because it sets you apart.
  2. Be prepared but have fun. Start by letting your interviewee know that they will have the chance to review and change the final case study, insight paper, or testimonial. Then, ask a few prepared questions. But let the interviewee lead; if an interesting insight comes up, follow it. Skip around in your prepared list of questions if the interviewee mentions a topic earlier than expected. Relax and your interviewee will relax with you.
  3. Ask the questions you don’t want to ask. It’s easy to ask, “What did you enjoy most about this project?” But sometimes the most complimentary responses come from more open questions: “What would you do differently next time?” “What would you advise someone else looking for a deck builder?” “How can we improve our services?”
  4. Choose your interviewee wisely. Sometimes an interviewee will offer platitudes and jargon in the mistaken belief that a business owner wants to hear “all’s right in the world and proactive, too.”  Sometimes talkative interviewees use a lot of words to say very little. I know how to politely interrupt, seek out deeper answers, and keep an interviewee on track. The rustier your interview skills, the more you need to make sure your interviewee is absolutely right.
  5. Be careful when editing. In 15 minutes, I can draw out many fine testimonials from an interviewee. Then it’s a matter of weaving those testimonials and insights into a narrative. Conversations tend to ramble, so no one complains if I rework quotes to make them flow and to emphasize a point–but I never ever put words into the interviewee’s mouth. You want to respect the identity and honesty of the interviewee; the surrounding narrative is your chance to expand on what they say.

If you haven’t interviewed any of your customers or clients, you’re missing a great chance to build rapport, marketing content, and differentiators. Contact me through LinkedIn or TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. I can help.