How to Interview Customers

What do you enjoy more?

1. Talking to a complete stranger

2. Trying to talk to someone who is sure busy and doesn't really want to talk to you

3. Talking to a complete stranger that has the potential to impact your bonus and hitting your KPI’s

I’m guessing No. 3 will pop up as the least favourite option for nearly everyone. What is it about making customer calls? Why would most people rather have an annual HR review after missing their sales target than pick up the phone and listen to what their customers have to say and listen to some suggestions of how they might go about solving them?

It’s most likely because they don't have a structured way of conducting the interview and/or, they haven’t had the training to really know how to sit back and listen. And I mean really listen to customers, not just to what they are saying to you, but what they are trying to signal to you, but maybe don't know how to say.

The tendency when “talking to customers” is to make a beeline for the solution. What did you like about our product, what didn't you like, was it to expensive? Less experienced interviewers ask a lot of “what” questions of customers and as aresult they get a lot of factual, logical reasons why customers say that they do what they do.

As it turns out, those aren’t the most important questions at all…they’re the most misleading. Recently while with one of our clients, their CEO asked their senior managers to start making calls to customers to find out why customers were leaving them. The Senior Managers were asked to make 15 calls each and report back to the CEO what they found. No training, no real interview guides, just a firm belief that talking to customers will solve the problem. 

And he is partially correct, at least his intent is. Getting out of the building or making calls to customers can be a powerful tool to more deeply understand why customers are doing what they are doing. And what you can do to improve their experience.

How can you make Customer Interviews a powerful tool rather than a superficial one?

The key is that it is not about your product or service at all, its actually all about the customer and the good news is that we don't have to defend our product or why we did what we did. We just have to listen. And we have to listen deeply. Our goal when interviewing is to learn and learn as much as we can. When it comes to improving the Service Experience and Service Innovation, the answers lie in solving our customers biggest problems. When we do that and we help them understand how our product or service will deliver relief to that problem, sales naturally grow, customers stay longer and complain less.


Getting Started

Before picking up the phone, brief yourself on the customer and what you want to find out. It helps to write out what you are going to ask including. Be prepared for a long interview, customers love to talk/rant and you are there to listen! Let them tell their stories and do not worry about the time because we want to get the most value out of the call as possible. There will be customers who are not interested and that’s ok.

Here are some tips for Customer Interviews via phone call:

• Ask open questions rather than closed questions: ie Instead of asking “Was it frustrating to use the website?” (yes/no answer), ask “What was it like using the website?” (long ended question)

• Sit back (this helps you to relax a bit and talk calmly)

• Smile! It will come through your voice.

• Talk to them like a friend, don’t sound like a robot!

• Really listen to them, follow up on bits in their story to find out more and show that you’re interested.

• Do not interrupt a story

• Use their language and relate to them:

ie. If they are older, speak up and slowly (but do not patronise them!

• Ask WHY?! HOW?!?

• Be neutral! You are not there on this phone call to represent the product so you do not need to be apologetic, but be sympathetic. Tell the customer that you will assure that their voice is heard, that they matter and that you are there for that very reason.

• Don’t make assumptions.

• Take note of when you call someone and how many times (eg. missed calls)

• Leave a message if you need the call urgently (optional)

• If you are going to be calling them back, make sure you have the right time and day to call and the correct/preferred number.

• If you can get their permission to record it, thats even better. It gives you the opportunity to have a real conversation and type up your notes later, rather than writing and missing what they have to say.

If you would like to use our guide on How to Interview Customers, click here to access it.


One more thing

Is your organisation looking to build internal capability in Customer Experience and designing new and better services? We have developed a new offer to help you achieve this faster.  Our offer is to come and work full time as part of your team for an 8 to 12 week period, map your customer journeys, start implementing improvements and help you build a customer centric capability and culture.

What do you get?

A Customer Experience Maturity Assessment using a simplified version of Forresters Six Disciplines Framework and an Action Plan to increase your CX Score.

Completed Future State Customer Journey Maps for your prioritised Journeys

A 12-18 month roadmap of prioritised customer initiatives that will drive significantly higher NPS and customer Advocacy.

Access to over 50 Service Design and CX tools and guides and examples of how to use them

A structured platform and implementation plan to deliver the Six Disciplines of Customer Experience

Your own full time coach and trainer who will actively build the capability of your entire team in how to understand, design and build product and services that will solve your customers biggest problems

All of this is supported by 10 years of experience in designing and delivering Customer Centric outcomes for major Australian organisations such as Optus, AMP, Westpac, News Limited and Virgin Mobile.

If you would like to find out more,  email to receive more detailed information and pricing.

Posted on November 24, 2016 .

Masterclass Slides for "Building a Competitive Customer Journey"

This week I want to share with you not only the value of mapping your customers journey, but even more importantly, share with you over 100 workshop slides for “Building a Competitive Customer Journey”. It’s a step by step guide on how to build a Customer Journey and enable you to run your own Customer Journey Workshops for your teams. Over 100 slides ready to go and be used to help build your own internal teams capability.


Read on if you find yourself facing these problems:

1. No visibility into how your customers feel and behave when they are interacting with your product/service 

2. Inability to identify what customers care about most when experiencing your product/service 

3. No visibility to how your customers are interacting with your product/service offering across different channels and contexts 

4. Multiple channels and functions of the organisation makes it incredibly difficult to provide a consistent and great customer experience each and every time 

5. When everything seems like a priority, it is a challenging task to filter out which customer experience initiatives are nice-to-haves and which ones are packed with customer and business impact



It gives you the customer point of view

Customers go through more stages than just buying and using a product/service. The customer journey maps allow you to visualise the different complexities and nuances of their experience and demonstrates what the customer is thinking, wanting and doing as they engage with your product/service. With key interactions mapped across time, you will gain real insight into the journeys your customers take with you.

It reveals the truth

The customer journey map is based on the evidence of real research and raw customer opinion providing you with the freedom to explore new “truths” about your customers. To be able to provide a great customer experience, you cannot shy away from what is REALLY happening in your customers’ journey with you, the customer journey map helps you do just that.

It identifies obstacles, which are opportunities

The customer journey map reveals key customer pain points and negative moments of truth where process, system and service failures are revealed. This allows for the identification of the broken parts of the customer journey that requires urgent attention, also allowing you to visualise how large of an impact this will have on your customers’ journey if this problem was fixed.

It allows you to empathise with your customers

Customer feelings, motivations, wants and needs sits at the heart of all customer journey maps. By visualising the emotive side of your customers’ journey, the customer journey map encourages people across the organisation to consider and empathise with the customers’ feelings, questions and needs.



You understand what your customers truly want when they engage and interact with you 

Demonstrate how your customers feel and behave when interacting with your product/service 

Identify the “job” which your customers “hire” your product/service for - giving you insight into why exactly they need your product/service 

Determine problem and opportunity areas to improve the customer experience in the short and long run 

Prioritise ideas and initiatives to develop a roadmap to customer experience success 

Quantify how important these initiatives are and how much they can contribute to increased customer satisfaction scores across the customer journey 

Identify the positive business outcomes in investing into customer experience


Good luck with building your Competiitve Customer Journey, Click the image or the link below to access the Masterclass Workshop Slides.


Click here if you would like to access to our “Building a Competitive Customer Journey” Masterclass slides.

Posted on November 10, 2016 .

The reason negative word of mouth kills Service brands

The interest in design has taken increased markedly within both consumers and organisations over the past decade. Where it was once once the domain of a select group, everyone now wants well designed products. And for good reason too, in an extensive Study by CEB Research of over 100,000 customers all across the world, they found that a Positive Product Experience produced 71% positive World of Mouth and only 32% Negative World of Mouth.

What was even more interesting were the finding for the Services. For those customers who had a positive service experience, it only generated only 25% positive Word of Mouth. The even more staggering statistic was the a negative Service Experience generated a whopping 65% negative work of mouth!

Why the startling difference. When it comes to a positive product experience, word of mouth usually comes in the form of a recommendation: “Hey you should check out this cool new phone I bought or you should try this great new restaurant!” When we find something great, we like to tell other people about it, it shows how clever we are.

On the other hand, when it comes to Service, people as we can see from the research are much more likely to tell many more people about the negative service experience. The reasoning is, as humans, when something bad happens to us, we tell others to evoke they sympathy. “You won’t believe how they treated me, they were rude to me”. The usual response as we all know is to support our friend and agree how awful that experience must have been for them.

What this tells us is that we pick companies because of their products, but we often leave therm because of their service failures.

To read the book, “The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon.

Posted on November 3, 2016 and filed under Customer Experience, Service Design, Innovation.

Start with Why to get a better understanding of your customers.

Want to know why customers do what they do and why they act the way they do? This presentation makes the case for understanding what the the problem is and more importantly knowing "Why it is a problem". This is the key to designing and delivering improved service outcomes for customers.

I pulled out this presentation from a couple of years ago after a meeting with a few clients over the past week or so. The question arose after they shared with us all the research that their organisation has completed over the past two years. There was a lot of market research, a lot of quantitative data and analytics. All good stuff in itself - and use really useful for the projects we are working on.

What none of the research answered was why their customers were actually leaving them after only a few years. What we did know was that a large reason was "Service" and "Price". If I had a dollar for every one of of clients told us that was the problem. Its not wrong, its just 10% of the answer.

Knowing it is "Service" for example is a great place to start, but what component of the Service, too much, too little, in the wrong places, at the wrong time, not at all? 

The attached presentation lays out the case for getting to why and provides some research approaches to help you get there. Our experience over 10 years of asking "Why" is that it helps you hardwire into the real reason that your customers may be less than happy and why they may walk out the door before its too late.

The customer lifetime value of departing customers can run to thousands and thousands of dollars, but that is for another blogpost.

If you want to better understand the real reasons why customers do anything, just ask "why" a few times and you will get much closer to the truth and provide you a path to delivering an improved Product and Service outcome.

6 Reasons Why Customer Journey Maps Can Fail (and How to Fix Them)


Is your team using Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) correctly? 

A failed CJM exercise is a wasted opportunity, especially considering the substantial investment of time and money. With CJMs fast becoming the go-tool for companies looking to improve their customers' experience, it is essential that CX teams know how to drive the value expected and desired.

There are 6 keys areas where companies tend to fall down during the CJM process. These include:

  • having too narrow a scope;
  • basing your CJM on imagination and assumption (rather than customer validation);
  • failing to connect your CJM to segments or personas;
  • limiting the team working on the project to one department such as Marketing;
  • completing the CJM with an inside-out view;
  • and starting the initiative with the wrong goal in mind.

Read more about how Proto Partners can guide your company to successfully produce CJMs for your customers here. Or to find out more about the 6 reasons why CJMs fail, read the article here.

Neither a Promotor nor Detractor? How to reduce churn of customers who sit in the passive middle.

Did you know that passive customers are likely to churn (leave your brand) within 6 months? But with so much energy focused on the extreme ends of Promotors and Detractors, companies are missing opportunities to capture a majority of their customer base who sit somewhere in the passive middle. 

Passive customers are those customers who neither adamantly promote your brand nor put time into detracting from it. However they are certainly not loyal to your brand. They're price sensitive – often leaving quickly for a cheaper price elsewhere. Generally, their reported satisfaction with your brand doesn't equate to happiness or loyalty. 

"Creating a positive customer experience is the difference between having a revolving door of passive customers or an army full of promoters."

Organisations with large numbers of passive customers tend to focus on sales, not loyal customers. However, increasing sales is easy and acquiring loyal customers is not. You get a sale by selling a product. You gain a loyal customer by selling an experience and more importantly, building a relationship.

Want some tips for creating positive experiences that engage your customers? Take a look at what Proto Partners can do for your company here.

Read more about the anatomy of a Passive Customer here.