General protocol for customer interviews from Michele Hansen

Michele Hansen is a founder of Geocodio, a podcast host and an author of Deploy Empathy — the most recent and the most practical book on customer interviews. You can get far more detailed tips on running customer interviews by reading this book.
In gereral, be very polite and positive but don’t overeact, encouraging a participant with the words like “great”, “you did a good job”!
  1. Start with thanking a person for their time, introduce yourself and remind about the purpose of the interview.
2. Then proceed with getting a permission to record the session. For example:
— Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I really appreciate it. Let me remind you that we’re doing research on X…... Our main goal here is to understand what you’re dealing with right now.
Before we get started, let me ask you if you have any questions for me?
Feel free to ask any questions that might come up.
Just one more thing: before we begin I want to make sure that it’s Ok if we record this interview.
3. Examples of the questions you will be asking:
— How and when did you start doing X (the process you’re thiking of improving with your solution)?
— What solutions you’re using right now? Can you remember the curcumstances, how did you choose them? What made you think it’s a right choice for you?
— Please, try to remember how did you find them
— What can you tell me about the existing solution that you’re using now?
4. Listen carefully and whenever you can ask to eleborate. When a participant says something about their experience or make a statement, ask “Why would you think so?” or “What made you think this way?”Questions like this provide you with valuable insight on HOW your customer thinks and their implicit motives.
5. Prompts are a total NO. When a participant is silent for sometime, try not to offer prompting ways out — it will mess up the interview. Because a participant will stop thinking and will try to follow your lead. It’s easier, and demands no commitment, and they will get their incentive anyway — so why bother?!
6. Wrap up by thanking a customer for their time once more. If I’ve promised an incentive (like a discount code or a gift card) I usually spend the last 5 minutes making sure the participant receives it (by email, or in Zoom chat) and is comfortable with it.

Like what you’ve read so far in your founder guides? We’ve got more to come

Upcoming guides...

  • Content marketing distribution machine: a full guide for founders
  • Founder guides: create an affiliate program
  • A founder guide to programmatic SEO
Co-founders & Hiring
  • Founder guides on hiring your first employee
  • Outsource effectively
  • How to split up equity
  • Finding a co-founder
  • How to find relevant beta users
  • Prioritize features effectively
  • How to price your product
  • Building a roadmap
Have an idea for the next Wizen Guide or interested in contributing in the next founder guides? Give us a shout at [email protected], we’d love to hear from you.


Meet the team 👋

notion image
Ana Bibikova - @NotechAna
Ana is an Author, Marketing Strategist and a Mentor in the Founder Institute. Ana has 18y of experience in building businesses, growing them to $4M annual revenue.
notion image
Anthony Castrio - @AnthonyCastrio
Anthony is a Software Engineer, Fractional CTO, and the founder of Indie Worldwide, a virtual incubator and social club for bootstrapped founders.