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Video: A customer interview in 5 acts

August 11, 2016

This video shows you how an example for good UX work can look like:

A researcher (Michael Margolis from GV, formerly known as Google Ventures) interviews a participant, in this case a young lady who tests the prototype of a new product. A customer interview is a way of fast-forwarding to the day when your product is in the market, and seeing real customers react to your ideas. These customer interviews are a critical part of every product design process.

But reading about customer interviews is kind of like having a friend tell you about a great movie—it’s just not the same as seeing it yourself.

So in this video, Jake and Michael from GV are going to show you how to conduct great customer interviews. You get to watch their partner Michael Margolis as he interviews a customer and tests a prototype with her.

This is how the interview unfolds on the timeline:

ACT 1: Friendly welcome

1:07 Put the customer at ease and describe a little bit about how the interview will work

ACT 2: Context questions

1:56 Learn about the customer and her background

ACT 3: Introduce the prototype

3:20 Make the customer comfortable to give you frank and candid feedback

ACT 4: Give the customer some tasks

4:19 Watch what she does, ask questions only occasionally to encourage her to think aloud

ACT 5: Debrief

6:17 You’ve heard and seen a lot of her reactions. Now let her help you sift through everything you’ve heard so far and make the most sense of it.

Video: Watch an experienced UXer in action while a user tests a prototype. #UXresearch #ucd #UXTweet this

By the way, here’s the transcript of the video for you to read:

Transcript of the video

JAKE: Hi – I’m jake and I’m a design partner at GV. Today i want to talk to you about customer interviews so if you’re running a startup or a business of any kind and you’ve got new ideas things that you want to deliver to your customers it can be really stressful. You want to know if these ideas are going to work when they hit the real world.

So when we do sprints with the companies in our portfolio, we end every week with one-on-one customer interviews where we’re showing customers a realistic prototype of a finished product. These interviews are kind of like fast-forwarding into the future and seeing what’s going to happen when the product is released.

Now running these interviews, actually talking to customers one-on-one, is something that anyone on your team can do if they follow the proper steps. And in our book about Sprints, which I happen to have right here, we talk about how to run those interviews but it’s also really helpful to see what that kind of conversation looks like.

So today I’m going to introduce you to my colleague Michael, and Michael is going to show you how these interviews look. So in our book we describe a five act customer interview.


Act 1

In the first act you’re going to do a friendly welcome. You know put the customer at ease and describe a little bit about how the interview will work this is how Michael does it:

MICHAEL: Thanks so much for coming and helping me with this I definitely appreciate it if you’ve done something like this before

USER: I haven’t…

MICHAEL: Okay, maybe I’ll explain a little bit kind of what I’m up to. Um… so when we’re developing new designs and new ideas and things like that, we get to a point where it’s really valuable to get some fresh eyes and some fresh perspective on it. And so that’s how I need your help.

USER: okay

MICHAEL: um… what I’d love to do is just spend some time chatting with you about some stuff. Just it’s pretty casual and then I’ll show you some different designs and some ideas. I’ll ask you a lot of questions but I don’t want it to feel like I’m testing you. I’m trying to figure out if these designs work if they make sense and so I’m testing the designs. And the way I’ll do that is I’ll show it to you and ask you to think aloud as you’re looking at these. So I’m trying to see it through fresh eyes see it through your eyes.


JAKE: After the introduction you’ll probably be itching to bring out the prototype and see how your customer reacts, but not so fast! First, you want to learn a little bit about the customer. You’re going to have a natural conversation in act 2, but you’re going to be asking some specific questions to learn some background info. So in this example Michael wants to find out about the customer’s exercise and fitness habits.


Act 2

MICHAEL: So maybe just for starters you can tell me a little bit about the kind of work you do?

USER: So I’m an executive assistant and I’ve been doing that for about eight or nine years and

MICHAEL: So what does that involve?

USER: It involves all those scheduling meetings, doing expenses, booking travel, and basically just making sure that the lives of my executives run smoothly.

MICHAEL: it sounds like a busy day

USER: it’s always a busy day yesterday um

MICHAEL: and what kinds of things do you do when you’re not working? You have certain kinds of hobbies or things that you like to do?

USER: so yeah, I like to go shopping I like to hang out outside with my daughter, go to the playground with her or go on a walk, hiking, things like that um… movies, hang out with friends, things like that.

MICHAEL: And things like the hiking and the walking, are there other things like that that you do to take care of yourself to keep in shape?

USER: um yeah, I mean I used to be a member of a gym but I’m not now and I … but I do like to stay active. So I like playing tennis, and that’s basically the only sport that I play, um… but I do like to (like I said) go on walks or go for a run or things like that.


JAKE: So after about ten minutes of conversation you’ll be ready to bring out the prototype.

In act 3 you introduce the prototype and you want to do it in such a way that the customer feels comfortable giving you frank and candid feedback about it. You want to make sure that they don’t feel like they’re being tested in any way


Act 3

MICHAEL: What I want to show you this is a prototype of another app …um… and so what that means is that some things will work and some things might not work um but we’ll just kind of try it and there’s no way to break it or anything so we’ll just kind of try it and again like I mentioned before what I’m doing is I’m testing the prototype in these designs. I’m not testing you I’m gonna be asking you all the questions hey but there’s not a right or wrong answer. We’re just gonna try to you know try it out and see how it goes can you think of it sure um and again as we do that if you think aloud it really helps me kind of see it through your eyes, just try this out.


JAKE: In the real world your product will live on its own you won’t be there to guide customers along and tell them exactly what to do and how to use it so in your interview to get the most realistic results possible.

In act 4 you’re just going to give the customer some tasks and you’re going to mostly watch what they do occasionally asking questions just to encourage them to think aloud:


Act 4

MICHAEL: What would you do if you’re looking for a new fitness app like we’re doing before?

USER: Just search the star…

MICHAEL: Okay, so you see this featured app yeah so maybe let’s take a look at this one okay so what’s going on here

USER: So it’s asking when you like to workout um so days of the week…

MICHAEL: So, for you, what would you choose?

USER: I would choose probably Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and then asks for the time of day. Probably have to do in the evening, asking to send notifications, okay… puts our profile name, height, weight, age, and fitness goals.

MICHAEL: What’s that for?

USER: Let’s see: weight loss, muscle gains, strength, or overall.

MICHAEL: So, for you, what would you put in all this stuff if anything?

USER: So, for the fitness goals?

MICHAEL: For any of it. What would you do with the screen?

USER: um… So I would enter my height, I’m guessing feet and inches, my weight which maybe I would lie a little bit, my age… I guess you shouldn’t lie about your weight on a fitness app but… and then, I’d probably select weight loss, maybe overall, I don’t really know what “overall” means like … if it means toning or stretching things like that.

MICHAEL: And what do you think each of these would mean?

USER: So, weight loss = you’ll lose weight, muscle gain = I figure you’re going to get bigger muscles and I don’t really want. Strength = I kind of think is the same as muscle gain, at least I feel like the results would be the same, and … Overall = (like I said) I don’t really know what “overall” means.


JAKE: At the end of the interview you’re going to ask the customer some debrief questions. So through the course of the first four acts you’ll have heard a lot, seen a lot of reactions.

It can sometimes be hard to make sense of what’s most important in act five. When you ask these debrief questions the customer will actually help you sift through everything you’ve heard so far.


Act 5

MICHAEL: So far, as we’ve gone through this which is kind of curious what you what you think of this.

USER: I think it’s interesting I think it looks um pretty cool. It’s always nice to have someone or something telling you what to do in order to get the results that you want so … it’s helpful to have it outlined like this and they say okay do this many jumping jacks and then do this many push-up so kind of lays it out pretty easily I think.

MICHAEL: And what do you think of the parts that you don’t like as much?

USER: hmm… I don’t think it’s a big deal but I just think that there’s maybe a few tweaks like… I haven’t seen a woman since the very first video so that’s kind of a market I think they’re losing out on there, unless this is going to be just tailored for men. But other than that, I think it’s just kind of small tweaks…


JAKE: And that’s it! At the end of the interview you’ll thank the customer give her a gift card and show her out.

JAKE: Now if you’d like to learn more about running these kinds of interviews check out our book “Sprint”. It’s got information about writing an interview script. It’s got some tips for finding your customers whatever kind of business or product you’re making, and it’s also got some advanced tips from Michael for conducting interviews. Thanks!


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