Face2face Customers Interviews

“Hello, this is Vladimir. I am the product manager for this amazing product. I want ask you some questions about your daily routine and your everyday challenges . Is this still a good time?" 
Wait a minute … This is not that bad, I thought. "Doing product interviews over telephone/Skype is pretty awesome. " 

That was 4 years ago. Since then I had numerous calls with clients or potential customers over Skype. I went with a remote solution mostly because of distance. That was important as most of the people I wanted to talk to were not nearby. Heck, they were not even in the same country as me. Skype  was simple, it saved me time and money. 
But recently I am starting to appreciate real-life customer interviews. I am doing them more and more and I believe the level of insight you can gain from a face2face discussion is fundamentally better. Why is that? 

Not all customer’s jobs are created equal

There are many types of jobs that the customer is trying to get done. Some are functional and these are the ones that are the low-hanging fruits in over-the-phone customer interviews: “I wan to complete a certain task”, “I have these 4 main problems” etc. But there are other types of jobs that are hard(er) to get to over the phone:

  • Social jobs: How is the customer being perceived by his colleagues? Does the problem you are talking about and it's corresponding solution elevate his/her status? 
  • Emotional Jobs: Most customers will display certain emotional states when they are discussing a certain problem. They may feel frustrated. They may seek security. Or they may be thrilled when they are trying new approaches because they are early adopters.  

Environment matters

The reason this works better in a face2face meeting than over a phone call is that it creates a different, more friendly environment. After having a coffee or a snack, after cracking a joke or two, and after a few minutes of small talk it is way easier to ask some question that would not be as appropriate to ask over the phone.  But most importantly, you get exposed to the **body language** when your guests are answering them. Their gaze or the way they move your lips are telling you more than mere words. 

Get specific

Another important gain is you can go from an interview to a demo session.  Before you get excited, it's not you who's demoing :).  It’s them who are demoing you. 

Say your guest is talking about a certain method (s)he is using to solve a problem. It involves 3 services tied together by a scripts and macros. Wouldn't you want to see how that is working? These types of interviews allows you to ask "Would you mind showing this to me? I am curios how this works in real-life." 
So go talk to people! It may go better than you thought.