This checklist will help you plan customer interviews.
- Decide on the goals you want to accomplish
- Plan a sequence of interviews
- Get general ideas first, details will come later
- Early interviews normally raise more questions than they answer
- Select interviewees that represent all important stakeholders
- Schedule of interviews with sufficient advance notice
- Prepare a list of questions
- Ask about things you know that you need to find out, based on
your current understanding of the requirements
- Start with open-ended questions before diving into details.
Listen for responses that implicitly answer your more detailed
questions before they are even asked. Listen for new important
ideas that you were not expecting, and follow-up on them.
Finally, confirm the details in follow-up questions or via email
after the interview.
- Keep questions simple. Don't use too many multi-part
questions. Break complex topics into individual questions.
- Confirm key assumptions. E.g., "You are the one who
would actually use this software, right?" "The total needs to
be displayed and updated as each item is scanned, right?"
- Avoid leading or multiple-choice questions because the right
answer might be one that you don't know about yet. E.g., WRONG:
"Would you log in to the system from your desk here or from
home?" RIGHT: "Where are some of the places you would be
sitting when you log in?" "Here in my office. But, when I
work with others, I sometimes log in from their office or from a
machine in the lab or conference room... so, I don't want a cookie
- Try to find out the priority of each requirement: essential,
expected, desired, or optional.
- Don't ask too many questions that seem out of scope, you
could accidentally change the scope or set incorrect expectations.
E.g., "Would you like the system to also do ten other cool
- Review your questions. Do you think that they can be answered?
Will they help achieve your goals? If not, go back and revise.
- Decide whether you want to do this interview via email,
telephone, or in person.
- Schedule an interview time and place for the interviewee's
convenience. Plan on the interview lasting one hour.
- Be prompt, courteous, and business-like.
- Introduce yourself and explain why you are there
- Make sure that you are interviewing the person you think you
are. Get their contact information (e.g., email address) if you
don't already have it.
- Ask permission to take notes. Don't record or video tape.
- Confirm the amount of time you and the interviewee have for this session.
- Give a quick indication of the type and number of questions that you have.
- Work through the questions.
- Listen. That is why you are there.
- If the interviewee refers to existing documents, systems,
equipment, or people, make sure that you understand what he or she
is talking about. If it is important, ask if you may have a copy
or screenshot (but, don't ask for anything containing proprietary
information), or make a note of the important aspects of the items
referred to. Note the URLs of any existing public websites
- Try not to answer the questions yourself, or to react to
interviewee requests by making promises to solve problems.
Interviews are for understanding the problems; not for solving
problems, setting schedules, or promising deliverables.
- If you find that you have prepared the wrong questions, focus
on getting information that will help you prepare the right
- Finish on time. If you need more time, continue via email or
- Summarize action items that you will follow up on.
- Ask if the interviewee has any questions for you, or if there
was something more that they wanted you to ask.
- Make sure that the interviewee has your contact information.
- Thank the interviewee for his/her time.
- Within 24 hours, read your notes and fill in any important
details that were said but not written down.
- Type up your notes so that they can be shared with the team
- Formulate any important follow-up questions.
- Within 2-3 days, send a follow-up email message to
- Thank the interviewee again
- Confirm that you have their correct email address, and make
it easier for them to reply to you
- Ask any important follow-up questions
- Give status on your action items, if any. E.g., "I searched
Google for that product you mentioned." Or, "After I
interviewed you, I spoke with Bob, and he confirmed that some
current products do cost $0.00."