Gentlemen and Ladies…. This article is for small business owners and non-design professionals who are doing their best, yet to taste success – who want to stand out from the crowd, but somewhere high profits are elusive. If you are in the initial stages of your business or planning stage of business – It’s a great time to use this tool.

Identify Yourself

As a designer, we first look at our client’s capabilities, resources, business model etc… I assume before beginning any work, you have done your SWOT analysis – Your capabilities, Your resources etc… (Your education, background, knowledge, passions, specialized skills, etc…I’m not planning to do deeper on this topic)

WHO ARE THEY?

Being a designer, our next focus is “USERS”(Your customers). There’s a dangerous assumption that we know what they want.

It’s not about what the customers like, but it’s about getting inside their minds to think like them and understand their emotional drives.

Once you understand your customer’s needs, wants and desires, you can tune your product/service offerings. Otherwise, you are just buying a lottery ticket, hoping for a success.

When you begin to understand user’s psychological motivations, emotional triggers, how people do certain jobs in different situations, how and why people buy, how they recognise the need and solution, their everyday activities, how they prioritize their time, energy, money – You can much more effectively market in a way to compel them to buy your product/service.

It’s not about us. It’s always about THEM.

“Oh…you are talking about customer research?That’s very expensive”

“Bro…but you are a small business owner. You can do a research without being expensive”

Designer’s research tools are Focus Group Research, Personnel Interviews, Surveys, Ethnographic research, Research by Empathy, Secondary Research. One tool which will help small business owners is conducting “Personnel Interviews”.

RESEARCH TOOL – PERSONNEL INTERVIEWS

The fastest, easiest and most enjoyable way to figure out the requirements of customers is to ENGAGE with them in a face-to-face, real-time dialogue. Go and Meet a couple of existing clients, some prospects, your best and worst clients over breakfasts, lunches, coffees. Use Skype if needed. Ask questions at least for an hour. If you do this, you and your business communication will speak “Prospect Language” and you will know where to promote your product/service, when to promote your product/service and how to position your product/service.

This research tool is not appropriate for a large sample of a population. A sample of 5 to 10 is good enough. This tool, if used properly, will collect rich qualitative data about users, provide a holistic view, which can be used for our product/service offerings.

Great!! Let’s assume that you have agreed with me that every small business owner needs to develop the skill for conducting “Personnel Interviews” for their business growth. So, how to do it successfully? Any shortcuts – We, humans always look for workarounds. We do not like to use the “Recommended Practices”. Let’s Keep it Simple – You need to know only about asking”OPEN ENDED” Questions.

OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

Open-ended questions make a user provide detailed answers reflecting their attitudes, behaviors, and actions. You have to encourage people to tell stories or experiences in their own terms, words. Open-ended questions help you to probe deep. Remember, deep probing will bring the necessary data for us. Let’s see some examples for leading and non-leading questions.

Imagine you are a jewelry shop owner and you are talking to one of your lady customers.

Do you like this color? (Closed question – Answer=yes or no. Not a useful question)

  • How do you feel about this color? (This is an open-ended question – Tries to get user’s view well as his feeling)

Are you happy with this jewel? (Closed end question)

  • How happy are you with this jewelry? (Better question)

Did you find the jewel which you wanted? (Closed End Question)

  • Can you explain me how did you find this jewel? (A better alternative)

Do you like this jewel? (Closed-End)

  • How do you think this jewel will make you look/feel different or How do you think this jewel might change the way you are now?

Which jewelry do you like? (Closed-end)

  • What was the last influential function you attended?
  • What jewels did you wear for that function?
  • What made you to chose those jewels?

Do you like this shop? (Closed end)

  • What is so annoying in this shop?
  • How do you feel the last time you entered this shop?
  • What are the things which felt good for you in this shop?

Did you see the way the salesman was showing the items? (Closed End)

  • Can you explain the sequence of things happened after you entered the shop?

Why did you select this shop? (Limit the use of “why” questions)

  • What made you select this shop?

Some more examples –

  • Suppose after reaching home, you saw that a part of jewelry was broken. How do you feel?
  • What advice would you provide to somebody who likes to buy a new necklace?
  • How will you sell this product if you were a saleswoman?
  • You have three designs now. How do you know which one is best?
  • Imagine you like two designs of a necklace and are in a dilemma to choose one. What will you do?
  • How would you handle, if people are skeptical of your chosen design?
  • When was the last time you discussed jewels to your friends or family? What did you discuss? Then…How often do you interact?
  • What was the last good jewelry shopping experience you had?
  • Recall a time, when you had a bad experience in buying jewelry. How did you feel?
  • Tell me something about your last purchased jewelry for your daughter?

VALUABLE TIPS

  • Avoid “Why” questions – It implies there is a right answer. Forces them to provide an irrelevant answer.
  • Keep the questions short – less than 20 words
  • Avoid Multiple-Part questions
  • Avoid Double Barreled questions – Do you regularly buy jewelry from our shop during the period of discounts? (frequency of buying jewelry, buying from our shop, saving money, ready to wait – how many questions…..my head is spinning)
  • Vague questions affect interview. Avoid words like “Rarely” “Usually” “Sometimes” “Most” “Few”.
  • Avoid double negatives – You don’t buy jewels from online because you are not sure about the quality?
  • Avoid bias. Keep beginner’s mind. (Many people have liked this jewelry. What do you feel about this jewel) (Would you agree that buying in a physical shop ensures quality than buying online?)
  • Don’t ask participants to predict the future
  • People have memory limitations. Avoid questions testing their memory power. Try to stick to recent events, and events connected to memorable time (Can you tell me the number of times you visited jewelry shop in the last two years?
  • Use words like “Elaborate” “Explain” “Please tell me” “Describe” to probe further.
  • Social Desirability – Customers sometimes provide a response that is acceptable to the interviewer than the truth. It is important to understand this, provide them confidence and trust to get the truth.
  • Users may try to impress the interviewer. So their answers will be focussed to improve their self-image. We need to be cautious of the same.
  • Do not Judge. Just collect the data.
  • Do not use Authority Bias.
  • When you ask users to explain how they do, they may sometimes show “Recommended way of using the product/service”, but in actual they may be using shortcuts to do certain jobs. Make sure you probe deep to unearth those shortcuts.

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