Modeling Customer Interviewing
**Originally published here**
Click play above for the customer interviewing tutorial outlined in this post.
You want your students to “get out of the building” and talk to customers, but that idea can be anxiety producing, for both you, and your students.
They’re anxious because they have to talk to strangers in a way they’ve never had to before, and you’re anxious because you know customer interviewing is the point in the course when students are most likely to check out.
How do you keep your students engaged?
You’re hearing every excuse imaginable from your students about why they haven’t interviewed customers:
- They don’t want to ask the wrong questions.
- They aren’t sure who the “right” people are to interview.
- They just broke up with their girlfriend. Or they have the swine flu. Or both.
Bottom line is your students are terrified about this critical step in the entrepreneurship process. They are afraid of the unknown. When the time comes for them to step outside the classroom and validate their assumptions with actual customers, they are likely to check out.
How do you keep your students engaged?
How do you turn their fear into excitement?
You show them what customer interviewing looks and feels like. You do a live customer interview in class.
Below, and in our lesson plan, we lead you through the 5 simple steps to conduct a real customer interview call during your class.
Live Customer Interviewing
mTurk is short for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which is a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence. What you need for live customer interviewing is a human being who has a problem. The mTurk marketplace is the perfect place to find a stranger who experiences a particular problem.
Note: Do not stage this interview by having a colleague or friend or business partner call in. It is imperative you create the situation your students are so nervous about — interviewing a stranger about a real problem they experience.
You need to feel a little nervous about this process, and share those feelings with your students so they know it is normal to feel that way. You are the role model;
Class 1: Create a HIT on mTurk
A HIT is short for a human intelligence task. Create a new HIT here. In this example, we want to talk to parents who have children in day care.
Step 1: Describe the HIT
Here you want to provide enough details so the people looking for tasks on mTurk can decide if they fit the criteria.
Keywords are an important way for people to find your HIT.
You must turn off “Master Turkers.” Master Turkers are a pre-screened, and very small, subset of the MTurk population. You want any folks on MTurk to be able to contact you, as long as they meet your qualifications. Here’s how to do that:
Step 2: Pick a Price
We recommend you offer between $.50 and $2.00 so it is attractive (but not too attractive!) to workers.
Step 3: Write up the HIT
Provide quick, clear criteria and instructions for the workers looking for tasks to connect with you for an interview. Include the date and time when you would like them to call you during your next class session.
Feel free to copy and paste (and customize) this HTML for writing up the HIT:
<p><span style=”font-family: Arial;”>If you are a parent who picks your kids at day care at least once/week, please call us for a 5–10 minute phone survey.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: Arial;”>Please dial the following number:</span></p>
<li><span style=”font-family: Arial;”>*67 [your google voice number]</span></li>
<p><span style=”font-family: Arial;”>Note: dialing *67 before the actual phone number will protect the privacy of your phone number. </span><span style=”font-family: Arial;”>If you reach voicemail again, please wait 10 minutes.</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: Arial;”> <b>Required after Calling</b> - after we finish the survey, we will give you a password to confirm you successfully completed it. Please enter it below:</span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: Arial;”><b>Password:</b> <textarea rows=”1″ cols=”80″ name=”answer”></textarea></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-family: Arial;”>Thank you very much! We really appreciate your help! </span></p>
Note: the “password” is a word you tell your interviewee to type in once the interview is complete. You’ll see what they type in before you approve the HIT (i.e. pay them) so you can ensure only the people who successfully completed the interview get paid.
Step 4: Create a New Batch
Step 5: Publish the HITs
Class 2: The Call
Remind your students of the context of your call so they understand what problem you’re trying to solve, and who the customer is you’ll be talking to. After your call, debrief the call by asking your students to critique it.
What went right? What went wrong? Why did it go wrong?
How could you have kept the person on track?
What were some stronger questions to ask? What questions should you not have asked?
Customer Interviewing Homework
Give your students homework of critiquing another real customer interview. The more real interviews they see and hear, the more comfortable they are conducting them, the more engaged they are in your class. Here is a sample interview you can use for a homework assignment.
Get the Lesson Plan
We’ve created an experiential, 45-minute, Modeling Customer Interviewing Lesson Plan to help you excite your students about customer interviewing! It encapsulates everything we’ve talked about above.