This checklist will help you plan customer interviews.
- Decide what goals you want to accomplish
- Prepare a list of questions
- Ask about things you know you need to find out, based on
your current understanding of the requirements
- Keep questions simple. Don't use multi-part questions,
break complex topics into individual questions.
- Confirm key assumptions. E.g., "You are the one who
actually would 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 also when I
work with others sometimes I 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.
- Write some more open-ended questions to see if new important
requirements come up.
- 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
- Select interviewees that represent all important stakeholders
- Review your questions. Do you think 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 a 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 solving
them or setting schedules or deliverables.
- Write down action items to follow up on finding more
information. E.g., if the interviewee starts explaining at length
something that you know you can learn on your own, or if they don't
know the answer and start speculating at length, you should try to
move on the next question.
- 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 to leave contact information
- Thank the interviewee for their 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 and I couldn't find a
users manual, but I did find a magazine review of it." Or,
"After I interviewed you, I spoke with Bob, and he confirmed
that some current products do cost $0.00."