5 tips for completing remote customer interviews

As a former recruiter, I used to conduct almost only live interviews. I liked to see someone walking in and to be able to start a natural conversation. Also when I started conducting interviews as a customer expert, I preferred face to face interviews. How to get deeper into someone’s real pains, when missing out on the nonverbal signs of frustration, anger or confusion? 

However, we have entered a situation in which taking interviews is temporarily, if not permanently, changed. People are moving their (business) activities to online forms — also their interviews. Luckily, interviewing is one of the activities I’ve found which can easily be moved online when done properly. It has even shown advantages, such as opening up a pool of respondents that is not dependent on location or time and cost efficiencies. 

So here’s a list of 5 How To’s when planning remote (customer) interviews. To me personally, all five of them have proven really useful over the past couple of months, and hopefully, they will help yours too.

Do use video
Although it can be tempting to conduct phone interviews for some purposes, I almost always prefer seeing someone’s face while he or she listens or talks (even 15 min interviews). Recognizing emotions is simply easier to do when adding a face to the voice. Luckily, there are great tools to set up video interviews, such as Zoom, Teams, Google Hangout or Whereby. However, this also brings me to the following tip:

Give your respondent options in how the interview is being set up
Although you should want to add video to your call when possible, some respondents might simply not feel comfortable doing so. I usually give my respondents the alternative of participating by only using voice (e.g. regular phone call). This is especially important when your target group is specific (and respondents scarce) and you want your response rate to be as high as possible. Also keep in mind that if you are targeting professionals, they might have to deal with limitations to what tools they are allowed to use (when they use their work laptop). It might help to give them a few options to choose from (e.g. Zoom and Teams).

Offer guidelines beforehand on how to set up video calls
You really do not want to spend too much time on setting up your video call when the interview clock has started ticking. I have spent many minutes on walking respondents through giving Zoom access to their microphone and camera that could have been used for collecting valuable information. A way to overcome this is to send guidelines to your respondents regarding a proper set up of the tool that you will be using. Also, ask them to test this before you will start the video call and offer them your help when they need this.

Use tools that offer screen sharing for free (or upgrade to a paid plan)
This is important when you want to show guidance materials to your respondents, such as visuals or screens. I used this when I wanted to collect information about how my respondents’ organizations were structured and showed my respondents some clarifying visuals. It can also work the other way around – when you want to see the respondent’s screen. For the usability tests I conducted remotely, I asked my respondents to share their screens while I walked them through some steps they needed to take on our website. While the respondent talked about the steps he or she performed, I could also actually see how he or she was navigating and what was focused on.

Have someone else to take minutes
I earlier wrote it is important to actually see your respondent to be able to understand how he or she feels. By having someone else taking minutes for you, you will simply be able to pay more attention to the person talking from your screen. This can also be highly valuable when solution development is part of your interviews. Since your respondent might be naturally skewed towards positive reactions, it is even more important to read between your respondent’s sentences. When you do not need to worry about taking minutes, you will be better at interpreting his or her verbal and nonverbal communication. 

These were my 5 How To’s in conducting remote customer interviews. Do you have any other tips and tricks? Feel free to message me on LinkedIn & share your thoughts or ideas. 

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Guest blog by Tessa Griffioen, Digital Innovator at The Talent Institute

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