5 tips to get honest answers from customers

12 Apr 2023

When discussing a new idea in a focus group, one of the clients says: “I don’t find it very interesting; maybe for younger children, but my children are just a little too old for this.” 

The marketer, who leads the conversation, explains the idea a bit further and then asks – with a big smile on his face: “And if you hear this, will your score go up?”

Marketers and policymakers are increasingly entering into dialogue with their target audience, often online, but also face to face. And that seems easier than it is.

Because how do you ask the right questions that yield sincere and relevant answers? How do you keep a conversation open so that the target group does not use flattery?

Testing your own products and services becomes a lot more difficult if you have developed them yourself. How do you react if your target group shows hardly any interest in the proposition that you have written with blood, sweat and tears? Or respond to every item to be discussed with ‘yes, but…’? The tendency to rebuttal or explain is great – and understandable. But it can quickly come across as defensive or produce a socially desirable response. Gone are honest answers that you can learn something from.

Researching is different from selling. That strong drive to successfully market your product or service can hinder your research rather than help it.

Therefore, 5 tips to guard your neutrality in a customer interview:

  • Keep it neutral in the introduction. If you work for a bank or for meal boxes, do not state in the proposal round which banks you work with or which meal boxes you order yourself. Non relevant. Some customers will defend themselves because they are customer at another bank or choose a different brand meal box.
  • Indicate in advance that you may be from company X, but that this does not mean that you only want to hear positive things or that customers should not be critical. Actively invite the customer to share everything they feel or think, whether positive or negative.
  • Postpone your judgment. No one is without judgement, but your judgment is irrelevant at that moment. Take that one customer who only complains (“he must have a hard life”) or the customer who gives unintelligent answers (“she just doesn’t get it”) seriously.
  • Keep your questions open. Not: ‘do you like the idea’? But…: ‘what do you think of the idea? What feeling does it give you? What does it say about this company?”
  • Listen…. Listen…. listen. Show genuine interest and listen to what customers have to say. Then customers feel taken seriously and you get the sincere answer that takes you further in developing your product.