The Ultimate List of Customer Development Questions

I’ve had a few requests for this post. I’ve compiled all of my favorite customer development questions into one place! I’m sure I’ve missed some great questions. Please let me know your favorites in the comments sections and I’ll continually update this post.

Included are questions that can be asked throughout the product development lifecycle – from identifying problems/generating ideas to improving a live product.

Some quick notes before I get on with the list:

Ask why or why not with many of these. I didn’t want to list it each time. Usually people will say why or why not without being prompted if you’re interviewing them live. But if not, ask them.

A lot of these will yield similar responses to each other. Pick 1 or more from each group that you think would be best given your situation.

In addition to the questions below, many products seem to require specific questions that aren’t “template-able,” especially in the product discover-validation phases.

Alright on with the ultimate list of customer development questions:

Customer Segmentation

Depending on how you obtained the interview/how much background you have on the person, you may need to make sure they are within your customer segment, and/or understand more about their demographic. I usually try to keep it to a max of three.

  • What do you do professionally?
  • Who handles [process you’re improving] at your home/office?
  • Tell me about your role at [company]?
  • How much time do you spend on [process you’re improving]?
  • [Specific questions related to your product/customer] – for example, do you have kids?

Problem Discovery

Questions to validate your hypothesis about a problem, or to learn about problems.

  • What’s the hardest part of your day?
  • What are some unmet needs you have?
  • What product do you wish you had that doesn’t exist yet?
  • What tasks take up the most time in your day?
  • What could be done to improve your experience with [process/role]?
  • What’s the hardest part about being a [demographic]?
  • What are your biggest/most important professional responsibilities/goals?
  • What are your biggest/most important personal responsibilities/goals?

Problem Validation

If your customer did not talk about the problem you wanted to address, use the below questions to begin validating/invalidating that your customer has the problem you think they have. In addition, it’s often not enough to just solve a problem, sometimes it also needs to be one that people are highly motivated to solve. Some of the below questions can help with that too.

  • Do you find it hard to [process/problem]?
  • How important is [value you’re delivering] to you?
  • Tell me about the last time you [process you’re improving] - listen for complaints
  • How motivated are you to solve/improve [problem/process]?
  • If you had a solution to this problem, what would it mean to you/how would it affect you?

Product Discovery

Questions to help generate ideas or to validate your idea. The below questions are intentionally very open-ended. By asking yes or no questions specifically related to your product, customers may feel inclined to agree with you or not be critical. By asking more open ended questions, you can be more confident that they’re giving you honest input. If in response to the questions below, your customers tell you they’re looking for similar to what you have in mind, you might be on to something.

  • What do you think could be done to help you with [problem]?
  • What would your ideal solution to this problem look like?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to this problem, what would it look like? – I’ve found that about 80% the time the answers I get to this question are not very informative – solutions that aren’t feasible or most certainly wouldn’t be profitable. But the other 20% of the time there are some really informative responses that make the other 80% acceptable.  
  • What’s the hardest part about [process you’re improving]?
  • What are you currently doing to solve this problem/get this value?
  • What do you like and dislike about [competing product or solution]?

Product Validation

Questions to validate/invalidate your idea.

  • What do you think of this product? - this question is intentionally vague. Listen to whether they talk about wanting to use the product or how it could be improved. Given how vague the question is, the former is positive, while the latter may be a sign that improvement is needed.
  • Would this product solve your problem?
  • How likely are you/would you be to tell your friends about this product?
  • Would you ever use this product?
  • Would you be willing to start using this right away?
  • What might prevent you from using this product? - might reveal ways that you could improve the product. Potential hurdles might be budget, time, perception’s of the product’s value, a competing product, etc.
  • Will you pay $x for this product? - see if they will put their proverbial money where their math is. Often times when you ask this question, no matter how small the price, you will start hearing key insights that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. 

Product Optimization

Questions to help you improve your idea or product.

  • What could be done to improve this product?
  • What would make you want to tell your friends about this product?
  • What’s most appealing to you about this product?
  • What might improve your experience using the product?
  • What motivates you to continue using this product?
  • What’s the hardest part about using this product?
  • What features do you wish the product had?

Ending Interviews

Questions to ask at the end of an interview. You may also need to ask for their contact information if you don’t already have it.

  • [Summarize some of your key takeaways] – is that accurate? - I usually do this throughout the interview.
  • So based on the conversation, it sounds like x is really hard for you, but y is not. How accurate is that?
  • It sounds like x is very important to you, while y is not. How accurate is that?
  • Is there anything else you think I should know about that I didn’t ask?
  • Do you know anyone else who might also have this problem that I could ask similar questions to? - small form of validation if they’re willing to give you referrals 
  • Can I keep you in the loop on how the product develops?
  • Can I follow up with you if I have more questions?

What are your favorite customer development questions? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them above and give you a shoutout.

 

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  • Steven Feeney

    Fantastic.

    • MFishbein

      Thanks Steven!

  • http://www.frontierlivin.com/ Taylor Pearson

    Super helpful, thanks!

    • MFishbein

      Np Taylor, thanks for stopping by!

  • Matthew Capala

    Great cheat-sheet Mike, thanks for sharing!

    • MFishbein

      You got it Matt!

  • galestaf

    Awesome post, Mike. Thanks for this.

    • MFishbein

      No prob, thanks for stopping by!

  • Benson Garner

    This is a great customer development question list Mike! I’ve seen a ton of these types of lists that are only so-so and barely scratch the surface. Really great questions and pretty comprehensive. Well done!

    • MFishbein

      Thanks Benson!

  • http://www.enjoytechnicalwriting.com/ Vinish Garg

    This is a great post as I got useful insights for planning our survey for ‘early users’. Thank you for sharing it

    • MFishbein

      Glad it helped Vinish! Hope your cust dev goes well.