5 tips to get honest answers from customers

When discussing a new idea in a focus group, one of the customers 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 little further and then asks – with a big smile on his face: And when you hear this, will your score go up?

Increasingly, marketers and policymakers enter into discussions with their target group, often online, but also face to face. And that seems easier than it is.

Because how do you ask the right questions that provide honest and relevant answers?
How do you keep a conversation open so that the target group does not talk to you?

Testing your own products and services becomes a lot harder if you have developed them yourself. How do you respond if your target group shows little interest in the proposition that you have written with blood, sweat and tears? Or respond to each item to be discussed with “yes, but …”? The tendency to give a reply or to explain it is great – and understandable. But it can come across as defensive or provide a socially desirable answer.  A fair answer from which you can learn something.

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

Therefore 5 tips to monitor neutrality in a customer interview: 

  1. Keep it neutral in the introduction. If you work for a bank or for meal boxes, do not state in the proposal round at which banks you are or which meal boxes you order. Not relevant. Some customers are going to defend themselves by saying that they are sitting in for another.
  2. Indicate in advance that you may be from company X, but that does not mean that you just want to hear positive things or that customers should not be critical.
  3. Postpone your judgment. No one is without judgment, but your judgment is not relevant at that time. Take the one customer who only complains (“he will have a tough life”) or the customer who doesn’t give intelligent answers (“he just doesn’t take it”) seriously.
  4. 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? “
  5. Listen…. Listen …. listen. Show genuine interest and listen to what customers have to say. Then customers feel they are taken seriously and you get the sincere answer that you bring further in developing your product.