I love talking to customers. Whether it’s online, through a call, or in person, I always learn something new when talking to someone who uses my product.
When I first started talking to customers though, I had to learn what to ask. There were some questions I would ask that would just get a yes or no answer, and some questions that would set a customer off on a 15-minute rant.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of customers for dozens of products now, and I’ve come up with a standard format for all of my conversations. Regardless of the business or product, these are the three open-ended questions that I like to ask every customer:
This question allows the customer to explain their behavior and rationale for giving you money in exchange for your product. It allows the customer to put it in their own words, so you can understand the reasons why they went with your product or business. I find that most customers answer this question with one or a few different reasons, or they offer a story about how they ended up deciding to purchase your product. Once you understand why a customer bought your product, you can see if other customers share the same rationale.
For example, let’s say a customer tells me they purchased my product because it offered the best value for its price. They got 10 uses out of a $20 product, which is $2 per use, and they believe this is the best cost per use they can get for this type of product. I know this sentiment is shared by other customers, too. So, I start to think of ways to highlight this value in my marketing. One of the tactics I come up with is adding a line to my website that says, “Most customers get 10 uses out of each product, and at $2 per use, Product X gives you the best value for your money.”
Other ways of phrasing this question include, “Why did you choose this product?” or “Why did you end up purchasing this product?”.
This question allows the customer to explain what they ideally want your product to do for them. When customers buy, they have expectations (whether they realize it or not) about getting some sort of benefit out of the product they purchased. However, most customers aren’t great at articulating what benefits they were expecting, so the way this question is phrased helps you frame it differently for them. By asking about their goals, you are centering the conversation around them and digging into how the product fills their need and what value they are getting out of it. Again, once you understand this, you can use this information to inform your marketing strategy.
For example, a customer once told me that my product helped them achieve their goal of centralizing all of their company information in one tool. I followed up by asking, “Why was that important to you?” and they explained that they had a secondary goal, too: to find a tool that was easy for everyone in their company to use. Understanding this allowed me to highlight ease-of-use as a key product benefit in future marketing.
Other ways of phrasing this question include, “What did you want to achieve by purchasing this product?” or “How does this product help you?”.
This question allows the customer to tell you what they want you to change about your product. Asking this is a way of getting product improvement ideas from your customers directly! I like asking this question so I can better understand what features or benefits customers want to see the most, and when they want to see them. Having this information will help you gather ideas and prioritize future improvements to your product.
For example, a customer tells you that they wished your product was more durable. You’ve heard this feedback from some other customers, so you take a look at what you’re currently working on and your current business model. You decide that making your existing product more durable will require a huge redesign, so instead, you decide to launch a second, more durable version of your original product. This allows you to market each product to slightly different markets and grow your overall business.
Other ways of phrasing this question include, “What would you improve about this product?” or “What should we add, change or remove from this product?”.
Now that I’ve shared my top 3 questions, what are yours? Share them by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and don’t forget to use these questions the next time you’re talking to a customer!
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