Six Questions to Ask After Every Customer Conversation

Ask these questions after every interview, support call, and conversation with a customer.

I've developed a list of questions I recommend people ask after every customer conversation (whether a normal touchpoint, support call, or formal interview). This list was originally inspired by the six core emotional needs described in the book Empathetic Marketing.

Photo by  Nik MacMillan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Control. What is causing this person to feel she doesn’t have control of a situation in her life? How is she trying to gain control of that situation?  

Self-Expression. Is this person struggling to express her ideas or creativity? Self expression involves getting others to understand and respond to what they are trying to express.

Recognition. Is this person hoping to gain some kind of recognition? Examples include “be top the salesperson at my company”, “have the most goals on my team”. Recognition may be very local ("I want my family to appreciate my contributions") or global ("I want more Instagram followers in Estonia"). 

Care. How is this person trying to care for others in her family,  workplace, or community?

Belonging. How is this person trying to fit in with her family, social connections, workplace?

Competency. Is there any pride in acquiring or nurturing some particular skill? Examples include “become a better designer”, “know the latest coding tools and techniques”. What progress in her life does she feel this competency will help her make?

On every Jobs to be Done research project I work on, we discuss and document these questions immediately after each interview. This discipline allows us to draw similarities and contrasts between customer behavior so we can find and describe patterns of demand.  

The general benefit of asking these questions will help you reflect more productively on a conversation you might just have had and will help you learn more from future conversations. 

The specific benefit of asking these questions is that you and your team can be better at developing advertising that connects with core emotional needs and build products or features that help customers make making progress (or realize she is making progress or needs to make progress). 

When Advertising IS the Product

Advertising is the first feature customers use to make progress.

On the bus to my 5th grade daughter’s field trip, I sat next to a mom who constantly checked her phone. As we chatted, she told me about a call she received from the school nurse a few weeks earlier telling her that her son, Evan, had fainted. A few days later, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

On the bus that day, she was watching an app on her phone that works with an insulin pump to provide a visualization of her son’s blood sugar level over time. Being able to monitor his health in that way made her life better. It helped her enjoy being on the field trip rather than being stressed out by it.

But it started making their lives better weeks before they bought it. Their story may be helpful as you think about how and when you start creating value for your customers.

A System of Progress

The System of Progress was introduced by Alan Klement in his book  When Coffee and Kale Compete . JTBD=Job to be Done.

The System of Progress was introduced by Alan Klement in his book When Coffee and Kale Compete. JTBD=Job to be Done.

I think you will find the System of Progress concept helpful for understanding (and helping others you work with understand) how your customers are trying to make their lives better.

Realizing the Struggle

When Evan’s mom first learned about his diagnosis, she and her husband spent several days talking to doctors, reading websites and using their imaginations to to shape their understanding of how their family’s life would be impacted by it. They also began to envision how their lives might improve once they have a solution in place to deal with their challenges.

Here are a few types of struggles she mentioned to me on the bus:

Food: How would they convince Evan to change his diet? What if he hated the food? Would he resist temptation to eat certain foods while he was at school lunch or a sleepover?

Blood Sugar: It’s a life threatening situation if his sugar gets too high or low. Also, he’s about to enter adolescence where growth spurts make it difficlt to keep blood sugar levels in the right range. How could they watch out for his safety while he was at school or friend’s house? Should they home school? Should they get a nanny? Private school?

Medication: Would he have to take insulin injections? How would that work? Would he resist using a needle? How would they manage the situation if he did resist?

Personal Needs: The stress of caring for their son and the emotional struggle of his disease impacted their relationship and careers. Should they get counseling? School hours were a huge struggle for both of them — they would find themselves distracted wondering if there was any news and struggled to focus on work, pay attention during meetings.

Searching for a Solution

As customers realize and make sense of their struggle, they begin looking for a solution. As they evaluate solutions, they begin using the product in their mind, imagining how it fits in to their lives.

Though Evan’s parents eventually bought an insulin pump, their search didn’t begin there. Their time was spent finding a way to deal with their problems: Kid friendly diets, whether or not the entire famly should change their diet, medication options, home schooling options, talking to their financial planner about whether or not one of them could quit their job, pricing nannys, exploring counseling for themselves and for Evan.

Their lives improved when they came across an ad for the insulin pump they eventually bought. The ad opened their eyes to a solution that would solve many of their problems.

The day they saw that ad — weeks before they bought the product, attached it to Evan and monitored his blood sugar level while at the office — is when they started using and getting value from the product.