Carrying out a client survey is a relatively simple activity within the reach of many: Investigating clients to find out their needs, expectations, difficulties and perceptions when they interact with our organization.
Over time (and experience;)), I was able to discover certain client interview practices that are essential in a government or large company context. I share them with you in this article.
(If you want to organize a client interview within your organization and aren’t sure where to start, I can help.)
Before you start your surveys
1 – Write a questionnaire and be prepared to waive it if necessary.
For me, the main purpose of writing a questionnaire is to establish the main and secondary objectives of the survey. It contains questions ” obligatory ” and ” optional ”(Or even as a back-up ) to ask the respondents. However, I always try to be very flexible during meetings. An investigation is above all an encounter with a human, no need to be mechanical.
And sometimes the right question won’t be on your quiz. Know how to spot it and ask it thanks to your active listening.
2 – Plan your meetings in advance.
” How many people have you been able to talk to today, Audrey?
– Only one… In 8 hours. ”
Phew … During my very first survey, I greatly minimized this aspect: reaching people or planning calls and meetings can be very difficult.
When possible, plan your interviews in advance. Ask for help if needed.
3 – Become familiar with the subject of this client interview.
It goes without saying: before doing your first interview, make sure you know the topic and the organization as best you can. Read, ask questions. Know the strategic and political issues, if applicable.
4 – Know a minimum of information about your respondents (bio, post, etc.).
This point follows from the previous one. I strongly encourage you to obtain a minimum of information on each of the respondents to your client interview, whether it is internal or external. Your exchanges will only be smoother.
5 – Know your limits.
During an interview, you should be in active listening at any time and offer equivalent treatment to all your respondents. This state of mind can be demanding. Thus, I encourage you to know your limits, which are specific to each one. Do not exceed them, your last interlocutors of the day would be penalized.
During your interviews
6 – Record your interviews.
Whether your survey takes place over the phone or in person, recording is now truly accessible. Do not hesitate to refer to your recordings for your notes.
7 – Meet in person when possible.
A telephone survey can often be the only option available, but if you have a choice, try meeting in person or by teleconference. Because this offers other possibilities to your interlocutors (and to yourself at the same time):
- gesticulate and be expressive;
- draw, scribble diagrams to express a point.
8 – Try to have the presence of an internal person throughout the client interview.
If you are external to the organization and when the context allows it, try to be accompanied by an internal (and objective) resource person during your interviews. This approach then allows you to:
- put your guarantor in confidence;
- ask more pointed questions and debrief from your last meeting with your resource person;
- validate certain impressions.
The watchword: leave room for your resource person. She can also ask excellent questions.
9 – Dare to finish an interview if necessary.
Each meeting should bring a new element, which feeds reflection. It sometimes happens (but very rarely) that this element unfortunately does not come with some respondents. This could be because the topic concerns them very little, or because you have already made a good overview.
If necessary, learn to politely shorten an interview.
After your interviews
10 – Make a brief report of the client interviews.
Expressing a complex subject in the form of a summary is a feat. Never exceed 100 pages and aim well below.
11 – Keep the final approver in mind.
It is possible, if not very likely, that your report will circulate within the organization. So, keep in mind the final approver (s) and ask yourself if your report will be admissible to them. Take into account the strategic and political issues that you discovered in step 3;).
12 – Validate yourself during writing.
Each survey topic has specificities and each report is unique in itself. When possible, try to have the structure of your report validated as soon as possible.
Despite the title of this article, you shouldn’t help but conduct client interviews if you don’t think you can answer these “12 essentials”. Be aware, however, that these are desirable items and that this list could have been much longer!
If you want to organize client interviews within your organization and you don’t know where to start, I can help.