How to ask Customer Discovery Questions?


I want start a business around selling baby related items to moms and dads. I have quite a number of friends who are going to get married/are going to have a baby/already have a baby. So I already have a market that I can talk to!

The only problem: I have never been married, and therefore don't know what do real moms and dads need. I plan to find out the moms and dads need via asking them questions. I am going to ask my friends some customer discovery questions, in order to better learn about them.

So, I have a problem of having a targeted audience, but no product!

But asking good customer discovery questions is hard, there are literally a few examples of bad questions that don't reveal any insights about consumer behaviors, or simply put the customers at defensive. I don't want to repeat this mistake.

Is there any good customer discovery scripts that I can use?

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asked Jun 29 '13 at 16:32
871 points

2 Answers


Is there any good customer discovery scripts that I can use?

A script is absolutely the wrong way to think about doing early customer discover interviews ;-) A set of well defined questions is probably going to lead the interviewee - and lose you the opportunity for some great learning.

Don't think of interviews as a quiz / survey / script. Think about it as a conversation - one you can gently nudge onto areas that are of interest to you. The two watchwords for early customer discover interviews are empathy and rapport.

Some tips that may help:

  • Use silence. When the interviewee stops talking it's very tempting to fill that silence with a question or comment. Don't. Wait a few seconds. Count to five slowly in your head. You'll often find that the interviewee will fill the gap with more information.
  • Use body language. Sit forward, pay attention, make eye contact. Look interested.
  • Reflect back what they say. A really powerful question is "Can you tell me more about X?" where X is something they've previously mentioned. It shows you're paying attention and can help you expand or redirect the conversation easily.
  • Remember the person. Don't just talk about the problem or the product. Talk about the person too. Remember you're talking to a human. Get them to tell you about themselves.
  • Ask open questions. Don't ask questions that have a yes/no or single phrase answer. Ask questions that keep people talking. Don't ask "What was the last toy you purchased?". Instead ask something like "What do you look for when buying toys?". The former leads to answers like "a lego set". The latter to conversations and stories.
  • Ask for stories. People are often natural story tellers. Get them to tell you stories. "Tell me about the last time you took Mary toy shopping?".
  • Separate observations and insights. Observations = things the interviewee actually said/did. Insights == why you think they behaved that way. Be sure to separate the two clearly in your head. Try and keep your note taking during the interview on the former, rather than the latter. Because you may find the second and third interview will give you a different perspective.

You're lucky to have had two really excellent books on interviewing come out this year. Neither of these is aimed at customer discover specifically, but they're chock full of useful advice that you can apply in that context.

  • Pocket Guide to Interviewing for Research by Andrew Travers. Very short (60 odd pages) and direct advice. Great introductory read.
  • Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal. A great practitioner oriented guide to interviewing technique.

If you want some further reading beyond then, check out the last section of my interviewing workshop slides at

One final tip.

I have quite a number of friends who are going to get married/have a baby/already have a baby. So I already have a market that I can talk to!

I strongly recommend that you interview people other than your friends. It's very hard for people you know to give you unbiased data. If they have any clue as to what your business idea is they will naturally look for ways to support it.

Looking elsewhere will also help you figure and test your channels to market.

If you must use your friends first - use them as people who can put you in touch with other people like them. Go along with them to places where parents hang out (playgrounds, school pickups, etc.) and they can help you get introduced to people you don't know.

answered Jun 30 '13 at 04:48
Adrian Howard
2,357 points
  • +1 for interviewing target customers that do *not* know you. They'll give you more honest answers that better represent the market you're trying to judge. – Clay Nichols 7 years ago


Before making an script go and talk to your friends that in your hypothesis fit your market. You should get an idea about where to meet my market... how to start a conversation... what to do to get their trust. Don't use the data about those interviews but this first contact is a great start to know some details before the real interviews and to not waste the first two or three interviews.

Then start an script about who you are (get trust) and how to start the conversation. Write down some open questions that you could use after a big silence. Each market is different... get the ability to realize on what info need to focus on.

I'd recommend to refine your script (on pivots or periodically) to get more specific information and to know exactly who is your customer.

Depends on your startup nature you could find great script guides, workshops and techniques. Here is one that I like.

answered Jul 3 '13 at 09:13
Agustin Rumayor
21 points

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