Improve client interviews by asking open-ended questions

1. Transform closed-ended questions into open-ended questions.

Do you have any questions? to What questions can I answer for you now? Does that make sense? to I know I just shared a lot of information with you in this past sequence. I’m going to pause now and allow you to react. What is your reaction to what I just shared?

2. Ask the person to elaborate if you cannot transform the closed-ended question.

For example, Did you find value in this process? If so, please explain further. If not, tell us how we can improve.

3. Design the open-ended questions to identify a specific problem and the solution behind it.

For example: What is stopping you from completing your purchase today? What task are you looking to accomplish on our website today? How can we improve our website to ensure you can complete your task?

4. Ask open-ended questions related to your business and strategy objectives.

Only ask neutral, objective questions. Use them to find hidden opportunities to innovate.  Use them to design A/B tests and experiments, sites and landing pages, or actual products.

5. Ask short open-ended questions taking the 5Ws and H structure (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?).

Sort and prioritize your questions. Cultivate a sense of curiosity and openness. Give up pre-existing desires and expectations and be receptive to new possibilities, accepting what is a fact. Let things unfold in their own time.

6. Use open ended questions in in-person client meetings.

For example: What are the top priorities in your business at the moment? What are some of the best decisions you’ve made related to ____________? How are you feeling about your current situation related to _____________? If we were meeting 5 (10, 20) years from today, what must happen for you to feel good about your situation related to ___________? What opportunities do you see on your horizon? What challenges do you see in making this happen? If we were to work together on this, what are the top two or three outcomes you’d like to see? How will you be measuring our success related to these outcomes? What’s the biggest risk for you to not make progress on this situation?

7. Use open ended questions in customer interviews.

For example: What do you think of this product? What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you? What should we stop doing? Can you give me an example? Why and why not? (always helpful for elaboration) What annoys you about this product the most? How does or doesn’t this product solve problem X for you?

8. Use open-ended questions when planning preliminary tests or doing early-stage customer and product development.

Prioritize product features and experiments. Do it even when access to large data sets is available for quantitative behavioral analysis.

9. Use open-ended questions to get richer data in one-on-one usability testing.

Use them also in screening questionnaires, when recruiting participants for a usability study. Use them for qualitative research too, to derive valid information from few users.