How to Get Customers to Open Up During an Interview

How to get customers to open up during a customer interview -- includes sample questions and free customer interview template

When I was in college, I interned for ESPNU, the college branch of sports conglomerate ESPN.

As a campus correspondent, my job was to attend events – with a camera crew – and interview attendees, which usually included students, athletes, and in some cases, celebrities.

One such case was the time I “worked” the premiere of The Blind Side, a biographical sports drama about football star, Michael Oher.

Sporting an updo I learned from YouTube, a strapless H&M dress, and costume jewelry I probably picked up at Forever21, I waited patiently – microphone in hand – as celebs like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill & Roger Goodell made their way down the red carpet.

And then I saw her.

Sandra. Fucking. Bullock.

There she was, standing just a few feet away in her black, off-the-shoulder designer dress, real-gold hoops (no green stains on her earlobes…) and picture-perfect makeup.

Did I mention her performance in the movie also won her an academy award? 

But as you can tell in this grainy screen grab below, I wasn’t nervous. 

The importance of warming participants up during a customer interview

I was there, after all, to do a job – a job ESPN had given me a travel stipend to perform – and I wasn’t about to let my proximity to God-like fame mess with my head.

So I relaxed, took a deep breath, and smiled, catching her eye as she made her way to me.

“I love your makeup,” I told her.

That’s right. I didn’t just “start” the interview the second she walked over. 

I warmed her up with a compliment that started the conversation and put us both at ease – and after a quick chat, we naturally segued into the questions I had been sent there to ask.

While the interview only lasted a couple of minutes, it taught me the importance of “the warmup” or the conversation you make before getting down to business.

During a customer interview, warm-up questions / conversation can include things like:

  • How are you today?
  • How was your weekend?
  • Where do you live?
  • How’s the weather where you are?
  • Wow, that’s a cool ____ [something in their home or office]
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • Tell me about your role at work
  • How did you get started doing ____?

Asking simple questions like these help break the ice, make participants feel more comfortable, and will usually yield better responses when you get into the meat of things later.

While I’ve used “the warmup” to help me interview hundreds of customers (and other celebs like Chloe & Halle, Ice Cube, and Kevin Hart) it’s also a technique I use with my clients and in my life, as well.

It’s a great way to engage people, learn about them, and develop relationships that can turn into business opportunities, partnerships, and friendship.

Want to improve your customer interview skills?

Get my FREE customer interview template here which includes an “intro script” (so you provide the participant with full context before starting) and sample questions you can use to structure your conversation.

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