Interviewing in different global cultures & languages
  2. Discovery Interviews (Step 2)
  3. Interviewing in different global cultures & languages

2. Conducting customer interviews in Asia

Suggestions for setting up and facilitating great interviews in Asia.

The Global Cultural Differences chart in the last article suggests adjustments are needed for interviewing in Latin America and Asia. But our experience is that this is much less true for Latin America than Asia.

If you do plan to conduct interviews in Asia, be sure to download the BlueTool, Interviewing in Asia, at > BlueTools > Schedule Discovery Interviews. This contains 12 tips for setting up Discovery interviews, and 7 tips for conducting interviews in Asia. Here are some of the more important:

Setting up Discovery Interviews:

  • Focus on the relationship, not the interview. Make it clear you're not interested in just a single interview, but that this is a "process" in which you intend to stay engaged, continue understanding their needs, and hopefully build a long-term relationship they will find fruitful and enjoyable.
  • Promise to bring "important" people with you... perhaps an executive from your company, a knowledgeable person visiting this region, or a well-established technical expert.
  • Consider asking for the interview in person, instead of using a phone call or email. Many customers find it harder to say “no” in a face-to-face situation.
  • When you ask for the interview, carefully explain why you are requesting it. People are less suspicious when they fully understand your motivation. Let them know you want to go beyond "guessing" at customers' needs: You don't want your R&D trying to "answer questions customers are not asking."
  • Don’t ask too many customer contacts to join a single interview: Open conversation can be stifled if there are too many people in the room. If possible, invite attendees who are at the same organizational level. Otherwise everyone may wait for the "big boss" to speak first.

Conducting Discovery Interviews:

  • Be open and say that you are using a new method that will help you do a better job of listening to them. Stress that you think they'll like this, because they can see your notes and suggest changes. Tell them, "This way, everything you want in our notes will be there... and nothing else."
  • Ask if you can "try" projecting your notes for a few minutes to see if they do indeed like it. If they don't like it, you can offer to write your notes on a notepad.
  • If the customer boss attends, subordinates may not want to speak up. So at the beginning of the “Problems” section (yellow sticky notes), ask everyone to silently write down 2 or 3 things they’d like to see improved. Then ask them to read their ideas, starting with the boss.


Keywords: culture, cultural difference, global cultures,  interview in Asia, Asian interview, Interviewing in China