How to probe during customer interviews
  2. Discovery Interviews (Step 2)
  3. How to probe during customer interviews

3. What-and-Why probing method

Learn this skill to capture much more insight on Discovery interview sticky notes.

When a customer mentions an outcome during your Discovery interview, you should probe to understand it better. But sometimes it can be difficult to think of good probing questions. That’s why we developed the “what and why” method of probing.

Imagine you are interviewing business people about their taxi rides, so you can develop a better ride service. During the interview you ask, “Any other problems?” and a customer says, “Sure… sometimes there’s no seat-belt in the taxi.” How would you probe this?

Begin by asking “what” questions (questions of observation), such as…

  • Can you describe this?
  • How often does this happen?
  • When do you see this?

After you understand “what” they are describing, it’s time to move to your “why” questions (questions of implication). Examples include…

  • How does this impact you?
  • What problems does this cause you?
  • Why does this bother you?

If you are doing a Discovery interview, answers to these what and why questions should all be included on a single sticky note… as long as you are discussing the same outcome (e.g. missing seat belts). After you've finished your "what" and "why" questions, you're almost ready to move to the next sticky note... but not quite. Ask this last question: "Is there anything else we should know (about missing seat belts, for instance) before moving on?" This is incredibly helpful: Your customers will often provide wonderful insight when you ask this!

When you feel you understand all you need to know about missing seat belts, you ask, “What other problems do you see?” They might talk about dirty trunks, and you repeat the what and why questions for this in the next sticky note.

Do you have to remember all this? No. Just use your Discovery Interview Quick Start Card (downloadable at > BlueTools > Conducting Discovery Interviews/Tours.) This is explained in the next BlueHelp article, Probing with your Discovery Interview Quick-Start Card.

Also check out the 2-minute video, Build your interviewing skills, part of the B2B Organic Growth video series by Dan Adams.

B2B Organic Growth Chapter 26


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