The secret number for interviewing customers

Refocus on the problems customers are paying you to solve

As organisations grow, they tend to invest more time and energy developing products and services they think will sell and less time understanding the problems customers are paying them to solve in the first place. The risk is you get stuck tinkering with what you do today, rather than imagining what you could build with customers tomorrow.

Case in point—UX design tool InVision recently announced it would be shutting down operations by the end of the year. According to Fast Company, some customers and former employees have argued that “instead of growing its products, the company allowed those products to get stagnant and failed to react to the market around it (Price, 2024).”

It’s easier for this to happen than you might think. There is a sense of achievement when sales numbers are going up or we have successfully increased market share. The signals are more subtle that we are losing touch with the essence of why we exist in the customer's mind.

Reconnecting with value

So, how do you avoid this trap? At Sprint Valley, we believe in reconnecting with the real value we offer by actively engaging with our customers. We understand that it's easy to lose sight of their true needs amidst the celebrations of success. That's why we emphasize the importance of getting back out there and having meaningful conversations with the heartbeat of the business—the customers. We work to help teams get clear on whether customers are paying to solve a functional problem (e.g. speed or performance); emotional (e.g. aesthetics or reduced anxiety) or aspirational (e.g. improved motivation or status) and then explore how else those needs might be met.

One of the best ways to refocus on the problems customers are paying you to solve is by getting out there and speaking with customers.

Interviewing customers: The secret number

There's a fantastic piece of research that came out of the Nielsen Group. Researchers found that after five, one-hour, high-quality, face-to-face or remote interviews, they were able to surface on average 80% of the customer challenges they would have uncovered if they had run 100 or 200 interviews. Whilst five interviews might not seem like a lot, it is a very quick and inexpensive way for your team to reconnect with what matters most to customers.

Has it been embarrassingly long since you spoke with a real-life customer?

Here’s what to do:

  • Be bold and arrange 5 video calls with customers for each person in your team
  • Consider a cross-section of different customer types or markets, ensuring you are talking to at least 5 in each segment
  • During the interviews, collect stories about the problems they were paying to solve when they ‘hired’ you
  • Explore patterns together and get the team excited about new ‘problems worth solving’

Get research support you can trust

If it’s been a while since you have talked to customers, keep it simple by following the steps above. If you are ready to take customer insight to the next level, check out our Ultimate Research Kit, designed by the Sprint Valley team to help:

  • Establish a clear research plan - Define what success looks like and create a framework to achieve your vision.
  • Turn research into a team sport - Use structured planning tools to bring diverse perspectives into the room.
  • Gather actionable insights - A well-structured plan will give you what you need to lead to meaningful change.

Our Growth Research services will also help you stay ahead of what people really want (and wish you offered) with insights that supercharge spending and loyalty.

Accelerate your innovation strategy with customer insights

Driving new insights through customer research is a key step in advancing your innovation strategy.

An Innovation Strategy is about getting your business aligned on where to focus your budget and energy in order to drive meaningful change that will allow you to overcome the existential threats to the future health of your organization. 

Reconnect with the problems customers are paying you to solve. Be bold. Get out there. Schedule five calls for each member of your team. Then, come together to reflect on what you’ve learned collectively. Start with questions like:

  • What are we doing well?
  • What is it that customers truly value about the way we deliver our product or service?
  • What are the things that really matter to customers?
  • What problem(s) were they trying to solve by becoming a customer?
  • Were we successful in delivering an effective solution?

Debriefing together with your team can be a fantastic way to get clear on what future opportunities may exist to better serve the needs of your customers. 

So help the team shift from making incremental progress to embracing a bold vision—shift from focusing on what you sell to what is it that customers are paying you to solve.


Discover our award-winning research method.

Stay ahead of what people really want (and wish you offered) with insights that supercharge spending and loyalty.