Nailing Customer Interviews: It’s All About Conversation, Not Interrogation

corporate interview

When it comes to capturing compelling testimonials, it’s not just about sticking a camera in front of a customer and firing off questions. Effective testimonial interviews are more about engaging in a meaningful conversation rather than conducting an interrogation. It’s a much more nuanced process that includes choosing the right time and place, building rapport, and guiding the conversation skillfully to elicit genuine, impactful responses. In this article, we’ll walk you through essential tips, drawn from over 20 years of experience interviewing all types of stakeholders, to ensure your interviews are successful and authentic.

The Art of Conversation vs. Interrogation

Conversational Approach: Why It Matters

At the heart of any great testimonial is authenticity. Viewers can easily detect when someone is reading from a script or feeling uncomfortable, which can undermine the credibility of the testimonial. Instead of a rigid Q&A session, aim for an organic conversation. This approach helps the interviewee feel more at ease, leading to more genuine and insightful responses.

Crafting an “Expected Answer” Guide

While spontaneity is key, preparedness goes a long way. Instead of adhering strictly to preset questions, create an “expected answer” guide. This guide is essentially a roadmap that outlines the types of responses you hope to capture. For example:

  • Question: “How has our product impacted your daily operations?”
  • Expected Answer: A detailed, anecdotal story highlighting specific benefits like increased efficiency or cost savings.


This way, you can gently steer the conversation in the desired direction without making the interviewee feel cornered or pressurized.

Don’t Provide a List of Questions in Advance

Avoid sending a list of questions to your interviewee beforehand. Doing so may lead to scripted responses, which can feel rehearsed and inauthentic. Instead, share the goals of the interview and the format. Let them know you’re looking for genuine, candid insights and that the conversation will flow naturally based on their responses.

  • Tip: Explain that the interview will be a casual conversation rather than a formal Q&A session. This helps set the right expectations and eases any anxiety they may have.

The Skill of Teasing Out Responses

Building Rapport

Before diving into the interview, spend some time getting to know your interviewee. Small talk, sharing a laugh, or even discussing common interests can dissolve initial stiffness and build a rapport. When the interviewee feels comfortable with you, they are more likely to open up and share valuable insights.

Active Listening and Follow-up Questions

Active listening is crucial in helping you pick up on points that merit further exploration. Respond to your interviewee’s answers with follow-up questions that drill deeper into their experiences. For instance, if they mention they saw improvements in their workflow, don’t just move on to the next question. Instead, ask, “Can you give me an example of how your workflow has improved?” This encourages more detailed and authentic responses.

Assertive Statements and Strategic Silence

Another powerful technique involves making an assertive statement followed by a strategic pause. For instance, you might say, “Would it be fair to say that our product has revolutionized the way you work?” Then, wait. The pause—even if it feels awkward—encourages the interviewee to reflect and respond thoughtfully. Some of the best, most genuine answers emerge from these moments of silence.

Emotional Engagement: Tapping Into Feelings

Video is an incredibly emotional medium. Emotions resonate deeply with viewers and can make your testimonials far more compelling. Don’t shy away from questions that tap into the emotional experience of your interviewee. Ask questions like:

  • “How do you feel about the outcomes you’ve seen since using our product?”
  • “Does it make you proud to see the transformations in your workflow/team/operations?”


Questions centered on feelings can elicit powerful, genuine responses that are far more impactful than mere factual answers.

Positive Reinforcement: Boosting Confidence

Positive reinforcement throughout the interview can help to put a nervous interviewee at ease. Simple affirmations like “That’s a great point” or “Thank you for sharing that” can boost their confidence. However, it’s important not to overdo it. Overly frequent or insincere praise can make the interviewee feel patronized and lead to insecurity.

  • Tip: Deliver feedback carefully. Balance positive reinforcement with genuine interest in their responses to maintain authenticity and comfort.

Mastering Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication plays a significant role in creating a comfortable and engaging interview environment. Your body language, facial expressions, and even the occasional nod can convey encouragement and interest. Sometimes, non-verbal feedback is even more important than verbal cues in making the interviewee feel understood and valued.

  • Tip: Maintain eye contact and use open, inviting body language. Simple gestures like nodding or smiling can significantly impact how relaxed and forthcoming your interviewee feels.

Letting the Interviewee Do the Talking

Remember, the goal is to capture the interviewee’s perspective and experiences. While it’s essential to guide the conversation, don’t dominate it. Allow for pauses and give the interviewee space to think and articulate their thoughts. Sometimes, the most profound insights come when interviewees take a moment to reflect.

  • Tip: Use strategic pauses to encourage interviewees to continue talking. Silence can sometimes be more effective than words in drawing out more detailed and thoughtful responses.

Asking “Why” Repeatedly

One effective technique for digging deeper into motivations and underlying reasons is asking “why” repeatedly. This simple strategy can reveal more profound insights and help you understand the root causes or driving factors behind a statement or opinion. For example:

  • Follow-Up: “Why do you think this change occurred?”
  • Follow-Up to Follow-Up: “Why was that important for your workflow?”

This line of questioning encourages the interviewee to think deeply and articulate their thoughts, leading to richer content.

Mirror and Reflect

Rephrasing and reflecting answers back to the interviewee can be an excellent way to confirm understanding and encourage further elaboration. For instance, if the interviewee says:

  • Interviewee: “Our team has become much more efficient thanks to your software.”
  • You: “So, you’re saying the software has significantly boosted your team’s efficiency. Can you tell me more about how this improvement came about?”

This technique shows that you are actively listening and helps to guide the conversation deeper into specific points of interest.

Use Real-Life Scenarios

Asking interviewees to describe specific instances can provide concrete, actionable insights. By focusing on real-life scenarios, you can uncover detailed stories that resonate more with viewers. For example:

  • Question: “Can you describe a specific instance where our product made a significant difference in your work?”

Doing Your Homework: The Interviewer’s Knowledge

Understanding the Subject Matter

Nothing is more off-putting to an interviewee than an interviewer who isn’t familiar with the subject matter. Before the interview, make sure you thoroughly understand the customer’s industry, their specific use of your product, and any relevant background information. This preparation demonstrates respect for the interviewee’s time and ensures that your questions are relevant and insightful.

When Preparation Isn’t Possible

If, for some reason, you didn’t have the time or information to adequately prepare, it’s crucial to be forthright about it. Transparency can go a long way in building trust. Admit upfront that you’re looking to learn from them and that their insights will be invaluable. This approach can turn a potential weakness into an opportunity for an even more engaging and informative conversation.

Choosing the Right Location and Time

Optimal Location: Comfort Is Key

Location can significantly affect the comfort level of your interviewee. Opt for a quiet, well-lit space where interruptions are minimized. Sometimes, interviewing in the interviewee’s own environment, such as their office or workspace, can make them feel more relaxed and ready to share.

  • Tip: Prior to the interview, visit potential locations to gauge their suitability. Ensure that the setting is conducive to both comfort and good audiovisual capture.

Timing: The Right Time of Day

Time of day can impact the energy and focus of your interviewee. Schedule the interview at a time when they are least likely to be stressed or distracted. Mid-morning or early afternoon often works best for most people.

  • Tip: Avoid scheduling interviews right before important meetings or deadlines. A relaxed, unrushed interviewee is more likely to provide thoughtful, detailed responses.

Technical Considerations: A Seamless Experience

The Gear and Setup

While your main focus is on the conversation, don’t neglect the technical aspects. Ensure you have high-quality audio and video equipment to capture clear sound and vivid visuals. A lapel mic can be particularly useful for reducing background noise.

  • Tip: Always have backup batteries and storage available. Technical issues can disrupt the flow and mood of the interview.

Test Run and Rehearsal

Before beginning the actual interview, conduct a short test run. This checks not only for technical issues but also helps the interviewee get used to the camera and microphone.

  • Tip: Use this time to make any last-minute tweaks to the lighting, angles, or audio levels.

Always Keep the Cameras Rolling

One crucial piece of advice: always keep the cameras rolling. Some of the most authentic and memorable moments occur when the interviewee thinks the “official” part of the interview is over. Whether it’s an off-the-cuff remark, a spontaneous story, or genuine laughter, these unscripted moments can add incredible depth to your testimonial.

  • Tip: Inform your interviewee upfront that the cameras will be rolling continuously, so they are not caught off guard.

Post-Interview: Review and Follow-Up

Reviewing the Footage

After the interview, review the footage to identify key moments and notable sound bites. This will help in editing the final version to highlight the most impactful statements.

Follow-Up for Additional Insights

Sometimes, the interviewee might have more to say after reflecting on the interview. A follow-up email thanking them for their time and asking if they have any additional thoughts can capture those overlooked gems.

  • Tip: A simple thank-you note can also leave a positive impression, reinforcing your relationship with the customer.


Successful customer testimonial interviews boil down to creating a comfortable environment where genuine conversations can happen. By focusing on building rapport, choosing the right location and time, using both verbal and non-verbal communication, keeping the cameras rolling, and employing thoughtful interviewing techniques, you can craft testimonials that are both compelling and authentic. Remember, it’s all about making your interviewee feel heard, valued, and relaxed. With these tips in your arsenal, you’re well on your way to capturing testimonials that resonate deeply with your audience.

Picture of Salvador Garza
Salvador Garza

Salvador is a visual storyteller with 25+ years of creative professional experience that includes producing, directing, photographing and editing high-profile corporate films, annual reports, and major political campaigns. He is an Apple Certified Trainer and Adobe Certified Instructor with extensive experience in digital media workflow consulting.

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