Questions to ask during a customer interview

5-why method that will help you pinpoint the jobs-to-be-done and customer pain points.

Ana Bibikova


Customer interviews are tough. There are tiny things you can trip over and make a customer completely “shut down” or start lying to you. However, the most dangerous mistake is to play everything by the book, follow all the customer interview rules and end up missing the core customer pain. Can be easily done if you are not asking the right questions.

Fortunately, there’s a 5-Why technique that will ensure that you drill down deep enough to establish what is really nagging at your customer.

5-Why Framework History

The method is pretty old. It was developed at Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1930s to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. It became one of the cornerstones of Toyota’s famous lean manufacturing system.

The classic example of this method used at Toyota presumes that a “facilitator” or service manager, or process owner is trying to find out the root cause of the problem with the welding robot. The process owner has to ask an array of 5 questions, each one if which except for the first one is iterated based on the previous answer:

  1. Why did the robot stop?

The circuit has overloaded, causing a fuse to blow.

  1. Why is the circuit overloaded?

There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.

  1. Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings?

The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil.

  1. Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil?

The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings.

  1. Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings?

Because there is no filter on the pump.

Result: the root cause of the problem is identified and can be eliminated fast.

When To Use the 5-Why Method

The 5 Whys method was developed to establish the causes for mechanical problems, it…