Understanding the Customer Experience with Contextual Interviews

By James Grieve posted 10-05-2017 10:56


In my last article, I explored the first phase of the Customer Experience framework, Understanding. Highlighting the importance of surveys, I shared the benefits of research to understand what an organization’s customers, leaders, and employees value, and of equal importance, how they expect the customer experience to be consistently executed. 

The next step in the process of the comprehensive Understanding phase is to engage an organizations’ customers, leaders, and employees with 20 – 30 minute in-person contextual interviews. During these interviews, researchers watch and listen to interviewees to gain a deeper understanding of how they feel about an organization’s Customer Experience. The benefits of contextual interviews are vast, including that they tend to be more natural and sometimes more realistic, thus giving a more accurate account of what is important for those providing and receiving an organization’s Customer Experience. 

Contextual interviews are integral to understanding and improving the customer journey. Surveys and focus groups are a great first step, but if not done properly, they tend to gloss over too many important details that are critical to understanding the Customer Experience. Empathy is the heart of Customer Experience, and in-person contextual interviews with an organizations’ key stakeholders reveal their deeper insights and feelings into the expectations of customer experiences they receive, deliver, and facilitate, and align them to design and deliver them consistently.  

Most importantly, in-person contextual interviews assist with planning and performance improvement in a Customer Experience strategy. Information gathered in the contextual interviews reveal what happens now (current state) and this information can then be compared to the organization’s aspirations of how things should be carried out, revealing the subtle and significant differences and changes required to facilitate real and tangible improvements (desired future state). 

Aligning leaders, customers and employees is integral to the success of an organization’s Customer Experience strategy. To be most effective, collaboration and a common understanding of what is important for customers, employees, and leaders is required to ensure that there is consistency of purpose and seamless execution of the Customer Experience strategy. 


About the Author - James Grieve CMC, MBA

James Grieve is a Certified Management Consultant and partner in Nucleus Strategies, a Kelowna-based consulting firm that specializes in working with businesses in a variety of industries to design great service experiences that delight customers and improve business performance. For over 20 years James' consulting career has been well balanced among: strategic planning, marketing strategy, project management, change management, B2B and B2C sales, customer experience design, and business development, with emphasis on building, nurturing, and sustaining client relationships.

He can be reached at 778.214.6010, or james@nucleus-strategies.com.