Take Your Customer Conversations To The Next Level

These days we are finding companies treading water in the wake of their own customer analytics. They have expanded their data sets, yet they are still searching for answers; still searching for the "why" behind survey results. The majority of customer insight interactions are short-lived and simply aren't structured to get beyond the "what" of the customer experience.

Conversations with customers may be perceived as less efficient, but they do unlock three attributes to customer insight that analytics and other means fail to deliver on: depth, emotion and authenticity; all keys to revealing the elusive "why".

The only trick is knowing how to navigate each customer conversation, or in our case an in-depth interview, to ensure you are getting the answers to your most burning questions. 


First know that there are content tiers to every conversation. An awareness of these tiers enables a better vantage point from which to speak with a customer and generate meaningful insight. We'll draw upon an actual customer story about the Nest thermostat above to help illustrate each content tier.

  • SUPERFICIAL: The first tier of content in conversation, largely made up of initial surface-level responses. In the graphic above, "I love the Nest thermostat!" is a perfect example. There is very little actual value to be gleaned in this tier so you want to quickly get beyond it.
  • INTELLECTUAL: Moving up into the second tier of content, the intellectual tier reveals a very objective view of what the customer's life is like today as well as rational reasoning behind their decision-making. "Nest has saved me money," sheds some light but doesn't convey the depth to why the customer loves the thermostat so much, so push further.
  • EMOTIONAL: The third tier of content in conversation marks a transition from the "what" behind customer responses to the "why". In this tier, discussion becomes emotionally-charged as customers feel comfortable sharing their feelings, triggering empathy. In the graphic above, the customer was ready to take the conversation deeper. "As a single parent now, I'm always worrying, how are we going to get through all of this financially?" Fantastic insight into needs and desires can be discovered in the emotional tier, but don't stop there.
  • ESSENTIAL: The fourth tier of content, the essential tier, is where customer core beliefs and motivations are revealed. It won't come quickly so you will need time to establish rapport. It's each customer's endgame, and therefore the most valuable conversation you can generate. In the example above we learn that the customer perceives Nest to have done more than just save them money: "To me, the Nest is invaluable. The savings has helped me keep the house, and this is where my kids are growing up."

To move upwards into higher tiers of content during the conversation, you will need to employ a technique we use called laddering. Now that you know there is richer content you can access in each tier, you just need to ladder to get to it. Simply take the most superficial responses to your initial questions and pose variations on the question "why?" to ladder-up. Why do they love the Nest thermostat? If it's about saving money, why is saving money so important? If they're a single parent and money is tight, why would it be so valuable to have a product save them money?

Awareness of the content tiers and the practice of laddering will take your customer conversations to the next level.