Interviewing Customers for Your Customer Scenario Mapping Session

The Pre-Session Interview Enables Great Customer Scenario Choices

June 16, 2005

In the Customer Scenario Mapping® methodology, pre-session customer (and partner) interviews provide the insight you need in order to design great Customer Scenarios, establish effective mapping teams, identify the right internal stakeholders to participate, and set the right expectations internally. Our guide to planning and executing the pre-session customer interviews includes a sample script and our tips for success.


Customer-centric organizations involve customers directly in co-designing virtually every aspect of their business. They don’t simply infer customer requirements from customer feedback, surveys, and focus groups. They go to great lengths to get customers’ active participation in redesigning their internal systems and processes to be more customer adaptive.

Our Customer Scenario® Mapping methodology is a proven approach to gathering customer requirements and understanding customer context. In the preparation phase of a mapping project, you select target customer and partner segments and select companies and individuals to participate in the Customer Scenario® Mapping session.

And then you take the step that causes your anxiety—and that of the customers—to evaporate, to be replaced by curiosity and excitement. This step is the customer (or partner) interview. It is during this activity that you begin to realize how valuable these participants are and how much you are going to enjoy working with them. It becomes clear that with the experience and talent of these customers and partners, your session is going to be a fabulous success. So you want to organize this important step and get the most out of it. We offer this guide to the preparation, execution, and communication of the customer and partner interviews.



We advocate interviewing customers for a variety of purposes. We have provided our guidelines for group interviews1, which are conducted with internal stakeholders when you begin a project, when you need to identify the Customer Scenarios® your project addresses, and when you run into roadblocks.

The pre-session interview, which is the focus of this report, is conducted prior to the Customer Scenario® Mapping session. The subjects are the customers and partners who will be participating in your mapping session.

Yet another interview takes place during the Customer Scenario® Mapping, and that is the discussion of issues that begins each Customer Scenario Mapping session.


In the Customer Scenario Mapping methodology, pre-session customer interviews provide the insight you need in order to design great Customer Scenarios, establish effective mapping teams, identify the right internal stakeholders to participate, and set the right expectations internally.


The customer interviews begin once you’ve got commitment for the Customer Scenario Mapping session and have recruited some customers to participate. Ideally, you can complete the interviews several days ahead of your mapping event, so that you can validate your initial ideas about the scenarios to include and the makeup of the mapping teams. In Illustration 1, which depicts the eight activities in a Customer Scenario Mapping project, the customer interviews occur in Step 5: Gather customers’ and/or partners’ issues.


The Customer Scenario Mapping project team should organize and conduct the interviews. There are two groups of people to interview: the customers and partners who are attending the mapping session. We believe that customers and partners should be approached in the same way, using the same questions, for the pre-session interviews.


Prepare Your Team

Before the mapping session begins, you’ll need to figure out what Customer Scenarios to map and how the teams are composed. Your entire project team will want some insight into who is coming and what their issues are. The interview will help you accomplish the following:

  • Identify the participants’ roles
  • Identify or validate customer and partner segments
  • Understand the participants’ key issues
  • Validate that you internal hot issues match your customers’ hot issues
  • Understand the participants’ business goals that relate to your company
  • Establish a relationship with each of the participants

Prepare Your Guests

Your participating customers and partners are more than a little curious about what they’ve signed up for. They like the idea of helping co-design the activities that impact them. They are eager to help. But since they’ve probably never participated in a mapping session, they’ll want to know more about it. Here are the things they are likely to ask or want to know:

  • What am I expected to do?
  • What do I need to know or prepare?
  • Who else will be there?
  • Who is handling logistics?
  • Do I have the right date, time, and location?
  • Will I be asked inappropriate questions about how I do business in front of my competitors?

Hidden in some of these questions is a bit of anxiety on the customer’s part that you are going to ask him for expertise he doesn’t have. It’s possible he’s a bit worried that he’ll end up paying travel expenses he hasn’t been authorized to spend. And he may be suddenly filled with dread that he will be stuck in a room with people obsessed with trivia—for example, a marketing executive faced with IT developers or the reverse.

The interview is your opportunity to reassure your customer on all these points of potential anxiety.


Know the Project Objectives

You’ve received the budget and approval to run a Customer Scenario Mapping session to gather feedback and/or requirements in critical areas. It’s a good idea to document, in a few paragraphs, the project’s objectives, the expectations you’ve set, the internal sponsors, and the internal issues that are the focus of the session. This paragraph should be included in all of your communications on the project, including interview scripts, interview summaries, invitations to internal stakeholders, and your summary report after the Customer Scenario Mapping event.

You should already have interviewed the sponsors of the event—those whose budgets or commitment are supporting you. Why? Interviewing your internal stakeholders ensures that you’ve got ...


1) See "Building Buy-In for Customer-Centric Initiatives," by Patricia B. Seybold, April 21, 2005



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