The success of a project is often down to how much attention is paid to those it is designed to serve. Empathy interviews are a key part of this user-centric or user-centred approach.
They are a tool that give us a better understanding of their environment, their behaviour, their concerns and their aspirations, the overarching aim being to improve coherence between the proposal and the beneficiary.
- A framework of questions drawn up by you
- Something to write or record with (audio or video)
Different roles are adopted during this exploratory phase. The interviewer can simultaneously be both:
- Journalist, questioning the users (current or potential) to collect factual information. The interview format can be adjusted in line with what they want to find out (the user’s experience, their expectations, needs, fears, etc.). They focus on the facts.
- Anthropologist, observing these same users to understand their experiences and what they might need in order to improve their everyday lives. They focus notably on non-verbal language and spontaneous reactions.
- Prepare your interview in advance, notably by:
- identifying who you want to interview in line with your project needs: target audience, stakeholders, etc.
- and structuring the interview format: introduction, development and conclusion.
- During the interview, start by establishing a relationship with your interviewee:
- introduce yourself and ask them to introduce themselves back
- explain the context and the aim of the interview.
Work your way through your interview framework, keeping the conversation as natural as possible.
There is no need to ask all the questions if you have already got the answers you need or if you feel that they are no longer appropriate.
- Set aside some time after the interview to process the information, analyse it and summarise it, in order to work out what your next steps are.
- Test the interview in pairs: whilst one person asks the questions, the other can note down what has been said and observed. This person can support the questioning if necessary.
- Document the interview: take notes simultaneously/record it/take photos or videos, etc.
- Ask open questions that encourage the interviewee to tell a story or experience. Example: “How have you been choosing your training courses up until now?” rather than “Was it easy to choose a training course?”
- Ask “why” and prioritise so-called “neutral” questions so that you don’t steer the answers in any particular direction.
- Silence is your friend, listen more than you speak.
- Try to collect anecdotes and stories from their answers.