• Wendy Castleman

Customer Research Tip of the Month: Use These 3 Little Words:

Updated: May 23, 2019

My tip of the month is for using a simple phrase when doing customer research interviews with customers. These three little words carry a lot of impact. In fact, I speculate that these words may be the most important words you can use when talking to customers. They are very useful to understand more about almost anything. They are very useful for testing out assumptions. They can help you get to better stories and richer insights.

What are these words?

Tell me more.

"Tell me more" is kind of like "why?" in that it will get people to tell you about more detail about and background about whatever it is they're talking about. However, unlike why, tell me more does not inadvertently convey lack of knowledge, impatience, or judgment. We all know about the five whys method for getting to root cause. Frankly, "why" can be irritating when asked over and over again.

When I was first introduced to the phrase, I thought it sounded awkward to say. However, I found that it worked like magic. "Tell me more" expresses interest. It's an extremely useful phrase when doing active listening with others. It conveys interest in what the person is talking about, encouragement for them to continue talking, and also a genuine desire to understand.

I confess that I also find this particular phrase useful when I am taking notes and happen to miss part of some critical point they made. It gets people to repeat, and go into further depth. It gives you that extra moment to process and understand.

Even when you think you understand, when you are sure you've got it, using the phrase "tell me more" can help you verify your understanding without leading the person you're speaking with. Listen for something that goes against your understanding. If you hear something unexpected, well then you've learned something important. In some ways it can help you overcome your bias to confirm what you know.

These three little words can deepen the conversation, uncover beliefs, motivations, emotions, and incredibly inspiring stories.

Try using these three little words the next time you talk with someone: "tell me more".


I am dedicated to empowering organizations and individuals to use design thinking and design research skills to make the world a better place. One of the key ways that I am trying to do this, is to deepen the skills that everybody has needs to use to understand customers through research. Each month I'll add a new "Customer Research" tip of the month, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter so you don't miss.

#questions #research #tipofthemonth #customerfocused

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