A Customer Interview Excerpt On People Losing Phones

This is a followup post from the previous article: How to interview customers without exposing your startup idea.

At the beginning of 2014, I had to validate if people losing their phones was a painful problem. The validation would later prove whether or not the Duet, a Bluetooth tag that watches out for phones, would be successful.

Here's the transcript of my interview with an actual customer (I'll call him Tom for confidentiality reasons). It was based upon the 5 interview questions in the article: How to interview customers without exposing your startup idea.


Me: Hi Tom could you share with me the last time you lost your phone? (Q2)

Tom: The most recent time was when I misplaced my iPhone 4S in the park, after walking off from a short nap on the park bench. I have a habit of putting things beside my side, and then forgetting that I left them there. I've previously lost 3-4 phones already.

Me: what's the hardest part about losing your iPhone 4S back then, and why? (Q1, Q3)

Tom: The first thought that came to me was losing all my work contacts. Rebuilding that list is going to be difficult.

You see, the difficult thing is that I don’t use google contacts.Figuring how to use the backup is irritating, so I prefer to type in my contacts manually. I also do not trust the reliablity of the Google cloud,and dislike password memorisation. Its a merry go round.

The other thing was that I'm afraid people will use my phone to make overseas calls. You can call your telco and ask to suspend the account. But there's no gurantee they will not be able to hack it, especially if you have private photos. I was really worried they'll hack my phone. After all the phone contains most of my life: photos, contacts, emails, schedules etc.

Me: What, if anything, have you done to solve the problem of losing phones? (Q4)

Tom: Preventing future phone loss wise, I now make it a habit to check my pockets, and tap my pants to make sure I don't lose anything. I also try to keep items in pockets now instead of handcarrying them. And of course, I try to actively recall where it last was, even though I have a bad memory.

Me: What don't you like about the solutions you mentioned? (Q5)

Tom: I wished that there would be something that could remind me when I leave something behind, so that I know it's not too late. Something like an alarm, that's loud enough.


Let's analyse this transcript based on the 5 interview questions:

The hardest part about losing his phone:

  • Rebuilding contact list is difficult
  • Being in fear that phone will get hacked

There were two major problems he raised here. Both validated my hypothesis that people indeed see losing phones as a painful problem.

The last time that happened:

  • In the park

Why was that hard:

  • Doesn't use Google contacts (don't trust cloud)
  • Worried people will hack phone. After all the phone contains most of his life.

The second why, that the phone contains most of his life, as later used as the product tagline in our marketing copy: "Duet Protects Your Phone, Protects Your Life."

What, if anything, did customer do to solve that problem:

  • Make it habit to check pockets/pants.
  • Put items in pockets rather than handcarry
  • Try to actively recall the items

This is a big hint that people are already trying to solve the problem, and are very likely willing to pay for a solution!

What he doesn't like about the solutions he's tried:

  • Need something to remind him when he leaves it behind

This was the unique selling point, and we incorporated a seperation alarm feature into the Duet. All other competitor phone finder devices back then, only allowed users to find the phone after loss. But Duet prevented phone loss.

This was where we differentiated ourselves.

Conclusion: I was very, very lucky to have stumbled upon a big, and unaddressed problem in the market, and had my hypothesis validated on the first try, without ever mentioning the solution to my customers. My case is an exception.

In most cases though, you'll find that your ideas can invalidated quickly, and that's where you can run through the process again to find other problems more worthy to be solved.

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