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How customer recall works

Liam Curley
Liam Curley
1 min read
How customer recall works

This is an essential consideration for UX interviews, where you want to understand more about how the customer perceives the problem your product is trying to solve.

You ask a builder:

"What's the most frequent cause for delay on a building site?"

That's a big question. Delays happen all the time on building sites, and they won't know the most common cause. You're leaving a lot open for interpretation.

The respondent will quickly interpret 'frequently' in the simplest way to give you the first credible answer that comes to mind.[1]

"The biggest cause for delay is when materials aren't delivered on time."

It's not a valuable answer. Firstly, nothing supports the notion that this is the most frequent problem. Secondly, they'll piece together their recollection of multiple stories of late deliveries rather than what happens on one given delivery.

You're getting an inaccurate answer to an inappropriate question. At best, the answer is worthless, and you disregard it. At worse, it's misleading, and you act on it.

The better alternative is to get specific about your question.

First, you want them to focus on a specific event:

"Can you remember the last time you encountered a delay on a building site?"

Once they've recalled the event, you ask:

"What caused the delay?"

That's a simpler question to interpret. You'll get a more detailed and accurate answer on one real cause of a recent delay because they can focus on an event rather than a vague recall of any delay that's ever occurred.

You'll judge how often this problem occurs by whether other respondents repeat it.


[1] Daniel Kahneman called this the Availability Heuristic in Thinking Fast and Slow