If you’re a UX researcher conducting user interviews, you’ll probably face this issue: you want to take a video or sound recording of the interview (or some other user research activity) so you to get permission from the interviewee. But when you ask for permission, there’s always a chance that the interviewee will say no. You want to ask permission in a way such that you’ll maximise your chances of getting a yes.
Without enough thought, most of us might ask this way:
We would like do a video/sound recording for this interview. Is this okay?
Short and sweet, but it’s way too easy for the interviewee to go “well… not really…” and you just lost your chance to do the recording.
After years of trial and error on hundreds of interviewees, this is what I’d now say:
What you say to us is important to us, so we’d like to take notes. To make sure our notes correctly represent what you say, we would also like to take a video/sound recording. Of course, the recording is confidential and will not be shared around. If you have no objections, we’ll proceed with the questions?
Let me explain the thinking behind each phrase, so that you can repurpose this for your own context:
What you say to us is important to us,
Provide a rationale, including a bit of truthful flattery. People are more likely to agree if you provide a rationale. And we know how effective flattery can be. (I stole this phrase years ago from Jan Chipchase.)
so we’d like to take notes.
Start with something small that they will agree to (almost everyone is ok with notes)…
To make sure our notes correctly represent what you say, we would also like to take a video/sound recording.
…so that it’ll be easier to say yes to something bigger (allow video/sound). This foot-in-the-door persuasion technique often used in sales.
Of course, the recording is confidential and will not be shared around.
Quickly assuage the concern they might have – assure them of confidentiality. The “of course” hints to them that you understand their concerns.
If you have no objections, we’ll proceed with the questions?
This is phrased so that it’s easier for them to let us proceed than to say no (they just have to say “OK” or nod to let us proceed) – we’re nudging them to say yes while giving them complete freedom to say no.
Phrased this way, those who really don’t want to be recorded will still say no, and we have to respect that. But those who are less adamant, who would have said “well… not really…” using the first opening would more likely allow you go ahead.
Feel free to use this or modify it for your own context.
If you have other ways or techniques to increase the chances of getting a yes, I would love to hear from you.
Or if you’d like to learn more about user interview techniques, do get in touch.
If you want to know how to come up with user interview questions for UX (user experience) research, check out this link:
It was a real privilege and pleasure to coach someone like him who was eager to learn and really understand UX.
Our focus was on user research interviews. I wanted to improve his thinking about the interview process, so that he wouldn’t just know how to handle one type of interview situation, but all kinds. It’s not just learning how to fish, but knowing how to fish with any available tool at hand and in any environment.
Here’s also what he wrote of the experience, which was rather flattering:
Coleman knows his stuff. Our coaching session focused on interviewing techniques, and he was able to explain and provide great tips for the processes of creating the questions, conducing the interview, and analysing the results. His coaching method challenges you to think, and to think better.
Massive thanks to Ruth from Byu-RHO Consulting for dragging me into this; and Zach, co-founder of ReferralCandy, for giving Ruth and me the opportunity to coach his guys.