Going on Customer SAFARI, a practical guide to customer interviews.

The SAFARI technique and mindset fits in the chapter of Discover the voice of the customer. Qualitative research through customer interviews.
Why an extra tool in the Innovation chapter? Because customers interview techniques are instrumental in the success of lean innovation. The SAFARI technique will help you improve your interview skills. 

In order to delight customers, in order to create customer value, the product or service should create a positive experience, positive feelings. A great way to achieve that is by taking away ‘pain’ and creating ‘gain’. The ‘gain’ is not limited to monetary gain but can also be psychological or functional. (see Value Proposition Design training for ‘pain’ and ‘gain’ definitions)

The letters SAFA stand for Stress, Anxiety, Frustration and Anger. These are typical factors that cause customers “pains”

The letters RI stand for Rewarding and Ideal. What the customer finds rewarding in his job and what would be the ideal situation. Factors that represent the customers “gains”. 

The interviewer should ask open questions to understand the causes of the customer’s pains and gains.

How to use the SAFARI technique?

When to use it:

Whenever you are with a customer. 

Do not use it:

If there is a crisis situation with the customer! For example, a product failure, service issue not getting resolved, shipment issues…
Solve the crisis first. If you start interviewing the customer in the middle of a crisis it will only irritate him or her.  

Tips in using the model:

Doing customer interviews about new products or innovations is like going on a safari discovery adventure. You prepare for what you are looking for but expect the unexpected and embrace it when it happens.

Some customers can be very passionate about a feature, a functionality or a problem they have.

Even if it was not on your list of topics, make the time to listen!If a customer lacks the interest or expertise in a specific topic, detect it quickly. Don’t just finish your list. Look for a different touch point of interest.

Pay attention to the choice of words customers make in reaction to product demo or feature. Often it will be their intuitive reaction and there is a lot to be learned from it.

The 3 main causes of frustration are:

o   Losing time;

o   Things or people in the way of your customer’s goals;

o   Competing goals conflict

Dive deeper into causes of frustration. Look for the internal and external factors.

Asking for the Ideal solution can generate extremely valuable ideas. Especially if you can later present a product or service that approaches the ideal situation.

Know that customer needs are always changing. The answers of yesterday are not necessarily relevant today.

Avoid the following interview mistakes:

o   Trying to convince the customer of your value proposition.

o   Counter argument on feedback.

o   Putting words in your customer’s mouth.

The ideal interview team consists of two people. One person is just not enough to collect all the verbal and non-verbal input during the interview.


Yoav Nir. (2017) ‘Game Changing Innovation, making theory a reality through practice’, die Keure Professional Publishing, 56-62

Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Alan Smith, Greg Bernarda, Patricia P Papadakos (2014) ‘Value Proposition Design’, Wiley


How to use the SAFARI technique?