Principles of customer service

AC 3.1 - Designing research tools

Preparing to interview someone

Another research tool you may consider using is an interview.  It may be the case that you and possibly some of your classmates, will get the opportunity to interview a manager or member of staff working for the tourism organisation you are studying.

It will be important to prepare for the interview.  This will involve making notes and doing some background research.

You might find some of the information in the passage below useful.

Rather than interviewing one person, it could be that you and possibly others interview a group of people.  This is called a focus group.

There are four different types of basic questions.

  • Open-ended questions
  • Closed questions
  • Follow-up questions
  • Probing questions

Open-Ended Questions

These allow people to answer in any way they see fit. Open-ended questions do not impose answers on people. They allow expression. So, use open-ended questions often and widely in focus groups and depth interviews.

Open-ended questions start conversations and keep them going.

Examples of open-ended questions:

“When you think about the internet, what is the first thing that comes to mind?”

“What do you like best about product X?”

“What are the biggest problems with brand X?”

Open-ended questions can discover unknown topics and explore them. They can produce rich, deep, and unexpected answers.

Closed Questions

In contrast, closed questions impose answers and limit the chance of the interviewee to talk at length.

Closed questions allow researchers to count answers and apply statistical techniques.

A closed question restricts or narrows answers. In this example, the answer is either yes or no.

"Do you use brand X?”

Follow-Up Questions

The follow-up question asks more information about the answer to the main question. It gets details and expands answers. Often there are several follow-up questions to one main question.

Here is an example,

Main question: “What is the biggest problem with brand X?”

Follow-up questions: “How significant is the problem?” “What causes the problem?”

Anticipate follow-up questions. Write them into your interview guide. Here are some ideas for follow-up questions.

"What does that mean?”

“How did it happen?”

“What causes the problem?”

“What did you do?”

Probing Question

The main job of the probing question, which follows a main or follow-up question, is to clarify. Here are a few examples of probing questions.

“Please tell me more.”

“Please give me an example.”

Besides the probing questions you ask, you can also use silent probes

  • Remain silent.
  • Nod your head.
  • Use a puzzled facial expression.


Having considered the four types of question that can be asked, prepare to interview someone!  This could be a relative, a senior member of staff in your school or some other person.  Make sure that your notes and research prepare you for the interview.