Focus groups have often been the go-to methodology as a means to determine how a product or service is used, through the eyes of those who would use it; and has been one of the best methods for capturing consumer opinion about features or developments that might be taking place with a product.
However, business is an environment where adaptability is a requisite. When the option for something better comes up it is up to the business to follow through and do what is best not only for the business but for the business’ customer base. Though focus groups have for a long time allowed the gathering of information in bulk there are other techniques out there. In-depth discussions have become a preferred alternative means of gathering information. Whereas focus groups gather bulk information and often stockpile it for later use, in-depth interviewing tactics allow the interviewer to get to the personal opinions of the participant, identify barrier and driver insights, and eliminates “group think”.
The trouble with focus groups is that they can be so impersonal. They are proctored and people generally will find their mind drifting off: this loss of attention can reflect poorly on the results. This can lead to a rush to answer the questions or even posture to others in the group, despite it not being how one participant truly feels. In-depth discussions can solve this problem by using more engaging interviewing tactics. Rather, the interviewer immerses themselves in a one-on-one to understand emotions and motivations and has a has direct interest in what the participant has to say. Here are some tips for being a better interviewer.
-Always ask open-ended questions that require an explanation. It is easy for someone to allow their mind to wander when all they have to do is affirm a question with a positive or negative response. However asking for an elaboration makes them part of the process as well. This is a crucial step in keeping them engaged.
-Don’t treat the interview like a survey. You are supposed to be having a discussion with the other person, and if you try to keep the conversation on your side you’ll miss what valuable information they have to provide.
– Finally, do not be pushy. Some people have a hard time ordering their thoughts or trying to orally express what they are feeling. Give them the time to do this and let the participant control the flow.
Following these easy steps will lead one to the results that they hoped for, without the long drawn-out process of focus groups where transcripts have to be studied, then looked over so that themes or trends in the data can be learned. However with in-depth interviewing it becomes easier to see the patterns from discussion to discussion, one is simply gathering the information and recording the results. Though individual discussions do not accumulate as much data, it could be said that the data that is gained from the individual discussion is going to be already clear and will not require anyone to sift through it. The researcher can spend their time analyzing the cause-effect relationship in a representative manner. Though both have their benefits when it comes to wanting quality answers, in-depth discussions seems to be the path that many businesses are taking.
Jim Longo is the VP of Research Solutions at Discuss.io, a consumer-connection platform for market research. He brings over 25 years of domain expertise in the market research industry. Jim is considered a thought leader with regards to online behavior and market research technology. He has consulted with brands and research agencies around the world on how to have insightful online conversations and was instrumental in building the first global online qualitative research practice at Harris Interactive (acquired by Nielsen). There, he led a team that conducted more than one thousand online groups in the first three years of its existence.