In-depth interviews (IDIs) whether conducted by phone or in-person can offer an extensive look into the mind-frame of your customer. A one-on-one conversation allows the interview to dig deeper on specific comments and pull-out critical information about perceptions, decision-making processes, or loyalty to a product or company. Although I focused a prior post on 5 more basic tips to conduct IDIs, this post will provide 4 more unique tips to assist you with your qualitative research work.
Record Your Interviews
Why? It allows you to truly focus on the conversation with your interviewee. I've seen great conversation stall because the moderator was either too busy taking notes or was trying to record an exact quotation for their report. These stalls can interrupt the interview and the choppiness can impact the quality of responses. If you admit you are recording the call up-front for note taking purposes, the vast majority of respondents will understand.
Using a phrase like this typically works: "We are completing a total of 10 to 12 of these interviews over a two-week time frame so having the recordings really helps me write a more accurate report." I can count on one hand the number of times the interviewee took issue with the recording. In fact, I suspect most respondents forget about the interview being recorded almost immediately.
Think "out-of-body experience."
Regardless of whether you work on the client or the provider side of marketing research act like a true independent third-party researcher. The further you separate yourself as a moderator from the sponsoring client, the more honest and forthcoming feedback you will receive. If you are on the client side of your voice-of-customer (VoC) work use terms like "they" instead of "we", "their product" instead of "our product", and "the company" instead of "my company." Although you may need to admit you work for the sponsor somewhere during the invite or introduction to help with responses, the quicker you can make them forget it, the better.
Seriously. As a moderator in marketing research, regardless of whether you are running a focus group or interviewing a respondent, do not act like an expert on the topic. Even though you may know more about the product or the service than your interviewee, showing that on the phone will make the interviewee want to shell up or refrain from making comments in fear of being wrong.
Playing dumb also means asking "why?" or "what do you mean by that?" even though you already know the answer. This promotes explanations and the detail you need to help clarify mindsets of your customers. I'm personally not afraid to admit that this strategy works wonders and I like to think I am pretty good at it which scares me.
Spend the time.
Although you told the interviewee the interview will only take 15 to 20 minutes, let's face it, many interviews go beyond the indicated timeframe. With marketing research it's almost like we have our own time conversion calculations. A 5 minute survey is actually a 10. A 10 minute survey is probably longer than 15 and so on. It helps to pre-schedule IDIs to ensure your interviewee can set aside a time to complete. IDIs completed through cold calling on the spot often feel rushed because you truly are being held to a watch.
IDIs are designed to get information from those who are experts on a specific topic. Therefore interviewees like to talk because it's about their career passions or they are extremely interested in the subject. Keeping the interview moving is important but if your respondent wants to expand on an open-end for a few extra minutes, let them. In these situations, the interviewee is self-aware enough to know they've done a lot of talking and it is probably their fault the interview has extended beyond the indicated 15 minutes. So if you are willing to spend the extra time with your respondents, your report will thank you.
Keep these unique in-depth interview (IDI) tips next time you have some primary research to conduct as a moderator. Drive Research is a phone interview research firm in Syracuse, NY. Contact us at 315-303-2040 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.