Case Study: Focus Group Company Collects Feedback on Home Energy Assistance Program

October 2, 2019

Drive Research recently completed a qualitative recruitment and focus group project at our facility in Syracuse, New York.


The focus groups helped a management consulting firm focusing in the energy space in combination with a natural gas and electricity company collect feedback about a Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). 

It is important to use a third-party market research company to manage any project, but especially focus groups. Doing so, ensures honest and unbiased responses from focus group participants.


Disconnecting the sponsor from the focus group process always results in more credible, subjective, and reliable feedback from local participants. 


This case study outlines the objective, process, and analysis of the qualitative recruitment and focus group project surrounding a home energy assistance program.

A management consulting firm specializing in energy partnered with Drive Research to conduct qualitative focus groups in conjunction with a natural gas and electricity company. The main objective of the qualitative research project was to obtain feedback from low-income customers of HEAP.  

Low-income HEAP customers were selected from Upstate New York to provide their honest feedback around the registration process, customer experience, and other critical objectives provided by both the management consulting firm and electric company. Through this group discussion, clients of our focus group company received feedback and insight from their target demographic to help guide operations, marketing, and strategic decisions. 


Process for Qualitative Recruitment and Focus Groups
As Drive Research specializes in both qualitative recruitment and focus groups, our team follows an exclusive in-house approach to finding all types of audiences to participate in a group discussion for the sake of research. The process for this project is outline below. 

First, our qualitative recruitment and focus group firm sent a proposal to the management consulting firm for review. The proposal outlined key project objectives, approach for executing the recruitment and focus groups, project timeline, and cost of the focus group project. 

Kickoff Meeting 
After the client signed off on the proposal, Drive Research scheduled a 30-minute meeting to kick off the study and make sure all team members were on the same page. The kick-off meeting included those from Drive Research, the management consulting firm, and the natural gas and electricity company. 


Here are 5 elements typically covered in a market research kickoff meeting. 


Project Workplan 
Within 24 hours of the end of the kickoff meeting, our focus group firm prepared a project workplan which details deliverables, responsible parties, and dates of competition. The workplan was updated each week by Drive Research and shared throughout the fruition of the study. Doing so helps assure the project schedule remains on track. 


Qualitative Recruit for Focus Groups 
With the criteria and feedback collected from the kickoff meeting, our qualitative recruitment firm in New York created a recruitment screener. The recruitment screener is the first step of creating an online survey in order to start the qualifying process for finding focus group participants.


The main audience for this research was those who have utilized HEAP in the most recent registration process which occurred from November 2018 through January 2019.

The recruitment screeners created by our focus group firm typically include questions written and recommended by our survey team based on their experience from past focus group projects. The screener however is also customized to include the qualifying criteria to best meet the needs of the study at hand. After the recruitment screener for the focus group was approved by our clients, Drive Research began programming and testing the online survey with the use of our in-house survey software. 

Participants were screened through the online survey to ensure they are:


  • The primary or shared decision-maker for utilities in the household

  • Currently use the natural gas and electric company who was co-sponsoring the study 

  • Enrolled in HEAP with the past year 

For this particular focus group project, the screener survey took respondents an average of 3 minutes to complete and included 10 to 15 questions. The target audience was recruited through targeted email lists, social media paid advertisements, and paper flyers sent to applicable community organizations. 

Those who completed the online survey and matched the qualifying criteria of low-income HEAP customers, were called by our qualitative recruitment team to answer additional questions. This follow-up phone call assures Drive Research finds the most qualified participants. 

If selected to participate in the focus groups at our Syracuse focus group facility, participants received a confirmation email, calendar invite, reminder phone call, and a reminder text the morning of the focus group. This repetitive confirmation process helps produce a high participation or show-rate for focus groups. 


Here is more information on how to recruit for focus groups


Focus Groups

Our focus group firm in Upstate, New York designed a moderator’s guide for the group discussions using the client notes as a starting point. The moderator’s guide designed by Drive Research are always passed along to the client for final sign off on what questions will be asked during the qualitative research. Drive Research also handled the scheduling and moderating of all sessions. 

The focus groups with HEAP customers were hosted at our focus group facility in Syracuse on Wednesday, March 20. The first group session started at 5:30, and the second session start at 7:30 – both lasting 90 minutes long. The trained moderator provided by Drive Research took several breaks during the discussion to interact with our clients who were onsite, watching the focus groups in our viewing room. This helps with addressing new questions on-the-fly. 

Clients from the management consulting firm and the natural gas and electric company also took advantage of Drive Research’s off-site stream services. This allowed team members who were not onsite to watch the focus groups live through a private link. Our focus group firm understands it is not always easy to travel to Syracuse while other business is taking place. The private streaming channel allows off-site viewers to not only watch live from the comfort of their own home or office, but pause the feed and rewind the footage live. 

The goal for each focus group was to have 8 to 10 people who match the target criteria participate. A total of 12 participants were scheduled for each focus group in order to account for no-shows or drop-outs. 

A total of 21 individuals participated in this qualitative research, including 10 in the first group and 11 in the second group. All focus group participants received $75 as a thank you for their participation and quality feedback. Participants also received food, beverages, and snacks as an additional bonus to attending the group discussions.  


Analysis and Reporting 
The final results and feedback from the focus groups remain confidential with the management consulting firm and the natural gas and electric company. The market research report included a background and methodology, key findings, participant personas, an infographic, next steps with market research, and an appendix outlining the results from each question. 

The focus groups answered many important business objectives. Questions included, but were not limited to:  


  • What do users know about HEAP?

  • What is the need for home energy assistance? 

  • How do participants rate the application experience?  

  • What happens after users complete their application? 

  • What are the biggest challenges when applying for HEAP?

Drive Research lastly held a debrief meeting with the client to discuss the report and findings in greater detail. 


Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is national market research company who manages both recruiting and hosts focus group at its focus group facility in Syracuse, NY.


Are you interested in either qualitative recruiting or focus groups? Contact us.


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