The ability to get closer to customers, users, and members, understanding their emerging needs and addressing challenges before they become intractable, will be critical to business success in the coming decade. Mastering the oceans of data that are now available in the business environment is part of this capability. However, those who ignore qualitative methods of obtaining actionable insights risk making decisions without seeing the full picture. Interviews – actually going and talking with the people whose decisions directly affect your business – are a unique and invaluable technique to include in any research program to improve the quality of decision-making.
However, given the increasingly quantitatively-oriented business environment, we find frequently that clients are struggling to understand and communicate the value of other forms of research before a project starts. (Once the project has been completed, typically they see the value of interview research to drive significant insights for their business).
Qualitative versus quantitative research is really a false choice. In a market research or member needs assessment program that is fully robust, both methods are used regularly and are designed to work together in a complementary way. However, there are a number of situations where quantitative research is not optimal and qualitative research via interviews becomes an irreplaceable tool to replace or augment quantitative primary or secondary research.
1. Quantitative secondary research is simply not available.
- In highly specialized, niche, or emerging industries, it is often impossible to obtain secondary research that enables sizing of the market or provides any sense of the average size of a client. This is a particularly Canadian problem, where divisions of North American or global companies are often unable to use central market research sources, because they do not include Canada.
2. It is not practical or affordable to do survey research given the context or resources available.
- The expertise to develop and administer a survey may not be available. It can also be very difficult to access an adequate sample size, especially in niche industries.
3. You are not ready to write a survey.
- If little is known about the target population, it is very difficult to write a high-quality survey that will make sense to the respondents.
4. Survey research may not answer the question.
- For certain types of questions, such as surfacing trends, or when dealing with particularly complex or sensitive questions, survey data will be very difficult to obtain and interpret.
Given the limitations of surveys, interview research can be used very effectively for a number of different purposes, including:
- Market landscape – to uncover the subtleties of relationships and trends in the industry.
- Competitive intelligence – to evaluate potential go-to market strategies and their chances of success.
- Buyer behaviour – to clarify why buyers make the decisions they do, how they make decisions, and what influences them.
- Member needs assessment – to probe the affinity members have with the organization as well as to gauge their satisfaction and identify emerging needs.
- Client satisfaction – can be used either to illuminate or to prepare for quantitative research or for a more strategic review of client satisfaction.
- Segmentation – to obtain a nuanced, client-centric perspective.
- Feasibility study – to assess market interest in a particular product or service.
If you would like to read more about the benefits of interview research, you can download our recent white paper, “Conversations with Purpose: Improving Decisions with The Power of Interview Research.”