If you do this, how often do you do this? Are you capturing the information that is really important by asking the right questions?
There are several ways you can capture this information such as online surveys and written feedback. Although these are useful, they are limited to how deep you can really go in gaining the insights that reveal the true gold that can be transformative for your business.
In this article I want to introduce you to a couple of ways to undertake qualitative research of your clients, namely
- In-depth interviews (IDIs), and
- Focus groups.
Both of these approaches allow you to have in-depth conversations with clients, thus enabling you to gain a deeper understanding of what is important to them regarding their relationship with you and your business. Making this at least an annual exercise will ensure your business retains the relevance that you want it to.
To start off, it is both important and necessary to understand what your overarching objective is. For example, it could be that you wish to understand what your clients’ hold important, or whether they are getting value for money.
In-depth interviews explore your clients’ beliefs and experiences through a set of semi-structured questions. The means to do this could either be face-to-face or by telephone. In these conversations, the interviewer should be able to utilise the natural flow of conversation to encourage open communication and explore ideas. By doing so will facilitate the collection of rich information to paint a picture of your clients’ lived experiences and the factors that contributed to it. From this, you will have information to make important decisions about your business.
On the other hand, focus groups bring together a group of clients. For optimal outcomes, these groups should be kept small, typically 8 - 10 participants. The group needs to be large enough to generate rich discussion but not so large that some participants are left out. The focus group moderator will nurture discussion in an open format using pre-defined questions, with the goal to generate as much information, ideas and opinions from as many different clients as possible in the time allotted. The results could be surprising.
For both IDIs and focus groups, it is important to use an independent third party to act as interviewer or moderator. This person should not only have the skills to undertake the role, but by being independent, it provides the opportunity for the clients to open up, be more candid and provide honest responses.
The benefits of undertaking qualitative research are significant and include:
- Insights into areas for improvement;
- Confirmation that you may be on the right track;
- Clients feel valued.
Upon gaining the insights from your clients, it is essential that you make the most of the information to inform your decision making as to what you will do next. Furthermore, don’t forget to follow-up with your clients who participated to inform them of the outcomes, and how they contributed to that. Knowing that their opinion matters will deepen your relationship further.