Innovation Management Wisdom

Posts with the tag 'focus groups'

Qualitatively Unqualified Research

Background for this post consists of 18 years working with tens of clients and doing hundreds of qualitative interviews.  There are links below that will deepen readers’ understanding of qualitative research.  Additionally, many pages in this site place qualitative research in its proper context within the innovation process.

Anyone can moderate a qualitative research discussion.

When I sense that someone is entertaining this notion, a scene from “A Fish Called Wanda” flashes on the anterior wall of my cranium…

Kevin Kline: “Apes don’t read philosophy.”

Jamie Lee Curtis: “Yes, they do Otto, they just don’t understand it.”

An ape can lead a focus group. It’s just a conversation.  An ape can ask questions and get answers. And, that’s how high the bar is for some people who have seen focus groups and, thus, think they can lead them.

Each year, hundreds of focus groups and in-depth interviews are moderated by…we’ll call them dilettantes to be more polite.

But, they don’t know they’re dilettantes.  After all, they didn’t have to avoid losing a legal arguments or a patient. They only thing they had to avoid was inducing stoney silence among their research subjects.

A focus group costs $55 per minute. That includes facility rental, recruiting participants, moderation, analysis, report writing and M&Ms for everyone in the observation room.  But, the cost of poorly conducted interviews pale in comparison to opportunity costs of lost wisdom and business opportunities, which typically amount to millions over several years.

Yes, dilettantes will continue to ask, “What would make you buy?”, of their research subjects and they’ll continue to get answers.  But, for so many reasons that we don’t have time to address here, they’ll be useless and misleading answers.

So, the next time you hear someone suggest that they’ll do qualitative research interviews themselves, suggest that they take this not-so-tongue-in-cheek, “Qualitative Research Dilettante Self-Test”:

If they flunk the test and still insist on moderating, you’ve done all you can. They’re headed recklessly toward the fruit aisle…to the bananas I think.

Whyze Group moderates qualitative research interviews that derive strategic, business-building wisdom from participants and imparts it to managers.

October 13th, 2008

Maintenance and Repair Parts Wholesaler Innovates Small Business Customer Experience

This billion-dollar distributor of maintenance and repair supplies wanted to find ways to deepen its relationships with small businesses.A customer experience management audit revealed that the company relied heavily on research with large business customers to guide improvements in the customer experience.  Small business customers, however, were becoming far less loyal.

Whyze Group led in-store cue scans and focus groups with small business customers. These showed that small businesses have buyer personas and needs that are different from large customers. 

Small business customers’ usage of phone, internet and store locations correlated with these personas.  This helped the company to anticipate the expectations of small business customers depending on which channel the customer used. 

Whyze Group identified opportunities in sales, customer communications, products and pricing to deliver improved customer experiences to each small business persona. This became the foundation for redrafting customer communications and customer relationship management processes in ways that resonated with small business customers. 

We prioritized these opportunities to improve small business customer experiences in light of changes in the size and composition of the small business market.  Our analysis showed that the size and makeup of the small business market was likely quite different than the management team had believed.  We worked with managers to prioritize opportunities in accordance with assuring mutual benefits to customers and company.

October 7th, 2008

Focus Groups vs. Crowdsourcing Debate

Focus groups are out. Crowdsourcing is in.

Those who make a living on the bleeding edge of Web 2.0 are proposing that social networks are replacements for focus groups and other traditional (i.e., “obsolete”) forms of qualitative research. They’re not and here’s why.

Today’s oft recommended solution-du-juor, crowdsourcing, is defined as, “the use of people and companies to help other people and companies for compensation,” according to Paul Poutanen, president of crowdsourcing firm, Mob4hire.

That doesn’t sound so different from focus groups.

But wait, they say. Unlike focus groups, crowdsourcing is inexpensive, unbiased, fast and reliable…because large numbers of customers are collaborating in the innovation process right there with you, in real time.

With crowdsourcing, all you have to do is define a problem, find customers who can solve it, invite them and compensate them for their contributions.  Companies need only facilitate the collaboration process and discern which of their many ideas the company should implement.

That’s unlike focus groups, where you have to define the problem, find qualified customers, compensate them, facilitate the process and figure out which of their ideas to implement.

See the difference???  Neither did I.

The fact is that both crowdsourcing and focus groups have their respective strengths and applications. Both require time and effort. Choosing requires judgement in defining the problem to be solved and in how each tool is most usefully applied.  The chooser must be able describe why one tool was chosen over another in way that is informed, transparent, and imbues decision makers with confidence.

I’ll write more in upcoming posts about situations in which crowdsourcing, focus groups and other tools are optimally used.

In the meantime, remember that information technologies are only tools.  They render value measured by the skills of those who use them.

July 1st, 2008


Categories

Posts by Month

Calendar

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Tags