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It may be hard but it’s worth it

Posted 29th March 2016 | Category: BrandStrategy

Have you ever been in a meeting when there is that magic moment when a consumer insight nugget is shared that seems to unlock great potential and subsequently the company goes on to successfully exploit it. But where did that nugget come from?

I'd like to focus on one small part of the insight machine that we perhaps overlook and pay tribute to some unsung heroes namely market research Interviewers.

For a period of about a month, I became a market research interviewer conducting quantitative telephone interviews amongst what I can only describe as a challenging and sophisticated B2B service customer target.

What was it like? Bloody hard but worth it.

Let me share some moments and thoughts and why I have so much respect for the ladies and gentlemen who do this every day for a living.

1) List quality - it become apparent very early on that the quality of the list was less than ideal. Comments like - 'that company name was two mergers ago' and my favourite put down - 'I could dig him up for you, but he died 3 years ago', were pretty typical.However, we still needed to reach the right people and get their input, so a combination of resilience, sweet talking receptionists and some digging on the internet helped me identify who we needed to reach. This is just par for the course for our interviewers.

2) Getting them to talk - I know how often I'm asked to provide research feedback, in fact anything digital these days with a few clicks tends to yield a pop up menu for participation in research and feedback. I feel a bit jaded and it's reduced my reluctance to participate. Well no surprises that many respondents were too busy or company policy was not to undertake research. What disappointed me most was the number of people who thought I was trying to sell them something. So kudos to the Market Research Society that has been pushing the prosecution of companies that try to sell using the guise of market research. It also helped reassure respondents that we were genuine and smoothed the way. I perceive myself as pretty good at getting people to talk but realised that this is a skill Research Interviewers have in spades.

3) Listening skills - The quantitative questionnaire had a few quirks in the design as there were some global benchmark questions from different studies which required changing scale usage several times in the study. It's a fine balancing act to help prompt the respondents to use different scales and avoid frustrating them and then be able to probe into some of their answers to deepen our understanding all while attempting to keep the interview on schedule.

I spent entire days constantly making calls, attempting to reach and connect with respondents, celebrating little triumphs when I managed to get a spontaneous interview or agreement to book a slot for me to call back. Undertaking the research and completing the online templates - using all my communication skills and applying a healthy dose of the patience of Job - left me mentally exhausted.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to salute the unsung heroes our market research interviewers whose contribution provides the input that facilitate insight nuggets being uncovered.

Finally, I would commend to any senior executive whether on the client or the consultancy side - get your hands dirty - there's nothing like hearing the voice of the consumer in your own head.


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