By: Ruthie Feinstein, VP, Insights & Engagement
My last blog discussed the client benefits around conducting virtual research. Check it out here. Today I am sharing useful tips for successfully executing virtual consumer conversations. They center around being human: acting in a genuine, respectful way and establishing trust.
Tip #1: Recruit with a tech mindset and participant’s needs in mind.
- Include criteria for having a stable Wi-Fi connection and familiarity with the tech platform being used. If the platform is new to participants, ensure you build in time for set up and practice before the interview to increase their comfort level.
- If your study involves thoughtful writing exercise(s), make sure recruiting criteria has a written articulation component so they are not surprised by the type of communication that is expected of them.
Tip #2: Set clear expectations so there are no surprises.
The more participants know ahead of time, the more comfortable they will feel entering the discussion and the more open they tend to be. In addition to the basics, make sure:
- Participants know what will happen during the interview. For example, is it a one-on-one conversation, or will others observe? Will you be sitting stationary in front of the camera or taking a ‘field trip’ to their pantry or garage?
- Details are addressed. What should they wear? (most ask…encourage comfort unless it is part of the research). Should their phone be on silent? (yes). Is it ok to have water or coffee? (yes, you want them to be comfortable), but please no meals unless it is an eating experience! Do they need to make arrangements for kids and pets so they are not distracted? (yes, unless they are part of the conversation). For mobile missions, no driving while participating (yes, this has happened!).
- Participants test the tech and are advised to log on 5 minutes before the scheduled interview time, so no time is wasted in setting up.
- People are able to have a quiet place to conduct the interview to avoid potential inside or outside distractions.
Tip #3: Establish credibility and rapport to increase comfort level.
- “Introduce” yourself via email and provide a picture so participants know who to expect on the other end of the screen. Communicate how excited you are for the conversation, so they feel their input is valued before you even begin.
- Log in early so you are there before the participant, smiling and welcoming as they enter the interview.
- Minimize your own distractions such as only having exactly what you need for the conversation open on your laptop (the worst is hearing the constant email ‘ding’ as you are leading a conversation…trust me).
- Have and communicate a back-up plan should tech issues arise (they will) so the interview isn’t a bust.
- Energy! The last interview of the day should feel like the first one. Build in enough mental breaks and move from behind your screen to get some fresh air. Coffee helps too.
Tip #4: Roll with it.
- Life happens. Allow for tech issues, dogs barking, doorbells ringing and kids interrupting because these things WILL happen. Be forgiving and empathetic. Explain it happens to the best of us and that you will be patient while they figure it out.
- If it becomes too much or too long of a distraction, ask if participants need to reschedule for a time that may be better for them. A stressed person is not an open or insightful person.
Tip #5: Observe as much as listen.
- Observing is still just as important as listening in producing those insightful golden nuggets. I recently led a one-on-one video interview with a man wearing an “Own the Moment” t-shirt. I thought it was relevant to our topic and used it as a way into the discussion. It led to some really insightful personal truths and informed the learning in a way that might not have if it wasn’t pursued.
Like every research method, there are benefits and trade-offs, but I am really enjoying and finding great success with virtual research, applying familiar principles with a human-inspired tech-twist. Please contact our CEO Cindy Blackstock at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your research needs and if virtual may be the right approach for your needs!
Ruthie brings over 20 years of senior leadership experience in consumer insights, brand strategy and marketing communications to her work at SIVO Insights. She has deep empathy for client needs, high partnership standards, and an eye toward meeting business objectives. Ruthie is a seasoned moderator and strategist whose warm, approachable style makes consumers feel they are talking to a friend and results in deeper insights. Her strong relationships and strategic influence have shaped positioning, innovation, and growth strategies for blue-chip brands across food, technology, entertainment and retail.