Posted By Kayte Hamilton,
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community
This is a follow-up to the QRCA Flash Webinar designed as an introduction to social media research (what it is
and how to get started). (Presented with my industry colleague Frank Gregory from NorthStar Solutions Group.)
It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading
this that the coronavirus pandemic is now the most talked about topic in the
history of social media. A perfect storm for social media conversation volume
growth has emerged: Consumers across the globe are stuck at home (initially
under strict government orders, now in the interest of community safety),
wanting to express how they feel about the situation, how their views of
everyday topics have changed because of the situation, or simply to virtually
connect with others and laugh to take their mind off the situation. The obvious
way to do this is from the comfort of their couch—by posting on social
consumers’ behavior has been forced to change, the landscape for researchers
has changed as well, with some in-person methodologies being impossible to
execute for the near future. Therefore, researchers should consider a pivot to
new execution strategies, including social media intelligence, as a new tool in
your toolkit…myself included!
Years ago I attempted to dabble in social media
listening. Pain points included having to learn new skills like query writing,
on top of navigating multiple social listening platforms which were all different
and all limiting. Functionally, this resource hadn’t been ripened for
basic qualitative interpretation. So I admit, I checked out. I figured, “if
a client wanted social listening they either (1) are doing it internally or (2)
would have asked.” I couldn’t have been more wrong, and Frank quickly schooled
me on the renewed power of social mining.
Social media listening is an older view on this research tool. At the time, listening
made sense; for the most part, we were simply observing the incoming data and
trying to make our own interpretations and connections. Most of the time this
told you a percentage of conversation share the brand has and some light ideas
revolving sentiment analysis (is there a positive, negative, or neutral perception?).
Social intelligence, the
more modern way to describe this sector, is much more advanced. It can capture
consumer conversations across any digital entity (from actual social media to
product reviews) and add demographic and psychographic layers allowing you to
“segment” the digital population (lightly compared to formal screening, of
course). Today’s tool landscape helps us analyze in ways past platforms dreamed
of, such as audience affinity, influencer evaluation, or platform performance
benchmarking. In short, it’s adding more context to the conversations.
Regardless of the
type of social media analytics tool, to me the biggest appeal to jumping into
social media intelligence more fully is the reminder that it’s really never too
late to get started. Unlike other “in-the-moment” approaches qualitative
researches might implement, we can go backward in time and analyze
social media conversation in time chunks.
As opposed to trying
to ask a consumer how they felt about X topic 2 years ago vs. 1 year ago vs. 6
months ago vs. today; social media intelligence allows you to find the millions
of consumer comments discussing that topic over that time period. The posts
consumers made 2 years ago are still there waiting to be analyzed. So, using
the coronavirus pandemic as an example, kicking off a social media intelligence
analysis today doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on the last few months of social
conversation trends—including how the coronavirus has changed the way consumers
think about certain brands, industries, and behaviors.
Every single company
has been impacted by our current events. Consumer perceptions around the globe
have been impacted in almost every way imaginable, often related to the brand
or company you are supporting in your research project. There are many ways to
tap into these conversations and use the information to your advantage, from
proposals to report writing.
- Use the
data as part of a pre-search phase, getting up to speed on a topic.
if this tool is something you want to execute or find a partner on.
Similar to online boards, ask if you are an expert programmer or if you pay
extra for the setup service.
your clients how they currently engage with social media analytics. Can you
help layer your qualitative expertise with this “big data”? Analysts approach
the information much differently than a consumer insights professional.
the client’s internal department is sharing social media data with the
social intelligence as only the “major” social media channels. Data collected
includes public forums, news sites, blogs, product reviews, etc., in addition
to the main social media sites (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, parts of
yourself; just because it’s not “screened” or “recruited” information,
doesn’t mean it can’t add value to your insight generation process.
Like all new skills,
integrating social intelligence into your process takes time. To me, it’s the
same type of learning curve as:
I think people shy
away from learning new skills because they are unsure of how to translate their
current qualitative skillsets. Quallies are not just moderators; we bring more
to the table than simply asking questions. Therefore, we should have a dynamic
set of resources to help us interpret and uncover insight beyond interviewing
Let’s start a
discussion. What’s holding you back from integrating social intelligence
to your qualitative practice?
About the author:
Kayte Hamilton specializes in research design at InsightsNow among a large variety of clients from pharma to
CPG. As a hybrid researcher, she’s always looking for ways to mix methods.
Currently she’s the chair for the QRCA Annual Qually Award, where she advocates
for innovative research solutions and shares these findings with the greater
social mediaCustomer Journey Maps
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Posted By Aliza Pollack,
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Journey Mapping: Big Picture Thinking
I sit here writing, waiting for inspiration to hit: Where is that pithy line that usually finds its way to my brain? The one that sets up the essay/article/slide so well? This is what I do: I take big ideas and craft them into compelling packages to showcase their meaning. But times are intense. And inspiration isn’t so light and sparkly right now. My mind shifts to the bigger issues at play. As I ponder the pandemic, and the stark lifestyle changes it has brought on—civic uprisings, Black Lives Matter, pain, unemployment—it’s hard to deny how interconnected we are, and how vital it is to consider the context when trying to understand a problem.
This attitude translates to work. Often, before COVID-19, a business problem would reveal itself and one team would own it and the solution-finding process. Collaboration across teams can easily be stymied by the rush of business life, with looming KPIs, clogged calendars, quarterly reports, changing leadership and multiple hashtag and mottoes like, “move fast and break things.” The world, and the people in it, are complex. Thinking and working contextually is fundamental. It encourages collaborative work and holistic solutions. Enter journey mapping: a framework that sheds light on the full customer experience. The behaviors, attitudes, delight, and pain points that the customer encounters on the way to your product/category/service/experience. When executed well, journey mapping can coalesce often siloed consumer-facing teams and inspire a more nuanced marketing and product development road map.
Here are my four steps that might help you make this fit within your organization:
Benchmark: Root the team
As with all fact-finding missions, before starting consumer fieldwork, gather your major stakeholders in any way possible (e.g., individual interviews – face to face, phone, short workshop, Google doc, survey) and build alignment.
- Download what is known across teams (marketing, product, CX, data science, etc.): ingoing hypotheses, perceptions of the journey, CRM survey open-ends, personas/segments we want to pursue, competitive analysis, data science.
- Identify what is unknown: What confuses, what are barriers to entry, underlying motivations, who is the real customer, duration of this journey, perceived competition, biases.
- Agree on what success looks like: How should the final deliverable look, what does it need to achieve, what will this work impact within the organization—communications development, product development/refinement, innovation, all?
Discovery: Center on your respondent
- Who will you talk to? Think through the key identifying variables of your broad user base: demographics, frequency of usage, awareness of category, awareness of brand, etc.
- Go into discomfort zones: Journeys capture the full lifecycle which extends beyond purchase. Talk with power/passion users, latent users and rejecters.
- Focus on the individual: I strive for pristine data, so choose one-on-one interviews (video, F2F) rather than focus groups. Use your analysis to uncover patterns.
- Kickstart participant memory: We’re asking people to recall experiences, which are inherently flawed (humans forget). Help them shore up memories with real-life artifacts: calendar entries, receipts, credit card slips, social media posts…. these items spark authentic stories and emotions.
Analysis and visualization: Show your story
Most likely, you’re sitting on a trove of data (yikes!) with a need to synthesize in both meaningful and compelling ways.
- Plan ahead: Talk with your client in advance to decide on the best form of deliverable(s). Guide them toward what’s possible. They also might want to validate quantitatively, so talk through how you can be of service to bring it all together without losing the high touch of qual.
- Sparring partner: It’s likely that you will be lost in the data weeds. Pluck someone from the team, the office (the street?) to share your findings. Relaying the story to a stranger reveals its strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t answer their questions, there’s more work to be done.
- Bring on the designers: Unless you’re design-gifted, work with a professional. They’ll elevate your product.
Action planning: Move them to the next step
While this isn’t integral to the journey map process, it’s an important part of your client’s path. I try to bake it in to the workflow. You’ve started the project with full team inclusion; now help them all put this valuable information to use.
- Can you share it to the full team, followed by a Q&A session?
- Can you conduct a workshop/sprint to inspire some new ideas which they will prioritize?
- Can you overlay it with jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework so the team can see how their respective plans match/meet where users are, and how they feel in that moment.
Through a rigorous process, fed by varied disciplines/teams, journey maps help you pull back to see the sum of all parts.
Aliza Pollack runs research projects to root brand initiatives in real insight. Her work is human-centered, not consumer-oriented. Any brand, no matter how loved, is a fleck of dust in our lives. To resonate, it needs to know how people live, their ambitions, fears, and inspirations. I love digging for those nuggets.
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Posted By Chris Hauck,
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
The Future of In-Person Market Research
For the first few minutes, I thought the recent QRCA webinar “The Future of In-Person Market Research” was mistitled. I was expecting a panel of futurists talking about whether this old-fashioned approach to research would evolve into some kind of totally invasive biomeasurement product. Plug the respondent in, download the data from their brain and voila! Insights! No moderator needed!
Thankfully, the conversation with four leaders from different focus group facility companies was well thought through and perfectly timed. Prior to the call, I hadn’t even considered going back to a live group in 2020. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be getting on an airplane, picking up my rental car, driving to a hotel, cleaning up, putting on my focus group uniform, walking over to the facility and then spending six hours talking to people in a closed room, sharing stimuli and collecting exercises from them.
It was clear from the conversation that I won’t be doing exactly that in the near future, but I probably won’t be sitting at home wondering when we will return to facilities either. Our four panelists—Laura Livers, Schlesinger Group; Rick Seale, Shugoll Research; Amy Shields, Nichols Research and Brett Watkins; L&E Research, — inspired confidence in their efforts to open their facilities safely.
What does safely mean?
Given that we don’t fully understand this virus and or how it works, the panel gave me considerable confidence that they are on top of cleanliness in the same way that airlines or hotel chains are maintaining separation and keeping everything clean. I left the panel confident that they are doing everything to protect the moderator, the participants, and any clients who may want to join. They have all purchased a variety of products and tools to make this happen (mostly plexiglass dividers and sophisticated steam cleaning systems). And they have put in place detailed and complex procedures to protect our safety.
We will all wear masks outside the room, scheduling will be closely managed to ensure as few people as possible are in common spaces, food will be individually –packed, and stimuli will not be shared by the respondents. Waivers will also be signed by all participants regarding the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 with extensive discussions happening between the facilities and their lawyers. Given the well thought out measures they have all put in place, I feel confident that I’ll be back in the moderator’s seat before the end of the year.
There are limitations
It will be a long time before the moderator will be able to look in the holding pen (my colloquialism for the waiting room) and see the respondents for a multitude of groups all gathered together sharing a sandwich tray waiting for the start of their 6 p.m. group. You won’t see ten people around a table passing around your stimuli anytime soon. One panelist had a great story about a moderator conducting IDIs over Zoom with the respondent in the room. No sharing of the air, but it did give me that impression of some sci-fi film where the good guy is grilled by a computer screen. The plus, less travel. And less exposure to COVID-19.
Schedules and flexibility
The important thing to realize is that each facility is different, so the conditions under which you will do your in-person group will be different in each market. You won’t be able to tell the facility at what time you want to have your groups; they will likely tell you, based on who else they have conducting research on the same day. You won’t tell them that you want ten people around the table; they will likely tell you what your limit must be. And it will be different for each location, so you will have to be flexible to be successful. There might not be any consistency across the markets where you conduct research, which is something you will have to live with. It won’t be negotiable.
Call ahead and discuss your project with the facility during the bidding process. We are so used to getting our way, that we have often simply sent out our specs and taken the estimate. If we argued, it would only be to get a small reduction. Only in cases where the design required some unique situation at the facility would we check to see if they could accommodate. It won’t work like that anymore. You have to talk to them about your needs. You have to be flexible when they can’t meet those needs due to the constraints of their procedures. There won’t be a lot of wiggle room. The stakes are far too high for the facility. Like the rest of the economy, if someone gets sick at the facility, the whole thing will shut down. They can’t afford to shut back down—and neither can the rest of the industry.
Impact on participation and costs
For the most part, the panelists didn’t discuss costs. But the conversation made it pretty obvious that they are eating a lot of these new costs in order to open again. Participation does not seem to be adversely affected, as many of the respondents have time and availability due to being at home. Response rates may change as markets open up after COVID-19; at this point there is no way to know how much.
I was happy to hear that facilities don’t believe in-person qualitative research is our past. And that makes sense; some projects just have to be in-person. When the stimulus can’t get out or when taste testing is involved, it’s going to be in-person. It’s good to know that the facilities are working hard to make groups a reality sooner rather than later. Maryse Hudon from Quebec left the clearest closing comment for this article in the Q&A: “This has been so helpful to identify all the issues involved and the complexity of finding the ideal solution. Thank you so much for a much-needed discussion.”
About the Author: Chris Hauck, HauckEye
For more than 30 years, Chris Hauck has honed his research skills across a wide variety of categories - from telecom and IT to consumer-packaged goods, hospitality, medical products and consulting. Chris has an BBA and MBA from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth TX and currently lives in Longmont Colorado. Chris is currently president of his own company dedicated to experiential research, HauckEye.
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Posted By Cynthia Harris ,
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Quarantine Connections: How Virtual Coffees Can "Brew" Renewed Connections
When stay-at-home orders went into place in Ohio, I immediately felt sadness as I had hoped to do more in-person qualitative work and workshops this year. After traveling for the past year and focusing on digital methodologies, I was excited to connect live with consumers and colleagues in-person again in 2020.
As a naturally curious researcher, I began to think through how I could stay connected with consumers and clients while still honoring the mandates to mitigate COVID-19. “I can still deeply connect with consumers and colleagues virtually… After all, that’s solely what I’ve been doing while traveling the world for the past year!” While my Plan A had to be tabled, I had a new, intriguing idea that began to emerge.
Enter Plan B... my idea to have 30 virtual coffees with 30 different people within the next 30 days.
Little did I know I would learn so much from this experience about how to creatively plan research occasions, how to stay in touch with colleagues digitally and how to keep the human spirit alive despite social distancing.
Here are the top five things I learned:
- People are enthusiastic to connect: I was blown away by how many people were eager to catch up. From former colleagues to college friends to mentees I had not caught up with in a while, it was such a joy to reconnect with people who have meant a lot to me over the years. Do not underestimate the fact that we are all looking for connection during this time. People will be enthusiastic to catch up with you!
- Innovative ideas can come through casual conversation: During one of my coffee chats, a client and I tossed around ideas for how to tackle an upcoming research objective. We were not talking through a specific brief. We have not even booked the work (yet). But, I do think we gained a deeper rapport with one another because we entered a deeper “circle of trust”’ Use this time to pursue depth with people. It is mutually appreciated!
- Using a calendar service: Sure, I had heard of calendar services like Calend.ly and you can book me. But it was not until my “30 for 30” quest that I used a calendar service. And, my oh my, it was the point guard to my playbook! I am now convinced that leveraging one of these services is an incredible way to broaden conversations with clients and potential clients in a way that is convenient for you and them.
- Digital rapport-building is a craft: Though I have spent the past year focused primarily on digital research, this experience reaffirmed my belief that engaging authentically online requires skill. Sure, there are lots of articles on “how to design your background and how to have proper lighting,” but truly connecting with audiences via screens takes practice. Spending time with people over virtual coffees can help you build this muscle if digital moderating is something you aspire to given our current working conditions.
- Everyone is learning something new these days: I was amazed that each conversation I had resulted in me taking a note or two to research further. I learned about a community garden in my neighborhood; I learned more about GDPR; and more! My point is, we all are exploring new topics these days and you can learn so much from others. Instead of getting straight to business, find out what your clients might be expanding into these days.
In the book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi states, “Wherever you are in life right now and whatever you know, is a result of the ideas, experiences and people you have interacted with in your life.”
My plan B ended up being a foray into renewed relationships, creative thinking, and potential future business. While we may be quarantined and craving in-person connection, I encourage you to consider a Virtual Coffee quest of your own. You will likely cherish each conversation and perhaps learn something new. Embrace Plan B. Something beautiful might be brewing inside Plan B.
Cynthia Harris is the founder of 8:28 Consulting, a boutique qualitative research and marketing strategy company focused on designing digital and in-person experiences to amplify the voice of consumers. Cynthia’s career spans market research and marketing experiences across many categories ranging from health and beauty to the food industry. She is passionate about advocating for consumers in creative ways. Cynthia has an MBA from the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.
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Posted By Marta Villanueva,
Friday, April 10, 2020
Deep Listening: 10 ways to strengthen connection while social distancing
Standing on a busy corner in Los Angeles with a “free listening” sign was a humbling experience. This was not an experiment in rejection—though I experienced much of that. It was an experiment to engage in conversation with perfect strangers on the street with no other goal than to listen deeply. This required stretching my listening muscles into uncertainty and ambiguity.
This experiment was led by Urban Confessional as part of a QRCA Conference. I have conducted thousands of sessions as a qualitative researcher, which have made me an expert at listening and asking thoughtful questions. My frequent “free listening” via phone or video call to meet the global need for connection these past weeks has further flexed my listening muscles.
COVID-19 has caused a collision of our business and personal worlds in myriad ways. The slurry of emotions being stirred up by this crisis is spilling over into our work. Deep listening on the job is now more important than ever, because our emotions carry a powerful weight. Left unchecked, they can negatively impact our interactions. Compound that with social distancing and we find ourselves in a situation ripe for negativity.
The Good News: Deep Listening Can Overcome the Negative Impact of Social Distancing
Overcoming the hardships of social distancing requires deliberate connection with those around us. Deep listening can form a bridge to compassion and empathy—much needed gifts in our current reality. Communication with those around you must reflect an understanding which stems from deep listening. This is especially critical for anyone in a leadership role.
The Hurdle: Deep Listening Doesn’t Just Happen; It Requires You to Deliberately Follow a Set of Key Steps
The following guidelines will provide direction to strengthen your relationships through the practice of deep listening, especially while social distancing.
Bring awareness to the situation.
Check in with yourself before engaging in deep listening and throughout the conversation. Acknowledge and process any biases toward the person or situation; writing them down can be helpful. Bring awareness to these biases and focus on releasing them as best you can. Ensure you are not engaging in deep listening with the goal of fixing the person’s situation. Focus only on authentic listening.
Set the stage for listening.
Put aside any distractions. Pretend this conversation is the only thing happening in the whole world. That is how intentional you need to be. Check your body language, even if your listening is on the phone. Your body language can impact your engagement level. When the person can see you, your body language needs to communicate support, encouragement, and active listening. Set your intention for deep listening. Are you listening to connect, understand, or for a different purpose? Decide and commit to staying with that intention.
Monitor your listening.
Be intentional in regarding the other person’s experience over your own. If your mind starts to wander, redirect it. This can be done with a clarifying question (“How did that make you feel?” “What else is going on?”) or through the use of supportive body language (nodding, eye contact).
Explore and clarify.
Your questions need to be open and free from judgment. Sometimes a simple, “Say more about that” can be enough to achieve full understanding. Clarifying questions seek to authentically understand further. Make sure that what you are taking in matches what they are saying. Your clarifying questions will help you understand the situation deeply.
Allow space for full-out venting.
After the person has finished talking, you want to make sure they got everything out that needed to be said. Ask: “Is there anything else?” If there is, you need to go back to listening while deferring judgment. Continue asking if there is anything else until the answer is “no;” you can use this as an indicator to turn your focus to the emotion.
Uncover the emotion.
To gain complete understanding, you need to get at the emotion behind the situation. Ask: “How does this make you feel?” Once the emotion is expressed, your job is to validate it. Suppose the emotion expressed is sadness; you need to think about a situation that elicited the same emotion (a shared situation is the most impactful). Ask: “Is the sadness you feel similar to the time your son broke his ankle or closer to when you were taken off the new business project?” “On a scale of 1 to 10, how sad do you feel?” “What color would you associate with your sadness?” Ask exploratory questions until you truly understand the emotion associated with the situation. This step is key in not only validating the emotion, but also ensuring the person feels completely heard.
Be open to silence.
While deep listening, you will talk less and listen more. Pauses may seem interminably long. You may feel uncomfortable, awkward, or even like you want to run. Stay with it. Honor the person by holding yourself in deep listening mode. Search their body language for cues when it is OK to talk or listen for the pauses.
Lead with empathy.
Show the person you are listening, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing. Stay focused on “seeing” the person’s heart. Allowing them the opportunity to have their say without judgment communicates acceptance. And don’t we all need to feel real acceptance right now?
Employ deep listening to connect with those around you. Wherever you may find yourself, people desperately need deep listening. We are all going through a very difficult situation. Nobody is immune. Companies/teams/colleagues/parents all need to be sensitive to the unique needs emerging during this time. If someone shares something that requires professional support, help them find the right resource.
Deep listening will strengthen your relationships when they need a little bolstering. If you need help in implementing these best practices or could use some “free listening,” please reach out. We can all help each other emerge stronger from this pandemic.
Marta Villanueva is a Bicultural/Bilingual qualitative researcher/strategist with experience across categories and methodologies (online, in-person, telephone). She has a M.Sc. in Creativity and Change Leadership which adds a rich dimension to every engagement. Marta is the co-chair for the 2021 QRCA conference and the QRCA 2015 Maryanne Pflug Award Winner.
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Posted By Arilene Hernandez, Independent Consultant/Behavioral Health Clinician,
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene:
Wise Ways to Go Forward with Humanity
Presenter: Naomi Henderson, RIVA Market Research & Training Institute
Summary of Conference Session
The 2020 QRCA Annual Conference gave all who attended the chance to hear from a plethora of talented and respected speakers, including a bonus keynote, the qualitative superstar herself, Naomi Henderson!
During her closing keynote presentation, “Wise Ways to Go Forward with Humanity”, Naomi gave a look into the story of her birth, a foreshadowing of the uniqueness she was to embody for the rest of her life. This uniqueness bleeds into her work today and led her down the path of training researchers in the art and science of rigorous qualitative research techniques. During her presentation Naomi identified for the audience the four qualities that distinguish qualitative researchers. The main one being that “we are inspired to use those things that make us human to be the translators for those who are deaf to the voice of the consumer.”
Naomi’s metaphor of how the back of the hand and the palm of the hand represents quant and qual research, respectively, was a fascinating take on how the two worlds of research interact and how qualitative research is so important for clients to understand their consumers.
Naomi’s presentation was a reminder that being human and connecting with other humans is what facilitates great qual research. She inspired the audience to continue to be creative, passionate and embrace humor.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
Arilene Hernandez, Independent Consultant/Behavioral Health Clinician
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Gayle Moberg,
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2020
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rise of the
Robots, Chatbots, Humans!
Presenter: Kristin Luck, ScaleHouse and Women in Research (WIRe)
As the opening keynote speaker of the 2020 QRCA Annual Conference where the theme was “Keep Qual Human”, many in attendance were excited to hear how we can marry advances in technology with our qualitative practices and instincts. Throughout the session, Kristin focused on what we've done right as researchers and more importantly, what we can do better as our industry continues to change and grow.
Above all, Kristin highlighted that we need to be researchers (not just quallies); observers, not just questioners; consultants/synthesizers, not just analysts; storytellers, not just fact reporters; we need to engage with our respondents as humans, not robots.
Key Session Takeaways
I had so many takeaways from Kristin’s keynote talk the first being that we should all identify as "Researchers," not "Qual" or "Quant." We need to continue to grow our practice which means avoiding older labels and instead focusing on what we all do, research.
Another impactful takeaway from Kristin’s session was that the market research industry is bigger than cloud services, coffee, and digital music. As Kristin put it, "data is the new oil." This of course now means that “traditional" research is now threatened by falling between clients' faster/lower-cost DIY research and consulting firms' ability to move from [tactical] data collection to [strategic] holistic, synthesized recommendations, which resonate with C-suites. Since the C-suite has changed, we must to as researchers. It’s time to become Data Translator/Synthesizers, not just Data Collector/Analyzers and put on our "Research Mullets", Business in front, Party in the back!
Kristin’s quote: "Data is the new oil” was EYE-OPENING! That's a BIG deal, it really conveys the value of what we do and offer.
Final Comments and Takeaways
We must stop pigeon-holing ourselves as Qual researchers! It’s time to think of ourselves as researchers, storytellers, synthesizers, observers, strategists who engage respondents as HUMANS on their terms, not ours. Let's all go forward to work as humans above all else!
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Gayle Moberg, GDM Marketing Solutions
QRCA Annual Conference
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Posted By Ted Kendall,
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Adapting Your Listening Skills to the Online World
By: Ted Kendall
As a successful qually, you intuitively know the importance of listening, how to listen well, and how to show participants that you are listening.
Listening is important because it engenders trust, creates rapport, and opens participants up.
In a physical setting, the key things we do to listen, and to show we are listening, include:
- Asking questions in response to participant’s thoughts
- Using verbal and non-verbal cues to show how you are listening
- Letting participants complete their own sentences
- Maintaining eye contact
- Acknowledging comments in specific ways like boarding or post-it notes
You will have noticed that most involve physicality—you have to be there in real life.
So, how do you listen, and just as importantly, show you are listening, in online qual?
Before we get into this, let me clarify that when I am talking about online qual in this context, I am referring to text-based online qual—primarily bulletin board style. While webcam interviews may be considered online, real life listening skills can be applied to the medium fairly easily.
Set Expectations to Counter Online Research Misperceptions
A unique challenge with online qual is that participants don’t necessarily know the difference between a survey and a qualitative discussion, so they often treat the study as if it were a survey. And they often believe that any interactions will be with a chatbot, not a real person.
It’s critical to counter these widely held beliefs and set the appropriate expectations up front. Tell participants you are listening to what they will say. And let them know it’s not a survey—it’s a conversation.
I can sometimes be pretty blunt about this—even going so far as to tell participants that if they just speed through the answers to my questions, they will not get the incentive. And then, when someone does that, I follow through on the promise and call them on it. Often it changes their interactions. Sometimes it doesn’t. But they definitely know you are listening. And, if the discussion is open to the whole group, others will see that you are listening as well.
Depending on the platform, you can use the messaging tools as well as the landing pages to accomplish this. And if the tools aren’t there, just use email or text, even phone, outside of the application.
I also make it a habit to reply to every participant post in the introductions—much like I do in a traditional focus group setting, or for that matter, in a conversation with a stranger. These replies can often reflect common ground, ” I love spending the day in the mountains with my dog too. What kind of dog do you have?” That’s not a question that will provide rich insights, but it will help open up the participant and really shows you are listening.
It’s critical to establish early in the conversation that you are a living, breathing, listening human being—not some chatbot or AI ghost in the machine. This has a huge impact on how participants approach your conversation.
Avoid AI Tools
Several online platform providers are touting AI generated responses to participants. All I can say is that this is what we get when we let the programmers drive development. Avoid this feature. Yes, it saves you time during the discussion. But it also removes you from the conversation—you are no longer actively listening. You wouldn’t let a robot take over your focus group session just to save time, would you?
Also, AI is not yet perfect. And it needs to be in this case. It’s not a life or death situation, unless you consider the life or death of the research conversation. Even if the AI gets 90% of the interactions correct, there is that 10% that will suck the air right out of your conversation with that participant. If you are using a group setting, other participants will see the mistake and the negative impact becomes exponential.
So just don’t do it. The potential losses greatly outweigh the potential time savings. Besides, actually responding manually forces you to listen and learn—which is what this is all about. Don’t let a robot take your job.
How to Digitally Use “Non-verbal” Cues and Maintain Eye Contact
In the online, text-based world, you certainly can’t maintain eye contact, nor can you provide non-verbal cues to show you are listening. So how do you employ those key principles of listening in an online, text-based world?
Probably the most obvious way is replying to participants’ posts with questions to better understand what they have said or get some clarification on their comment. Yes, I am talking about the same probing questions we lay on participants in focus groups and interviews. These probing questions work just as well online as they do in real life.
To replace those non-verbal cues, I have found it quite effective to comment or ask questions even when there is no need to do so. The idea is that by just saying something, participants recognize that you are there and you are reading what they are posting—you are listening.
Sometimes it is easy to just copy and paste the same general comment to several participants when you do this. If the participants can’t see one another, this is fine and saves you time. But if the participants can see each other, then it just makes you look like a robot.
It’s important when making comments just to show yourself to not require a reply—often this is an option. I like to just thank people for providing quality detail or thank them for an interesting take on the topic. The important thing is to personalize it a bit, to keep it from sounding generic.
Another way to show you are listening is to use the messaging app within the platform to hold meta conversations outside the actual discussion. I make it a point to send reminders at set times as well as thank-yous at the end of the day of discussion.
These messages don’t have to be just logistical in nature. You can also use them to show you are listening. Sometimes I will include a comment about some of the discussion—an insight that came through for the whole group of participants, or sometimes personalizing it to a specific participant.
In the end, listening is important to successful qual, whether you are in the same room as the participant or interacting digitally. It’s just how you listen, and how you show that you are listening, that can take a little adjustment in the digital qual world. But it’s no less important and no less doable.
Ted Kendall is the founder of TripleScoop, a boutique research agency that has a focus on online qualitative. Ted got to this place in his career by being in the right place at the right time to pioneer in early online methods. He was a co-founder of QualTalk that became 20/20 Research’s QualBoards. He learned how to moderate online qual through trial and error and has moderated hundreds of online qual discussions and interviews since that first one in 1997. And he is usually a good listener.
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Posted By Tom Rich,
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Looking Back – A Year of Change in the World of Qualitative
By: Tom Rich
At this time in the new year, it feels right to look back and see what seems to be different. It certainly has been a time of change in the world of qualitative research. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks communicating with some qualitative luminaries to get their perspectives on developing trends over the past year. Based on those conversations, I think a number of key developments are worthy of mention.
The Tool Bag is Growing
The continued expansion of the tools available for qualitative research is profoundly changing what qualitative is, and how it’s done. A dizzying array of tools and resources can be applied to qualitative. The online research platforms continue to grow in both features and sophistication, use of AI-based tools is growing, video editing software has become easier to use, and biometric tools continue to grow more affordable and user friendly. As a result, we can now provide insights to clients that are based upon more than mere conversation—we can bring multiple data sources to bear on our analysis.
The Lines are Blurring
As more tools become available, and as they become increasingly affordable and user friendly, clients are increasingly interested in mixed method studies. This doesn’t just mean qual/quant approaches; it’s no longer acceptable for qualitative practitioners to say, “I don’t do quant.” It means a greater merging of online and face-to-face approaches as well, as UX and more traditional qualitative studies are starting to look very similar.
Agility is the Word of the Moment
Clients are demanding compressed timetables. Practitioners are increasingly completing research in four or five business days. Also, clients’ priorities seem to be changing. Whereas the question used to be, “what will it take to get exactly the information we need?”, it now seems to be, “we have a week—what can we learn in that time?”. As a result, new approaches to recruiting and fieldwork are becoming more common.
Qualitative Approaches Are Becoming More Important to Understanding Big Data
Research users continue to see the value in using qualitative tools to understand all the data they have available. More and more seem to understand that there is a big difference between information and wisdom, and that actually talking to people–while it doesn’t yield quantifiable information–provides a level of detail and insight that can be acquired no other way.
If you feel like the ground is shifting beneath your feet, you’re not wrong. Whether you’re a researcher or a research user, staying current on new tools, techniques, and priorities is essential to survival and success.
I’d like to extend my thanks to these qualitative luminaries for their perspective on developing trends: David Bauer, Jim Kulevich, Abby Leafe, Joanna Patterson, Steve Schlesinger, and Manny Schrager.
Since founding his business, Thomas M. Rich & Associates, in 1996, Tom Rich has conducted thousands of focus groups, one-on-one interviews and online interactions for clients in nearly every industry. He boasts an extensive background in brand strategy, consumer behavior and shopper insights -- skills he developed while working for companies that include Backer & Spielvogel Advertising, Nabisco, Tambrands, and Unilever. This background gives Tom a unique skill set among qualitative practitioners and allows him to structure research and analysis around the tactical and strategic decisions that will be made as a result of the research. Tom holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in business administration from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College.
a year of change
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Posted By Aimée Caffrey ,
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Updated: Monday, December 9, 2019
Practical Messiness Masked by the Qualitative and Quantitative Distinction
By: Aimée Caffrey
This blog post discusses the practical messiness that can be masked by the qualitative/quantitative distinction and offers an approach for thinking about and dealing with that messiness.
Like many anthropologists, I have an abiding interest in the ways in which people construct and reproduce boundaries. During my doctoral work, my primary focus was on boundaries such as ethnicity, caste, and nationality. The professional path I have taken in more recent years has in part shifted my attention toward boundaries of another variety—the boundaries that demarcate scientific knowledge practices in industry, and toward a particular boundary with which the readers of this blog are already quite familiar—that between quantitative and qualitative. In my present role, I conduct and help support research that by most definitions would count as qualitative. At the same time, this work almost always feeds into, or follows on the heels of, research that by most definitions is quantitative. It might entail using IDIs, focus groups, or journaling exercises to better understand terminology or relevant dimensions of experience prior to writing a survey. At the other end of things, it might entail using these data collection formats in an effort to make sense of survey findings—when we have discovered the what but are uncertain of the why.
Working at this intersection instills a perhaps exaggerated awareness of, and sensitivity to, the risks of accepting the quant/qual boundary at face value. Like others of its type, this distinction is a productive shorthand for organizing and talking about a variety of practices; however, it can mask the messiness of reality. A very experienced industry researcher gestured toward this messiness on a recent L&E webinar when he remarked on the "under-powered quant" that can be at work when focus group moderators ask for a show of hands. Alternatively, consider that many of what are generally marketed as mobile ethnography or online qual tools often contain what we otherwise think of as quantitative question types (e.g., multiple choice). To offer another example, I regularly assist fellow researchers with the development of interview and focus group discussion guides, and often this assistance centers in part on rephrasing "how much" (i.e., quantitative) kinds of questions to help us make sure we are in fact collecting qualitative data.
These examples of the messiness relate to a tension between the method deployed and the data gathered. When we think of the boundary between qualitative and quantitative as pertaining to a (reporting) distinction between numbers and words, the lines are similarly blurred—we discover the use of stories and images to help explain the findings of quantitative analysis and the use of quantitative adjectives to convey insights from qualitative analysis. This isn't terribly surprising: If there is "terror in numbers," as Darrell Huff wrote in How to Lie with Statistics, the tensions and nuances at the very human heart of qualitative data can also induce discomfort. But, just as the pictures (e.g., graphs) we draw to quell the disquietude of quant can exaggerate the story that the numbers tell, so too can the words we use to describe our qualitative findings be misleading. What is more important than policing the qualitative/quantitative boundary? It is being watchful for what the messiness around that boundary might signal—that there is a misalignment somewhere among the objectives in mind, the method deployed, the data gathered, and ultimately, the claims that are made.
There may be justifiable and even good reasons to ask for a show of hands in a focus group—for example, as a quick "pulse check", or to help warm up participants at the start of the discussion. But whether we think of our work as quant or qual—and whether we are thinking of our questions, our methods, or our claims in making that determination—let's be deliberate and mindful about the implications of actively inviting that messiness into the picture.
Aimée Caffrey is a cultural anthropologist and UX researcher. Since 2017, she has worked in the Advanced Analytics Group at Bain & Company, where she collaborates with consultants, developers, designers, and fellow researchers to help clients solve some of today’s most exciting business challenges. If you wish to get in touch, please email her at Aimee.Caffrey@Bain.com.
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