In This Issue
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- Vol. 13, Issue 1, February 2018
Oh my, is it really still winter? Hang on, fellow cold-weather dwellers, just a couple more months until spring (warm-weather readers, please stop smirking).
This month, we explain how a client’s recent trip to a “non-aquarium” led to some fun research insights.
Sometimes, a terrific newsletter topic just falls into our lap (or, more precisely, our inbox).
Such was the case last week when our wonderful client, Gisele, shared a story regarding her family’s recent visit to Florida’s Clearwater Marine Hospital and Aquarium.
As she explained, Clearwater is not your typical “theme park” style aquarium. Rather, it is a marine animal hospital and refuge where injured marine animals arrive to be mended.
Some stay forever and can be seen by visitors; others get healed and may be set free. The facility also has an education classroom with shark, dolphin, and porpoise skeletons and a tank with stingrays that can be pet.
They also offer 90-minute boat rides in which, in addition to ongoing narration regarding the local wildlife and surroundings, there is a stop in the middle of the bay off Clearwater Beach. Here, they cast a net and, as the boat slowly backs up, catch a variety of sea creatures.
That’s when the real fun begins. They review the catch, explain how the various animals are affected by local weather and man-made activities, and let all the kids (and adults!) get an up close look at the variety of creatures brought on board — both the expected (there’s a reason it’s called the “common” snook) and the unexpected (a baby puffer fish; a squid; and more).
Gisele shared this story with us because she couldn’t help but notice the similarities between her family’s “non-aquarium” experience and several important aspects of qualitative research:
In a traditional aquarium, you see what you expect to see and nothing more.
There’s a water-based being behind the glass and a sign that tells you all about it. There’s no serendipity and there’s no interaction.
Qualitative research — like casting a net during a boat ride in the bay — is different. When participants are given the time and space to speak their minds, the conversation can go in new and unanticipated directions.
This unrestrained discussion elicits ideas that you might not expect. As a result, insights are both broader and deeper than what you get from survey options that are based on a predeveloped list of questions and choices.
Your “onboard guide” matters a lot.
Part of the reason the boat ride was so fun and educational was that the experts were well-equipped to respond to whatever questions came up regarding the day’s catch; the conversation didn’t need to be scripted.
Like boat tour guides, trained interviewers who understand the objectives of an engagement know how to “guide” the conversation and work in real time with whatever ideas land “in the net.” Great qualitative interviewers encourage questions from study participants to better assess which concepts aren’t well-understood, which messages are ambiguous, and which terms are unclear.
However, unlike boat guides, expert interviewers take note of participants’ questions without trying to answer them, knowing that their role is not to inform, but to share participants’ unbiased needs for greater clarity with their client.
Active audience participation makes for greater retention (and yes, more fun!) than passive watching or listening.
Gisele and her family will remember what they learned on their boat tour much longer and more accurately than if they had strolled through a dark aquarium reading little plastic signs explaining that “orca” means “whale” in Latin.
One of the most wonderful aspects of qualitative research is the degree to which it can be leveraged to engage an audience. One reason focus groups and in-depth interviews retain their popularity, despite the technology that has been developed to mitigate the need to travel to watch such exchanges, is because nothing is quite so compelling as experiencing one or more customers in action as they praise ideas and innovations (or not, as the case may be).
Here’s the Twist. There’s research and then there’s research. Just as a trip to the aquarium and an educational boat ride are fundamentally different experiences (even though both involve seawater and fish), open-ended, experiential research is bound to snare more of the insights you seek than any closed-ended option. Give your research more porpoise today!
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
When it comes to getting the most out of the fish in our net, we rely on several key elements. Among our favorites are:
- Embracing the unexpected. We appreciate the distinction between exploring what is known and unknown. Clients often approach us asking if we can help them with their need for a “fishing expedition” when they seek fresh ideas and open feedback from their customers — using that term, specifically.
- Gently “reeling in” the discussion. Speaking of fish, one fish that our interviewers don’t ever try to emulate is that puffer fish! Not only are our teammates not poisonous, they do not inflate the importance of their role. They have no agenda or bias. They guide the conversation, listening intelligently, following up on previous comments, and digging deeper as openings surreptitiously reveal themselves, while keeping the participant on track and the interview moving at a natural pace.
- “Hooking” our client from the beginning of each engagement. To more fully engage our clients and make outcomes more memorable, we invite active client participation through regular status updates and meetings; provide “listen in” or watch capabilities in person or through video, transcripts and sound files of interactions; and deliver reports that include video and sound where appropriate.
Are you reading today’s newsletter on a phone? If so, you’ve probably noticed a significant improvement in format with today’s issue. We’ve done the same for our web site. Check it out, here.
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.