Posts Tagged ‘In-Depth Interviews’

In-depth interviews (IDIs) are an insightful qualitative research method that allows the researcher to tap into the mind of consumers. To keep costs down, many businesses choose to complete IDIs via telephone, rather than the more costly option of conducting the interviews in-person.  While telephone IDIs provide a cost advantage, the researcher loses the ability to read visual cues provided by the respondent when answering questions. Due to the inability to communicate face-to-face, there are extra steps that should be taken to ensure open-ended questions asked via telephone are transcribed effectively.


Here are four tips to transcribe open-ended responses:

  1. The importance of quality responses

Quality of data is more important than quantity. Ensure that the responses you are transcribing make logical sense. Also, don’t force a complete. If you notice that your respondent is not offering valuable information to the end client, feel free to stop the interview. There is no rule that says you have to finish every interview you start!

  1. Keep the responses clean

The RMS analytics team will go through and re-read every open-ended response, so we try to make sure all responses are free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Not having a consistent format and clean responses will lead to poor reporting or excessive data cleaning time.

  1. Probe for additional details

Suppose your respondent replies to a satisfaction question by stating, “It was good.” From here the researcher should follow up by asking the respondent why “it was good.” To be diligent about probing, we suggest always following up on questions where respondents provide three words or less. Best practices in research suggest that probing on open-ended questions leads to more in-depth responses, and ultimately provide the client with more rich data.1

  1. Record responses verbatim

The researcher should record responses as stated by the respondents. This means the researcher should be recording responses in first person. For example, instead of, “He feels the hours should be longer,” record, “I feel the hours should be longer.” Additionally, do not try to summarize the respondent’s comments, or use your own words to make responses more concise. Try to capture as much as you can from the respondent’s own words.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services, please contact the Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

1 Smith, S., & Albaum, G. (2012). Basic Marketing Research: Volume 1. Handbook for Research Professionals. Official Training Guide from Qualtrics. Retrieved from: https://www.du.edu/ir/pdf/basic_marketing_research_vol_1

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Conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs) is the ideal research method for getting highly detailed responses from key stakeholders. Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) knows that completing IDIs allows the interviewer to probe on respondents’ answers in order to gain detailed information on a given topic. Through the use of interview techniques, the researcher can delve deeper into a topic by exploring specific issues, aspects, motivations, influences, habits, and areas of interest.

IDI Blog Photo

Here are five tips to completing IDIs successfully!

  1. Create an easy to use interview guide

An IDI guide assists researchers by helping them stay on track while completing interviews. It also allows researchers to streamline interview questions, which is especially helpful if multiple researchers are completing interviews.

  1. Write down takeaways immediately after the interview

A major advantage of completing IDIs is the ability to understand reasons behind topics of interest. The best way for a researcher to retain this information after completing an interview is to write down key information that was gathered from respondent. We find it is best for the researcher to either take brief notes during the interview, or write down your thoughts immediately following the interview.

  1. Include scaled questions for quantitative insight

Scaled questions help researchers identify similarities and differences between respondents. An example of a scaled question could be, “Please rate your level satisfaction between 1 and 5, with “1” being strongly dissatisfied and “5” being strongly satisfied.” These questions are common in surveys, but they are also useful when completing IDIs.  Asking scaled questions assigns a face value to an aspect. From here, researchers can take it a step further by asking the respondent reasons behind their number choice.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go a little off script

Structured, semi-structured, and unstructured are three types of IDI guides. Structured is where the interviewer must ask the respondent specific questions in a specific order. Unstructured is the opposite of this, and allows researchers to ask questions as they see fit. The most common type of IDI guides are semi-structured, which allows the researcher to veer slightly from the IDI guide during interviews as they see necessary. When completing IDIs researchers will inevitably neglect to ask about important information. Semi-structured IDI guides allow researchers to ask questions about key information that may have been missed. From the participant’s response, researchers may want to update questions in the IDI guide in order include it in future interviews.

  1. Take the time to say, “Thanks!”

Remember to thank your respondent for taking the time to talk to you before and after the interview. It’s simple, easy, and reminds the respondent that the information they provided will directly influence a business or project.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services please contact the Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

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There are many crucial aspects to a good qualitative research project, including the moderator’s guide, design of the participation packet, and even the report that is delivered afterwards.  But all of those pieces of the qualitative puzzle are insignificant unless you can actually get a fair number of participants to show up for the focus groups and/or interviews.  You can write the best moderator’s guide in the world for a focus group, but if only one or two people show up for a sitting of 10-12, the guide won’t matter.  With that in mind, here are a five steps geared to encourage participants to show up for your qualitative research project and improve your participation rate.

  1. Bigger incentives – Vance wrote a blog post on this a while back and made some good points about the relationship between incentives and qualitative research.  Ultimately, the amount you offer varies depending on the audience invited, the time frame to do the research, and the amount of time required for the involvement – among other things.  It’s one of the most difficult things to determine in market research, but you don’t want to lose out on a large number of participants because they won’t drive to the facility for $75 but would have for $100.  The incentive mentioned during the screening call has to pass the “ear test” and pique interest.
  2. Raffle off another incentive - this is in reference to raffling off an additional incentive for those participants who either show or show early.  Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) often does this to encourage participants to show 15 minutes early.  This allows the team to better understand the turnout ahead of time and deem if last-minute phone calls are necessary.  Nothing eliminates the stress on a research team like having all 12 participants show up early and providing the moderator and/client viewers with options on who to keep and who to let go.  Adding another throw-in sweepstakes encourages participants to commit.
  3. Confirmation letters with directions - as part of the recruitment process at RMS, confirmation letters are prepared, printed and mailed to all participants prior to the date(s) of the focus group(s).  We also send a one-page overview of what a focus group or in-depth interview (IDI) entails for those coming to our site to do the research in-person.  In addition to the letter confirming the date and time, we also mail a sheet of directions to our QualiSight focus group facility in Syracuse, NY with a nice aerial picture of where our offices are located.
  4. Confirmation emails and texts - these are critical parts to the recruitment process for qualitative market research, especially for those participants who are recruited a week or more ahead of time.  By using multiple avenues as reminders – mail, email, reminder phone calls, and texts – you’ll ensure you’re covering a variety of touch-points.  There is a thin line between just the right amount of reminders and overkill, but as a market researcher, I’d rather hear “your reminders annoyed me to death” than “no one reminded me.”  If it’s a case of the latter, you probably won’t hear that feedback because that participant wouldn’t show to tell you.
  5. Provide contact number for questions - lastly, provide a contact number of someone who can help answer questions about the project or anything else that comes up on the participants end.  Participants are often anxious about participating in qualitative research and nothing can put that anxiety to ease better than a person who is confident and can answer questions to subside any concerns.  If you have an office of five people or 500, an already nervous participant doesn’t want to hear “Let me check on that and get back to you.”
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View of a typical night before RMS focus groups.

Use these five steps to improve participation in your qualitative market research project.  Sometimes, no matter how much preparation you do on your end and no matter how many reminders you send out to participants, you’ll occasionally still get a bad showing for your qualitative research.  No-shows happen.  So it’s always important to think about plan Bs and plan Cs in case that does happen – such as supplementing lower numbers of focus group participants with additional IDIs, holding another group, and/or complementing the research with a follow-up survey.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm in Syracuse, NY, with its own on site QualiSight qualitative research facility.

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First things first, you might be asking yourself what is an in-depth interview (IDI)?  An IDI is a conversation between a researcher and a single respondent with the purpose of exploring issues or topics in great detail.  The interviewer encourages participants to freely discuss their feelings and opinions, and probes on questions to gain insight and depth to responses.  IDIs can last anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour depending on the topic.  A script is developed in advance to help guide the interview process and ensure that essential information is captured.

When it comes to qualitative research, most people will immediately think of focus groups.  Although focus groups are a great source to gain exploratory feedback in a group setting, IDIs can provide the same type of results in a more unbiased one-on-one setting.  If you conduct a series of IDIs you can also report findings cumulatively, which may give you a pool of respondents as large as multiple focus groups. 

There are a lot of methodologies to choose from when you want to do qualitative research, but the Bunker often argues that not many offer as much bang for your buck as a good collection of IDIs.  The immediate attraction with IDIs is the engagement with respondents.  In most cases, you are discussing topics that are pertinent to the respondent, something that they can speak in great detail about.  Obviously you hope to achieve the same engagement with more mass-scale surveying, but the truth is it is very difficult to do all the time.

What is an In-Depth Interview IDI

"This is the point when we engaged RMS to do the IDIs."

IDIs can be conducted with both business and consumer interviewees.  With B2B interviews, the researcher often visits the workplace of the employee to discuss topics relevant to their job at-hand.  Being on-site to conduct these makes it more convenient for the respondent and, if applicable, offers the researcher observational findings from the workplace.  For example, let’s say RMS was conducting a series of IDIs with employees who work in the registrar’s department at a college to determine better ways to streamline the registration process for students.  It may be beneficial to be on-site to conduct these IDIs so the employees can walk you through their current registration process and you can ask questions as you go.

Another major benefit of IDIs is they can be conducted on any scale to fit any budget.  RMS can customize a market research study with 5, 15 or 50+ IDIs.  The length of interview can also be modified to reduce the project cost for your budget as well (15 minutes versus 1 hour – however much depends on the talkativeness of the respondent).  Focus groups do not offer that flexibility, as in most cases you’ll have to pay for room rentals and a moderator’s time at a higher hourly rate.  Therefore, focus groups have more of an attached lump sum, IDIs are more adaptable. Another benefit is the ability to spend one-on-one time with each respondent.  In a typical focus group of 8-12 people, each respondent will have on average 10 minutes to talk.  IDIs allow for more probing and greater detail from each individual.

Visit our other related IDI blog posts here:

To discuss your market research needs or if you are interested in conducting IDIs, contact Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) at 1-866-567-5422.

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This blog post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, Owner & President of RMS.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could read our customers’ minds? Well, the next best thing is to conduct qualitative market research. Focus groups and In-depth Interviews (IDIs) open a window to help us gain detailed and in-depth information about what a target population may think or feel about a specific product, service or idea. These widely used qualitative research tools, while not quantifiable, can be very enlightening as they provide an understanding of the customers’ attitudes about a recent service experience or product use. Who better to ask than your own customers?

Both methodologies are used to gain free-flowing ideas and opinions that would not be possible to express in a written survey. A combination of qualitative (focus group, IDIs) and quantitative research tools (surveys) complement each other very well, and make up for what each approach individually may lack.

The choice of which qualitative or quantitative methodology to use will depend on the objectives you hope to achieve from the primary research and your target audience.

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RMS QualiSight Focus Group Facility

What is a focus group/IDI?

A focus group is a small discussion group facilitated by a trained moderator. Typically, eight to 10 individuals are invited to share and explore attitudes on a specific topic of interest for approximately two hours. The moderator encourages participants to freely discuss their feelings and opinions, and is skilled at asking probing questions to gain insight and depth of attitudes.

An IDI is typically a face-to-face conversation between a researcher and a single respondent with the purpose of exploring issues or topics in detail. Sometimes IDIs are completed over the telephone or using electronic software such as Skype. The interviewer encourages the participant to freely discuss his/her feelings and opinions and is skilled at probing further to gain insight.

Most people really enjoy being part of these research modalities. They are not asked to purchase or endorse anything; in fact, participants are typically thanked with a stipend or honorarium that varies depending on the topic of interest.

When should I use focus groups and IDIs?

Focus groups and IDIs can be used to accomplish a number of different objectives. They are generally used when you’re looking for more than yes/no answers and you need more information than a survey can give.  The key feature is that these research methods allow for thorough probing. For example, if someone says the lobby was “busy,” this term could be positive (provided real energy, good vibe) or negative (felt congested and overwhelming). Focus groups and IDIs allow for a better understanding of a respondent’s perceptions.

Some specific applications of both methodologies include:

  • Identifying attitudes, perceptions and/or satisfaction about your product or service;
  • Identifying and defining the needs of a specific user group;
  • Learning your competitive position perception in the marketplace;
  • Generating new ideas for products or services;
  • Role-playing or the dynamics of a larger group such as a school board meeting, town hall meeting or other larger community event;
  • Obtaining broad-based community perceptions;
  • Identifying opportunities and barriers related to your product or service; and
  • Testing advertising copy, themes and packaging.

Most importantly, these research methodologies are relatively quick and inexpensive, offering in-depth insight into consumer thoughts.

Mark Dengler is the president of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) a market research firm in Syracuse, NY. For more information about RMS, email our business development team (located in the right toolbar of this blog) or call us at (315) 635-9802.

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When people think about market research, they often think of it in terms of an organization looking outside itself for insights into their customers or markets. That is a large part of it, but an often overlooked (and sometimes feared) application of market research involves turning the lens around and looking inside your own organization.

Here at RMS, we talk to many clients or potential clients who face challenges with employee morale, finding the right internal process, or even issues with staff performance. There are market research techniques that can be used to help diagnose those types of problems and begin the process of rectifying them. These include Employee Surveys, In-Depth Interviews with staff members, and Mystery Shopping. In fact, these tools can be used effectively even when an organization doesn’t perceive itself to be facing problems. They are all excellent ways to maintain channels for feedback within the organization and to continuously monitor performance to ensure continued excellence.

That said, we find that some clients, especially those who are in most need of answers are reluctant to conduct research among their own employees. The reasons they cite are varied, but the common denominator usually comes down to fear or apprehension. Top management is often worried that the process of asking uncomfortable questions may stir up discontent where none previously existed. They sometimes fear that the findings will just be more harping on the same sore subjects that employees regularly complain about. In some cases, quite frankly, there’s a certain head-in-the-sand mentality. There are people who simply don’t want to know about unpleasant truths and believe that if they ignore them they will go away.


Of course anybody who has ever solved a major problem knows that pretending the problem doesn’t exist only makes things worse. The first step in arriving at a solution is to acknowledge the issue. The next step is to learn as much as you can about the nature and scope of the issue. That step is rarely pleasant or easy, but it is essential. And using established, formalized market research techniques can make the process smoother and more effective than trying to tackle them informally or on an ad hoc basis.

In working with organizations that have successfully used market research to examine their own operations, we have found that there are some best practices that maximize the chances that the undertaking will be productive and worthwhile. Here are a few of these best practices:

  • Embrace transparency – Let your staff know ahead of time that you’re doing research, even if it’s mystery shopping, and tell them why you’re doing it. Being secretive will only create an environment of mistrust and compound existing problems. There’s no shame in admitting that you want to learn more about your organization in order to improve it.


  • Manage staff expectations – While it’s wonderful to let everyone know that the organization is trying to improve, it’s also important to remind them that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Change is hard, it takes time and it is an ongoing process. Remind people their input is vital, but that it’s only a first step. Not all issues can be addressed immediately, and some will never be “solved” to everyone’s satisfaction. The key here is to ask everyone for frank, constructive feedback, and then to ask for their patience and help when it comes to acting upon it.


  • Use third-party firms or consultants whenever possible – There’s always value in the objectivity and expertise that an outside market research vendor can bring and that value is multiplied when dealing with potentially sensitive issues where confidentiality is a factor. A fresh perspective on issues you face every day is always worthwhile. 


  • Don’t get defensive – When you ask a lot of questions, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not like all the answers. Some people will use research as an opportunity to vent and spew negativity.  And even the most constructive, well-articulated criticism can sting if it hits the right nerve. Avoid the urge to stop listening just because what you’re hearing isn’t all sunshine and roses. Remember that the unpleasant truths are usually the ones you need to hear most.


The most important aspect of the process is to act upon what you learn. There’s nothing worse than spending time and money in an effort to learn something and then ignoring the findings. Doing so will breed cynicism, mistrust, and apathy in your organization. Any organization that can overcome its fear of learning the truth should also be capable of overcoming its fear to act on it.

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A previous post discusses how focus groups still have curb appeal among market research agencies – click here to read it. Projects at our QualiSight focus group facility in Syracuse, NY cover everything from advertising message development, new product concept testing as well as many other applications. There’s no question this market research technique has delivered useful insights to countless decision-makers. But it’s also true that the market research industry sometime uses focus groups without due consideration of an alternative form of qualitative research: in-depth interviews (IDIs).

The advantage of IDIs over focus groups include the following:

  1. Better rapport. In a one-on-one setting, the interviewer can devote complete attention to each research participant, listen actively and take time to establish good rapport. Also researchers can make the surroundings more relaxing for individual interviews. This makes respondents feel more at ease and facilitates a good bond.
  2. Better sampling. Many focus group facilities have compiled lists of willing focus group participants (qualitative panel) that are used to reduce costs of purchasing new lists. Because recruiting is easier when scheduling IDIs and researchers need fewer respondents to attain the same results, random sampling is employed more often, increasing the general confidence in findings.
  3. Useful with Difficult Recruiting. When recruiting hard to reach individuals, setting up IDIs is a better option than a focus group because you only need to accommodate one individual. IDIs also elicit candid responses in a private setting regarding personal and/or professional topics of discussion.
  4. Fewer distractions. It is not unusual for one or more participants in a focus group to be especially talkative or try to dominate the discussion. A good moderator can manage these situations, though this usually has some effect on other respondents. IDIs eliminate the distractions.
  5. Faster and cheaper. IDIs are usually quicker and less expensive than focus groups. Special facilities are unnecessary, researchers need fewer participants and scheduling is more flexible. Participation commitments are easier to obtain resulting in lower incentive payments for IDI participants.
  6. More productive. Compared with non-response among focus group members, there are relatively few unproductive IDIs. As a result, researchers only need about half as many respondents to accomplish the same objectives.
  7. Deeper Insights. In a typical focus group, respondents have an average of 10 minutes each to talk (~120 minutes divided by ~12 people). With IDIs, each participant has more time and opportunity to share feelings, perspectives, and attitudes. The interviewer has plenty of time to probe and obtain in-depth responses since respondents tend to express themselves more freely.
  8. More flexible. Focus groups limit location options. In contrast, IDIs offer greater flexibility in location because researchers can set up almost anywhere or conduct the interview over the phone.
  9. Faster adaptation. In many projects, researchers make findings during the interview that lead to discoveries. It usually requires only a few IDIs to make the discovery and implement change, where at least one focus group is required to do so, and in some cases two are needed. The sooner researchers can identify an issue, the fewer resources it will spend on a flawed design.

In-Depth Interviews work best in B2B research where you are interviewing someone with specific knowledge or if the situation is better suited to sitting down one-on-one. When the market research involves B2C research, focus groups are often the preferred mode.

Need some help defining which method works best for your needs?  Visit our website by clicking here or by calling our Business Development team at 315-635-9802.

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