Really Find Out What’s on Their Minds – The Benefits of Qualitative Interviewing
Many firms hold meeting after meeting discussing among themselves the need to discern what improvements they must make to better serve their clients. What often happens is internal folks talk about what clients probably like and dislike. In other words, there’s much conjecture, but few hard facts. We have a novel recommendation—go to your clients and “ask ’em!” The art of qualitative interviewing can uncover excellent insight into what’s working and what’s not. It’s also a very productive approach when a firm is trying to determine its positioning and sales message.
Qualitative interviewing involves contacting current clients, lost clients and lost prospects to understand, from their viewpoint, what they care about. When developing questions, ask primarily open-ended questions. Don’t construct the interview to lead you to the results you are expecting. In working with clients we find there is an over-reliance on the “True or False” or “On a scale of 1-10” type question. While these are easier to construct, they’re also much easier to answer. Thus, you’ll “reap what you sow”; getting answers that take little thought and yield very little information compared with answers to open-ended questions.
One client had great results to a closed-end (scaled) survey—all 10’s on the scales. However, they were still losing clients at an alarming rate. What was wrong? The survey they had conducted didn’t really give them anything to work with using the number scale. You’ve got data, but you haven’t got actionable data. We read so many reports and statistics that show graphs, percentages, etc. but don’t really tell us a story about the underlying data.
The process of surveying the market, surveying your clients and even surveying your employees can give you very good information to allow you to make useful and beneficial decisions. Before you spend time and money trying to “fix” something—make sure it is really the thing that’s broken. When we’re on the inside of the firm, we always think we know what’s best. The outside view, however, can be invaluable.
In our view, when at all possible, using a third party firm is optimal as it allows the person contacted to speak more freely. We’ve done many interviews for client firms and uncovered a problem or an issue that the firm didn’t know about. Once they learned, they were able to resolve it and—voila!—A happy client. Just be sure you’re ready to make the necessary changes based upon the data you receive. There is a real danger to ask, and then decide not to do anything! If you’re ready and willing toward action, this is a great tool to get the evidence you need to know where to go.