A Valuable, Overlooked and Inexpensive Research Tool

Many organizations shy away from research because of cost. That overlooks a valuable and affordable research technique – one-on-one interviews.

This qualitative research tool, sometimes called executive interviews, has many applications, such as:

  • Assessing internal alignment on objectives;
  • Gathering a representative sample of views from targeted external audiences, such as the media; and
  • Testing telephone or online survey questions.

Here are six smart things to know about one-on-one interviews:

1. 3rd-party, confidential interviews yield the most usable data.

Respondents are much more likely to talk candidly, especially about controversial topics, if they talk with a 3rd party under a promise of confidentiality. Results will be richer, even without individual statements attributed to specific respondents.

2. Targeted interviews yield more personal information than focus groups

Focus groups are drawn from randomly selected pools of people. One-on-one interviews are conducted with individually selected people. Focus groups provide context on issues or new products. One-on-one interviews produce more pointed and personal information – for example, what actual reporters think about your organization's media relations efforts or whether corporate executives buy into a new branding campaign. Focus groups can be valuable. One-on-one interviews deliver a different value. You need to pick the right technique for the job.

3. One-on-one interviews provide perspective, not statistics

It is always tempting to draw the wrong conclusions from one-on-one interviews, which are not quantitative research. You might discover that nine out of 10 organizational leaders don't support a new management directive. But the real value of the interviews is understanding the reasons why they don't support it.

4. They don't take any longer to conduct than other types of research

In fact, one-on-one interviews can be conducted quickly if target respondents are known and easily accessible. One-on-one interviews work well for respondents because they can be scheduled at their convenience, as opposed to focus groups that occur at a fixed time and place. Even when respondents are more far-flung, it is still relatively easy and cost-effective to contact them. In-person interviews are best, but telephone interviews also can be productive.

5. One-on-one interviews are a series of guided conversations with open-ended possibilities

Like focus groups and telephone surveys, one-on-one interviews follow a script, so the conversations can be combined and evaluated. Unlike focus groups and telephone surveys, one-on-one interviews allow individual respondents to expand on their views and even veer off topic to provide other relevant information. These diversions often produce some of the most valuable insight by volunteering alternative ideas or approaches.

6. This versatile technique works for products and issues

We've used one-on-one interviews to get feedback about new products and a handle on how to reframe a touchy issue. We've also used the technique to try out survey questions, gather reactions to ads and measure progress toward a goal. One-on-one interviews are extremely versatile. They can be the perfect answer to your research need – and fit into your budget.

Share with us how you have used one-on-one interviews successfully.

[CFM can advise you on selecting the best research approach to your problem or opportunity. We assist clients with all forms of research, including one-on-one interviews, focus groups, telephone surveys and Web-based panel research.]