Face-to-Face Interviews - Advantages and Disadvantages

Jan 19 2016

B2B Market Research

Face-to-Face Interviews - Advantages and Disadvantages

To deepen the understanding of a market, custom research employs extensive or targeted primary research to go beyond what can be uncovered through secondary research only. In-depth interviews are the most versatile form of primary research, and are appropriate when targeting detailed perceptions, opinions, and attitudes. In-depth interviews are particularly effective when the goal is to capture sensitive feedback. These interviews can be conducted in-person or over the telephone to gain deeper insight to specific objectives by probing for quality responses. This offers an advantage over self-completion methods, such as surveys, because the respondent is more likely to give their full attention and the interviewer can deduce the quality of each response.sen

It is important to have a well-seasoned interviewer than can adapt with the conversation—as the discussion may not flow exactly in sync with the discussion guide or questionnaire. A good interviewer can tailor the discussion to objectives and sustain more control over the data received. The ability to conduct a complex or even technical interview is the ability to see how the little pieces fit together. An interviewer does not need to be an expert on the subject, in fact being an expert and bringing your own bias to the table can hinder the ability to analyze the data objectively. However, an interviewer should do a fair amount of background research to hold an intelligent conversation on the subject matter.

Face-to-face (F2F) interviewing is one of the oldest and most widely used methods of conducting primary research. F2F interviews are conducted by a market researcher and a target respondent in the street, home, office, meeting place, etc. There are many advantages to using F2F interviews, such as the use of visual aids and the detection of social cues and body language.  Also, with this type of interview, the interviewer can gain a deeper insight to specific answers by treating the questionnaire like a meaningful discussion and deducing the validity of each response.  Although F2F interviews are very effective, this type of interview can be costly and time consuming. F2F interviews require a significant amount of time on the front end to identify, recruit, and schedule the interview as well as the travel time and costs to meet the respondent in person. 

Advantages of F2F Interviews

  • Allow for more in-depth data collection and comprehensive understanding
  • Body language and facial expressions are more clearly identified and understood
  • The interviewer can probe for explanations of responses
  • Stimulus material and visual aids can be used to support the interview
  • Interview length can be considerably longer since the participant has a greater commitment to participate
  • Usually evokes deeper conversations, yielding greater insight 

Disadvantages of F2F interviews

  • Interviews are more time consuming to recruit and conduct
  • As a result of timing and travel, F2F interviews can be expensive
  • Interviews can deliver biased responses
  • Must carefully vet the respondent’s ability before investing time in the recruitment process and interview process

Regardless of methodology (F2F vs. telephone), the most important aspect of in-depth interviewing is accessing the right people. In B2B research, there may not be a directory or panel of target respondents and they may have to be identified through a tailored investigation. The key is discerning how to identify decision-makers and access them without any preexisting relationship. Many projects may be completed in a certain market or industry segment, but the same contacts are rarely able to be used for a new project. Each custom market research project is exactly that, customized and tailored.

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