In-depth Interviews: What B2B Leaders Need to Know
Online and in-app surveys, focus groups, advisory boards, and user groups can be fantastic methods for gathering valuable customer feedback. Each approach has a place in the overall customer experience strategy for business leaders who rely on customer input to guide important business decisions.
However, one method of customer feedback collection that is sometimes overlooked is the in-depth phone interview, otherwise known as IDI’s. What role should IDI’s play in your ongoing efforts to understand your customers?
Think about it this way – online surveys often elicit relatively limited (although valuable) feedback across a large group of customer contacts. Advisory boards, product councils and user groups allow for much deeper and more targeted feedback from a small group of customers (or prospects). The in-depth phone interview falls somewhere in the middle, as dozens of contacts can typically be interviewed, allowing for rich insights from a relatively broad sample.
Understand Your Customers with Qualitative Research
To dig deeper into the perceptions and needs of current customers, former customers, and prospective customers, more B2B leaders are turning to in-depth interviews to complement their research endeavors.
That’s because when done correctly, qualitative research can reveal information like how customers feel about various aspects of your offering, how decisions are made that may affect your engagement, specific pain points they are experiencing, and how they see your company versus the competition.
Advantages of In-depth Interviews
IDIs are a very powerful approach when conducting B2B qualitative customer research because they have a few key advantages:
In-depth interviews reveal rich insights.
Because an in-depth interview is often a one-on-one conversation, there are ample opportunities to probe and uncover the real root causes of certain behaviors, perceptions, or beliefs. Unlike more structured research methods, an IDI is based on open-ended questions that can be tailored to the interviewee and their particular situation. A skilled interviewer will develop a rapport with the participant, putting them at ease so they can elicit candid feedback and listen carefully for cues to explore something further. The result is not simply the superficial reason or thinking, but the deeper considerations and contributing factors that are often beneath the surface.
In-depth interviews are flexible.
IDIs have more freedom because their loose structure leaves room for natural, conversational flow. Interviewers can explore critical observations and expand on key topics, following where the interviewee leads. This has the dual effects of making the respondent feel heard and revealing deeper insights. The flexibility inherent in this type of research can also reveal something unanticipated but immensely valuable.
In-depth interviews give context.
Experienced interviewers are also able to pick up on emotional context, such as emphasis, misunderstanding, or simmering frustration that are not always apparent in online survey feedback. The interviewer can ask clarifying questions or hone in on a particular topic to get a better sense of the respondent’s attitude and perception.
In-depth interviews dig deep.
Personal, context-rich insights give you a more complete, honest picture. With the flexibility to follow your interviewees through their frustrations, expectations, and excitement, themes emerge that you can use to change business practices for the better.
6 Examples of In-depth Interviews
There are many questions that IDIs can help answer. A few examples based on the work we are doing with our clients include:
(1) Sales Win-Loss Interview:
Whether you ultimately win or lose a sales deal, acquiring insight into all of the decision drivers – what worked in your company’s favor, what worked against you, and what really didn’t factor into the final decision – is a critically important endeavor. We interview the decision-maker to answer these questions so you know where you can improve to win more deals.
(2) Customer Defection Analysis:
Learning from failure can be equally valuable as learning from success. In-depth interviews with customers that have recently churned helps paint a clear picture of the drivers of customer dissatisfaction. Are there perceived gaps in your offering? Was it a service issue? Did they have a concern about cost or value? Did a competitor’s pitch lure them away? We dig deep to understand why your customers churn so you can address these issues quickly. Importantly, we analyze the feedback to identify trends and themes over time.
(3) Key Account Interviews:
In certain cases, an invitation to an online customer survey may not be the best approach to soliciting candid feedback. Executives often prefer that a more personalized approach be taken with Key Accounts (typically “VIP” and/or high revenue accounts). Key Account Interviews will be more qualitative than a response to an online survey but leveraging an experienced 3rd party to navigate these complex relationships on the phone will often reveal the richest and most candid feedback.
(4) Market Research & Competitive Intelligence:
Companies often find themselves launching a new product, expanding into a new market, or need to prepare an investor presentation. We explore the ‘why’ across all questions and dimensions so rich, in-depth insights regarding perceptions, expectations, competitive landscape, and marketing considerations are revealed.
(5) Persona Research:
Interviews with different contact roles will provide clarity into differences in how they think, how they make decisions, what they need, the resources they rely on, and more. These types of insights are immensely valuable for Sales, Marketing, Product, and others who may need to tailor messaging and positioning to “speak to” those personas. Rich insights from key personas is particularly valuable when you have a new product to sell, are targeting a new audience, or are rebranding.
(6) Customer Perception Audit:
As the name implies, these are studies to validate how your company is perceived among your existing and target customers. Your company may be growing and evolving but there can be a lag in the market’s perception of your offering or value proposition. The results of a Perception Audit will provide detailed insights into how you are viewed among important constituents so you can refine your brand, messaging, and positioning so there is no confusion about who you are as a business.
In order for any type of in-depth interview to be successful, it has to be done right. IDIs reveal the most when they are conducted by experienced researchers because it takes careful planning to know what questions to ask (and how to ask them), when to probe further on a topic, and when to move on. Capturing all the nuances from an interview takes a lot of work. You can find tips for interviewing customers here.
But the journey doesn’t end when the interview is over. Once the feedback is collected, it needs to be analyzed for common themes and translated into action opportunities. The results can reveal service gaps, which – when addressed – will strengthen customer relationships. Or the rich insights can reveal when in the buying process customers are turning away, giving you the chance to improve the experience for them. IDIs are just the beginning of your path to a better understanding of your customers, stakeholders, and potential buyers.
At Satrix Solutions, we have a dedicated team of skilled practitioners who will ask the right questions, gather crucial insights, and help you identify precisely where to focus your efforts to drive revenue. Business professionals who have partnered with us report profound insights into their customer base, strengthened customer relationships, and improvements in company culture.
If you’re curious about how understanding your clients’ needs can help you grow your business, let us help. Contact Satrix Solutions to get started.