Face-to-face interviews have long been a staple of the market research landscape, and the ability to glean valuable insights from this method is a core reason why generic online surveys are fundamentally limited. Simply put, there are inherent aspects, features and possibilities in a face-to-face interview that cannot be captured or replicated by any other method.
Yet with this in mind, there are advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face interviews that businesses should know before they implement or authorize this market research method. Below is a high-level look at the pros and cons:
Face-to-Face Interview Pro #1: Empathy & Personal Interaction
In face-to-face interviews, a great moderator can make a world of difference, especially when it comes to empathy & personal interaction. While conducting these interviews, moderators can connect with participants by showing that they understand what the participant is feeling. When your participants feel safe and understood, they can more easily let their guard down, open up and share emotions. Online surveys don’t capture emotions nor do they have the ability to adjust based on answers or give the participant any empathetic feedback.
In the case of specific studies such as ethnographies, moderators can actually observe how an individual is performing specific tasks and interact with them about the experience. It also gives the moderator a chance to ask the participant further questions about unexpected results.
Face-to-Face Interview Pro #2: Capturing Non-Verbal Cues
As noted by Psychology Today, body language is “communication without words.” While scientifically designed online and mobile surveys can improve data quality (i.e. certain questions can be asked in a specific order, or with certain response options, to more accurately collect what a respondent is conveying), the fact remains that there are some non-verbal cues that can only be captured in a face-to-face interview.
By having a moderator there to record emotions and non-verbal cues, face-to-face interviews capture a more holistic answer to a question than an online survey question would. For example, if your market research participants interacts with a product, a moderator could detect confusion, moments of clarity, discuss mental models they’re using to solve a problem and more.
Face-to-Face Interview Pro #3: Experiencing Products in Real Life
When doing market research for products, there is definitely an advantage to seeing them, touching them, feeling them and interacting with them in real life. In a face-to-face interview, participants can see products and play around with them in order to answer your questions or complete necessary tasks. In online surveys, pictures are normally substituted in lieu of the real product and in some cases, the ability to experience a product with your own senses can make a huge difference in depth of feedback.
Face-to-Face Interview Con #1: Relatively Higher Cost
Naturally, face-to-face interviews are going to cost relatively more than online or mobile surveys. This is both because of labor costs (whether in-house or partnering with a market research firm), and overhead costs (interview rooms, administration, possibly paying travel expenses for respondents, etc.).
So while investing in face-to-face interviews does come with more costs, the investment can be well worth it. With the three pros of face-to-face interviews in mind, there are situations where this methodology is the best way to achieve the research outcome. Therefore, if the information gleaned from face-to-face interviews can be very profitable, then this cost is more of an investment rather than an expense.
Face-to-Face Interview Con #2: Data Processing
When beginning face-to-face interviews, you need to start with a plan for data collection and data processing. While the data collection plan might seem obvious, the data processing plan is commonly overlooked but should be thought of early in the planning process. In this processing plan, you should know what information you need to collect (audio, video, notes, etc.) and how you’ll process it for meaningful analysis.
Because there are typically multiple information sources, data processing for face-to-face interviews can be overwhelming and expensive. Plus you can’t simply go back and re-do your market research because your data processing plan wasn’t comprehensive. If you need quotes, you’ll need to record your sessions and invest in transcriptions. If you need visuals, you’ll need to have pictures or video then be able to sort through the footage to find the snippets you want.
Face-to-Face Interview Con #3: Making Analysis Actionable
Face-to-face interviews are a rich qualitative methodology to utilize in market research, but that doesn’t mean you should use a face-to-face interview to base all your decisions upon. Many decision makers will want to marry qualitative data from face-to-face interviews with quantitative findings in order to see a more robust analysis.
Therefore before any action or decisions can take place, you should plan on utilizing another follow-up study to see how representative your face-to-face interactions are.
At Communicate For Research, we are experts on research logistics and recruitment of face-to-face interviews, which supports many top-notch researchers to get the most out of their work. To learn more, contact us today to get feedback on existing research goals or to discuss how we can help you answer new research questions.