It’s very common to be invited to participate in a bad web survey or a bad phone survey. But this week I had the dubious honor of being a participant in a truly bad in-depth interview. I had been invited to give my perspective on the use of research during an enterprise sales cycle.
Usually researchers are automatically excluded from these kinds of research projects. However, Dimensional Research develops research reports including customer-based ROI analysis and web surveys, so I was asked to participate and couldn’t give up the opportunity.
Here’s just a few of the things that went badly during the 45-minute telephone conversation:
1) The call opened with the interviewer telling me that he “was convinced there was a huge gap” and he was doing the research to prove it. Yes – he started out by stating his conclusion and his bias!
2) After a 10 minute preamble, during which time I was easily distracted by a client skype-ing me, he finally asked me the first question. His opener, which sets the tone for the entire conversation was this gem: “Where are you located?” They already had taken my contact information previously, so it surprised me that they opened with this.
Let me clarify – I completely understand a need to confirm information gathered previously, but this seemed like a weak opener. Personally, I prefer starting an in-depth interview asking the person to tell me about whatever their involvement is in the topic of the study. That usually covers a lot of the basics (job title, location, etc.) without asking the boring laundry list of questions. Of course you can always ask those questions later if they’re not covered in a more engaging fashion.
3) The interviewer had sent a supporting document – probably about as many words in the document as is in this post, in about the same font size – and then proceeded to read the whole thing out loud to me. He didn’t seem to get that I CAN READ and was done with the document way before he finished it and was being distracted by a text message. Again, certainly there are times when it is appropriate to review materials with the individual, but one of the benefits of an in-depth interview is you can get a real feel for the participant and understand when you can move more quickly or need to progress more slowly.
4) The interviewer ARGUED WITH MY ANSWERS!!! Now I know that all researchers need to dig deeper and sometimes playing devil’s advocate is a good tool. We’ll often use questions like “I understand that you prefer this, but can you explain why that isn’t a preference?” But this guy actually said “Really? That’s odd. In my experience it never happens that way.” Talk about not feeling valued!
5) The interviewer did finally let me get a word in edgewise, and I was half-way through an idea when I got the “Thank you Diane, this was great” and we were done.
I will confess I was a bad research participant and didn’t turn off my instant messaging, email, and other distractions. But I was taking time out of my schedule to share some expertise that I had and the researcher didn’t, and there was no attempt made to make me feel heard or make the experience a positive one for me.
Such a waste of 45 minutes – for both of us.