Putting Respondents on the Red Carpet

It’s award show season! Watching the Oscars and the Grammys isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I’ve learned that treating customers like stars can get companies robust insights.

Before the holidays, I did a project for a major department store that was rolling out a self-checkout program. I conducted 1-on-1 shop-alongs with respondents, following them as they tried out the self-checkout. But we weren’t shopping alone: the film crew from Jamtown Films captured respondents on video, allowing me to hand the client a video report, where they could witness their customers going through the shopping and self-checkout process.

Respondents were a little nervous as we clipped microphones on them and positioned them in front of the camera. “I’ve never done anything like this! I’m going to talk about this at Thanksgiving dinner!” one woman crowed. Everyone got used to it pretty quickly, though, and I realized that just like watching a research summary video was better for my client than reading a report, being treated like a VIP was more fun for the respondents than just being followed around a store answering questions. Plus, respondents who are having fun are happier, more relaxed, and more willing to open up. Instead of coaxing words out of these newly minted divas, I couldn’t shut them up– which is always a good thing in research.

I know from other work that for participants, research isn’t just about getting a monetary incentive. A key reason people participate in research is that they want to feel like companies are listening to them. I think too often, we don’t let respondents know how much we appreciate them — but making these customers stars of the show, and giving them an experience to recount at Thanksgiving, went a long way in elevating the depth and quality of the insights we could put to work.

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