During my career I conducted every conceivable type of study there is - from massive data crunches to fire-truck morality experiments with 3 year olds and everything in between. But Customer Insights research holds a special place in my heart.
It's not just that customer insights studies are the most direct path to innovation for pretty much any type of client in pretty much any type of industry. What - from my perspective - is even more fantastic is the experience of immersing yourself deep into the lifeworlds of the people you are interviewing. You dive into their particular webs of meaning and understanding, figuring out what is it that makes these people tick - what moves them? what worries them? what inspires them? It is from this deep experience of empathy that you come out holding a gem of insight in your hands - a crystal clear recommendation for the client on how to create a product or service that will make their customers' jobs or lives or relationships all that much easier.
Despite numerous and innovative methodologies out there, this is something you can only do with in-depth interviews. Customer surveys are a great tool (faster, cheaper, easier in every respect), but at the end of the day, what you get is not much more than what you've put into them. Real insight is always a product of unmediated, face-to-face, one-human-being-to-another kind of conversation, where small anecdotes and unexpected laughs provide a-ha! moments into their real needs and pain points.
With this in mind, let me offer a few tips on how to get the most out of in-depth interviews:
1. Whenever possible, meet the person in their natural surroundings.
2. Don't just listen, but also observe, observe, observe. Everything is data - the cluttered desks, the crossed out calendars, the confident movements and the body posture...
3. Don't bring a list of questions - learn your questions by heart. Treat the in-depth interview like an intimate conversation, not an exam.
3. Try not to interrupt their flow or worse yet, correct your interviewees or try to "fix" their understanding of a product or a service.
4. To whatever extent possible, learn about who they are as people - it's only then that you can truly empathize with their ideas, needs and concerns.
Best of luck on your next customer insights project!