We’ve all been there; you’ve got a topic that, as a researcher, you find nuanced and fascinating or one that your client teams wax eloquent about for hours. Everyone is looking forward to getting lots of juicy detail about this topic your focus groups, but consumers find it, well, not necessarily riveting. Or the subject is so complex that participants just don’t know where to start breaking it down so they can effectively frame their answers. While a quality recruiter will screen to make sure your participants are articulate and have something meaningful to say on the issue at hand, initial answers can still skim along the surface or consist of overly simplified high-level summaries. The situation is not uncommon for qualitative and even the best of moderators has been there.
One area of research this seems to crop up on is journey mapping. Journeys can be complicated affairs having lots of steps, so it’s easier for consumers to gloss over the agonizing details (buying a car). They can be journeys taken out of necessity rather than personal interest (resolving a customer service issue). And there are journeys that some consumers just don’t find particularly thrilling (insurance shopping anyone?).
Time to plan for a good projective exercise; one designed to help organize the process, encourage focus on the below surface motivators for each step taken, and recast the routine in a more action-oriented framework that helps consumers be as engaged on the topic as you are. A role-playing exercise that tasks customers with stepping back and narrating their journeys as observers may be a good solution. Start by asking customers to think about the steps they took during the journey and write each on a post-it note, trying to leave nothing out. Coach them to make sure the narrative is complete and has a continuous flow. Then, have them arrange their notes in sequence on a sheet of blank paper with their name written across the top.
Once participants have completed this task, ask them to imagine themselves are the director of a blockbuster film, a film whose plot is the journey they just mapped out, and they are now providing commentary on the DVD release. Encourage them to work through the steps as scenes, what the goal of each ‘scene’ was, highlight the victory or defeat in each scene, and describe the purpose of the scene in the overall film. Then ask for a few volunteers to give a sample narration of their films before continuing discussion.
The technique can be particularly useful for qualitative that includes journey mapping discussions where answers are routine or overly simplified; the nature of the exercise focuses on reframing events in terms of action and encourages participants to dig a little deeper for their motivations in each “scene,” even if it’s something they report, on a rational level, they did just because that’s the way they did it. If you’ve got a group who is giving surface-level summary answers in a lower involvement category, this is a chance to drive into the detail. If you’ve got a low energy group on your hands, this is a nice opportunity to stack the deck in your favor by calling on one of your livelier participants to start.
Once a couple of narrations have been given, there are several different in-room follow-ups you can use. You can follow up by asking if anyone had any scenes not yet discussed that are part of their own films, heard, any scenes they wish they had included in their own films, or if there were any scene motivators shared by others with which they also felt a personal connection. Participants can ‘grade’ themselves on their journeys as if they were film critics (How many Rotten Tomatoes, Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down) and volunteer where they feel their movies fell short, or why it was Oscar-worthy. The projective assessment exercise lends itself to a group discussion of what information, tools, products or other resources would have been helpful to the heroes of their films.
In terms of interventions, the exercise has some practical elements as well since it introduces a natural break for the moderator to visit the back room and check-in with the extended research team. The moderator can step away while participants are mapping out their film sequences, or toward the end of the session, after tasking participants with creating an “ideal” process as a group, deciding collectively which steps are worth taking, writing these on fresh post-its, and coming to a team consensus on what sequence they belong on the whiteboard.
For complicated or less recent journeys, ones that might require some heavy back-thinking, the mapping portion of the exercise can be conducted before the groups and submitted in written form, then brought into the group for discussion. If there’s a lag between when participants arrive at the facility and when the group begins, handing the initial mapping portion of the assignment out as an exercise to work in the waiting room following completion of check-in documentation saves some in-room time, as part of the heavy lifting is now done.
We invite you to reach out to us for more information about conducting qualitative research. Give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). With our support and guidance in participant recruiting, technology/logistics management, and even moderating/full-service support, Accelerant Research can provide you with similarly successful and impactful insights.