Humanizing Data to Create Compelling Narratives and Deeper Insights: Learn How Melding Research Methods Can Add an Additional Layer of Human Understanding to Survey Data and Qualitative Data

Combining quantitative survey data with qualitative data can give you a different view

In surveys, we use large sample sizes to generalize the results to the larger population and the robust data gives us comfort in the conclusions that are reached. There’s confidence in numbers and precision around data that says your “customer service” score slipped 10% this year.

But numbers also have a weakness. Numbers have trouble telling compelling stories. Numbers don’t speak emotions or reveal the heart of what a customer feels. Nor can they narrate experiences well. Numbers do not do a very good job of explaining ‘why?’ Why did the customer service score slip 10%? Were there particular product issues? Were interactions not handled professionally? If so, in what way? How do problem resolutions get handled? Where are the frustration points? These are questions pertaining to how a customer feels and how they are (or are not) connecting with our product and brand. Rating data from a survey cannot capture this kind of information.

Really getting to know your customer means you have to sit down and talk with them, ask about their experience, and listen. You need to be able to observe or experience the customer’s life in the context of which it happens, or better yet when it is happening. Qualitative researchers employ a variety of in-person or online techniques for achieving this: focus groups, in-depth interviews, diaries, ethnographies. One-on-one interviews, for example, with your customers help flesh out more details and insights related to survey results. Customers will provide more elaborate feedback in these settings compared to surveys, plus you can see their expressions, body language and hear their tone of voice. Interviewers can engage in a dialogue with participants to uncover the details of a customer’s story and experience.

With today’s technology, it’s never been easier to connect with customers. Interview sessions can be live streamed, taking place remotely and making the process convenient and cost-effective for everyone. Customers can send photos or recordings of their shopping experiences or inside the home. In this way, data collection takes place within the customer’s natural environment, and it’s possible to observe them interacting with your product in this setting. Internal stakeholders may see or hear from the customers themselves. Live or session recordings can be archived and re-played for further review or editing into highlight clips for sharing in presentations. Seeing and hearing from the customer directly is more impactful than when a researcher tries to recreate that narrative through numbers and charts in a powerpoint deck.

In the following section, we document three case studies to give you a flavor of how it is possible to blend research methods to create a fuller picture of the customer experience using qualitative data and quantitative data. In each, research technologies are leveraged to reduce cost, streamline processes and expand the scope of investigation and understanding. Researchers can still employ surveys and in-person focus groups. But now we have so many more and improved ways for understanding people and behaviors.

Example case studies

Case study 1: Survey + Online Diary

Beauty comes to life

In Latin America, the cosmetic industry is quite dynamic, with several established brands competing within regional markets, and new ones continually entering the fold. As such, maintaining a current understanding of how, when and why consumers use beauty products is critical to the cosmetic industry, and requires a sophisticated approach to market research.

We partnered with Avon, to run a survey on female cosmetic users in Brazil, Mexico, and Columbia. Using FocusVision Decipher, our survey and reporting solution, we surveyed women in Latin America to discover the type and number of products within their personal beauty bag, brands used and overall brand perceptions. The survey allowed us to profile different segments of cosmetic users, included a segment that utilized over 100 cosmetic items in their beauty bag. (Figure 1.)

A graph depicting survey data of beauty bag contents including lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, and blush.
Figure 1. Quantitative Data – Beauty bag contents

But what is the role and meaning of beauty for this woman? The survey told us how many lipsticks or eyeshadow products she has. However, how do we capture feelings and day to day interactions with these products? Using FocusVision Revelation, our social media style qualitative insight platform, we asked participants to keep a mobile diary of their makeup activities over a one week period, including both image uploads and video testimonials. This helped us see how participants applied makeup, how they mixed and matched various products and the feelings experienced during and after makeup application. Now we can bring the data table from Figure 1 to life and take a peek at what customers are doing. We can see for some segments, beauty is a kaleidoscope of makeup tools, options, and occasions. In the words of one user: “I need makeup to feel alive. It’s an essential part of my day-to-day.” For others, only the bare essentials matter.

Using both the survey data and qualitative data enables Avon to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and feelings of female makeup users in Latin America:

It was crucial for us to walk in consumers’ shoes in order to truly understand their relationship with make-up, and collect meaningful qualitative data in friendly and inspiring ways. We were able to capture very useful consumer insights, materials and perspectives, which informed multiple discussions and decisions within the Avon organization.

Paola Toscano, Senior Insights And Marketing Intelligence Manager – Avon
quantitative survey
Figure 2. Quantitative Data – Beauty bag contents

Case Study 2: Survey + In-depth Interview

Humanizing Quantitative Data

Like many companies, we at FocusVision regularly run Voice of the Customer (VOC) surveys to track customer perceptions of our brand and product offerings. We noticed that one metric for the Decipher survey software platform wasn’t performing as well as expected. We wanted to get a better understanding as to why, and what we could do to improve customer experience and perceptions. While the rating data was serving its purpose to give us a good aggregate benchmark on how we were performing, we needed deeper insights on how customers were interacting with our product. (Figure 3)

We scheduled fifteen webcam-based 1-on-1 interviews, which were conducted via the FocusVision InterVu video focus group software platform, making it easy for both participant and moderator to join the call, and providing a recorded environment for simple review and analysis of the qualitative data. The conversations with customers followed a discussion guide that was developed from the many questions the software designers had for customers. This included feedback on likes/dislikes about the software. Customers were asked to explain why they rated the software the way they did in the survey. They shared their computer screens to show how they used our software during specific job situations.

quantitative survey
Figure 3: NPS score and attribute ratings provide a good aggregate benchmark but don’t give you the fuller picture of how customers connect with your brand.

Our approach proved that 1 on 1 webcam interviews provided a fuller picture of the customer experience than an online survey alone. For example, in one interview, a single-sentence open-end response from the online survey became a 20-minute discussion on that customer’s most frequently encountered difficulties, what context they were occurring in, what he or she was trying to accomplish at that time, and the possible solutions that would be workable. This conversation, and others like it, yielded a wealth of information for the product and support teams. (Figure 3).

An added bonus to using webcam interviews was that recordings could also be used to make video clips — with full consent from participants on how they would be used. These video “testimonials” allowed stakeholders to more closely empathize, engage and connect with customer issues. Researchers know that it can often be difficult to socialize customer insights with numbers or charts on a page. But a video can tell a powerful story through the customer’s own voice, which will resonate more deeply with decision makers.

Combining interview-based research with always-on VOC surveys awarded us insights that would not have been possible if we had just used one method, such as the survey. The surveys themselves provide a scorecard of how a brand is performing, while the webcam interviews yield even deeper customer insights. Product or brand marketing managers naturally have many questions for their customers. Webcam interviews are a quick and convenient platform for asking these questions, connecting a company to its customers, hearing their stories, and identifying what they want, and the problems they face.

The platform is very future-forward, with mobile optimization, modern themes, and options for survey elements that support trends in today’s questionnaires. I like how reliable it is. We very rarely encounter bugs or system outages. Also the support team does an awesome job. They are a huge help and should be recognized for it.

Video recordings provided access to qualitative data.
Figure 4. Videos give customers an opportunity to elaborate. Recordings can be used for later playback and shared with internal stakeholders to provide a powerful illustration.

Case Study 3: Online Diary + In-depth Interview

Understand human influences on medical treatment decisions

Illuminating physician and patient journeys throughout the healthcare experience is crucial in efforts to develop sound insights. In order to understand physician behaviors, it is important to understand the emotional and human elements underlying treatment choices. However, these may not be evident to the doctors themselves when interviewed, particularly if much time has passed between treatment. For instance, when asking a doctor to recall particular treatment choices they have made, behavior is often post-rationalized as medically sound.

The goal of this study was to capture physician thoughts, experiences and responses closer to the moment of decision/action than traditional interview techniques; then to examine these moments of decision before time allowed physicians to post-rationalize their decisions.

First, we employed FocusVision Revelation, our social media style insights platform, which physicians could use on their smartphone to collect qualitative data. This solution enabled them to record to video their account of a treatment decision for a particular patient on the day it actually occurred (thus closer to the moment of decision).

As a second step, a follow-up webcam interview was conducted via FocusVision InterVu. The purpose of these follow up interviews was to review all cases and deepen exploration of the doctor’s wider caseload that was recorded in the first stage.

It became clear through the investigation that physicians engaged in either “passive” or “active” decision making. Routine decisions, considered “passive”, were the result of a physician following wellworn treatment paths. Outside trigger factors such as the doctor relating to human elements of the patient experience (living situation, comprehension, motivations, etc.) or having feelings of their own (confidence, anxiety, empathy, etc.) represented “active” decisions.

The distinction between “active” and “passive” decision-making among physicians was not a new insight. But by using FocusVision Revelation, we could get under the skin of active decision-making in any area of treatment. We were able to freeze the decisive moment; and then with the follow-up webcam interview explore the moment of decision, including human and emotional influences. Just as with our other examples, this case study illustrates how advances in research technology has enabled new methods of data collection to get us closer to people efficiently and in a cost-effective way.

Melding research techniques can add an additional layer of human understanding to data so you get a more complete picture of your customer to deliver relevant and actionable insights. Technology makes it easy for us to follow a physician making his or her rounds, take a look inside a woman’s beauty bag or virtually sit side by side with someone interacting with our products. These are just a few examples of what’s possible and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities that today’s advances in research has opened up for getting an up close and personal look with consumers to help drive business decisions that attract and retain your customers.

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