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Learn What Customers Are Really Thinking With In-Depth Interviews

Man meeting virtually via computer.

Research interviews, also known as in-depth interviews or IDIs, are one of the best ways to learn about your customers. The one-on-one interaction is suited to sensitive topics, such as discussing personal information and motivations, changes in household plans, finances, or economic fears. This format allows researchers to get to core customer thoughts and experiences on topics that might be held back in a group setting or missed by survey research alone.

We often work with clients on interview projects when they seek to understand delayed or lost sales, sales team performance, or customer experience. 

There are advantages to In-depth interview research:

  1. Specific target audience recruiting. Because fewer participants are needed for meaningful outcomes than in some other forms of research, this method is ideal for small populations (small in research terms). This form of research is highly personal and can be used with specific audiences and hard-to-reach individuals, including prospects or customers.
  1. Rapport. An experienced researcher works to build rapport quickly in one-on-one interviews. When done right, this leads to increased comfort in sharing and more opportunities for the researcher to probe participant comments, expressions, or tone of voice. This relationship can lead to greater sharing and present opportunities to explore sensitive topics.
  1. More time. More time is dedicated to each research participant, allowing for more discussion than is possible in a focus group, making interviews ideal for high-value research participants. 
  1. Depth. In-depth interviews allow researchers to go deeper with each individual, getting at core opinions and beliefs and eliciting specific wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. This is particularly useful when the client wants to explore the specifics of a customer experience.
  1. Interactive. The interview is a conversation, allowing the researcher flexibility to pursue unanticipated topics or even go off-script when appropriate.
  1. Own words. With in-depth interviews, an experienced researcher learns the customer’s language and important information for marketing, sales, and additional research.
  1. New knowledge. The research results in new knowledge and awareness of opinions, beliefs, or issues for business and marketing planning. This is the “why” of research. 
  1. Ideal initial research stage. As an initial stage of a larger research project, in-depth interviews can define important research themes to carry forward in a broader research effort, such as a survey.

In planning for in-depth interviews, allow sufficient lead time.. With customer target audiences today, it’s typical to need a couple of weeks to get onto people’s calendars to set aside 20 to 45 minutes or more for the discussion. 

You should also budget for incentives to encourage participation. Incentives should be set in proportion to the time needed for the interview and the interview participant profiles.

At Ladley & Associates, in-depth interviews are one of our favorite research methods. We thrive on personal relationships. Starting with the invitation, we strive to make the interview experience enjoyable, warm, and friendly, creating a positive experience for our clients’ customers. 

Send me a note to or book time for a chat via Calendly. I’m happy to answer any questions about in-depth interviews or discuss a research solution to your business challenge.

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