Here, you will find information on qualitative research and a variety of suggestions to bear in mind when planning to carry out fieldwork in Spain. Most of the tips and articles are coined by us but we are very much in favour of making reference to other author's links whenever we consider they may be useful to market research practitioners.

jueves, 5 de diciembre de 2013

How to bring on new research suppliers: Part II

Article Abstract
In the second installment of a two-part series -see first part below-, the author follows up his advice for client-side researchers selecting new research partners and discusses how to bring the supplier into the fold and manage and monitor the relationship.

In my first article (see below), I shared the selection process I used to bring on new research partners during my time as a corporate researcher. But selecting the right partner is only half of the battle! The onboarding process is a one-time-only chance to motivate your new business partner. I've always believed that having motivated, challenged and happy partner teams makes a big difference.
I'm sure on the supplier side, clients have reputations and I always wanted my account to be one that the most talented people want to work on. So I would use the onboarding process to show the partner company that we were excited to work with them and were asking for - and expecting - a full contribution of their expertise.

Intelligent but naïve force
Careful consideration should be given to how the onboarding is done, what information is shared and who will be involved. We are enveloped in our categories and brands all the time and, as discussed earlier, the partner is coming in to the situation as an intelligent - but naïve - force. Often, observations the partner has early in the relationship can help you see your business situation in a fresh way. 

Of course, prior to the onboarding you can ask the partner firm what questions they have and what they would like to see. If the new partner is going to work with existing partners, it's a good idea to have representatives of the other firms there as well, if it makes sense and can be done efficiently. 

The ingredients of a quality onboarding include:

  • ·         Meeting all the critical stakeholders. This can be done during the onboarding meetings and socially, if schedules permit. Bonus points for including senior-level stakeholders.
  • ·         Providing industry, business and brand background. Don't forget to define industry jargon and acronyms!
  • ·         Crystallizing business issues and challenges you'll face. Most companies have a lot of data and information that could be shared but focusing on the most relevant information is a good place to start.  
  • ·         Defining success for the work and the relationship. Most of my partners were proactive in asking my team this, as it is critical to the health and success of the relationship but make sure you're clear on what success is. During the session you can define partner evaluation criteria and frequency of evaluation.
  • ·         Sharing the company's cultural values (e.g., communication style, decision-making process, timing of requests, how a work day is defined, etc.).  
  • ·         Holding an initial work-plan development session. Spell out a few choice wins to focus on in the first 90 days.
  • ·         Having fun! This is the beginning of a new relationship. There is no baggage and the two entities should work on becoming a team.

On track for success
Once the work has begun and the partner has all of the necessary information to move forward with the project, there are ongoing performance- and relationship-monitoring practices, such as formal reviews, that can ensure the work and the partnership are on track for success.
Formal check-in at 90 days
At 90 days, you will have worked together long enough to do a progress evaluation. If there are things that need improvement, it is early enough to course-correct. If at all possible, this formal check-in should be done outside of the client environment and as a standalone meeting. In my experience, it is less effective to have a check-in as part of a larger series of meetings. It should be a discrete event - not an agenda item. 

As always, the more specific the discussion, the better. Generalities don't add a lot of value and can confuse issues. The most senior people on both sides should be the main participants. Here are a few things to discuss:

  • ·         Is the work going as planned? What are the surprises (good and bad)?
  • ·         Is the client giving the partner what they need?
  • ·         Is the partner staying within budget?
  • ·         Is scope manageable or creeping?
  • ·         Are the wins being achieved?

Six-month formal review
The focus of this meeting should be to follow up on the 90-day topics. After a full six months, both sides should have a clear idea of what is working and what is not, as well as what is changing in the environment that will impact the rest of the year. Based on the discussion at this stage, the annual review should not contain any surprises for either side.
Annual review
This review should be a formal, in-person review and the client should prepare a thoughtful, written evaluation. The evaluation should be crafted against the key criteria identified in the onboarding sessions. At this stage I recommend soliciting perspectives from the stakeholder groups. The focus of the evaluation should be on how to continually improve the work and the value the program brings to the organization. After all, this is the ultimate - and shared - goal of both parties.
A large undertaking

Certainly the selection and onboarding of a new partner is a large undertaking that requires time and effort, but your investment of both commodities into making the process go smoothly will deliver a high ROI.
By Scott Aaron, who is a principal at Insights for Innovation, a Cincinnati research company. He can be reached at This article appeared in the June 10, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
Article ID: 20130625-1

How to bring on new research suppliers: Part I

Article Abstract
In the first installment of a two-part series, the author draws on his years of client-side experience to walk readers through his process of selecting a new research supplier. The second installment will address onboarding.

In my former role as consumer insights leader, there were several times when we brought on new suppliers (usually referred to as partners) and I'd like to share the process I used when selecting them. For the sake of this article, I'll assume that the partner being brought on is working on something of a sizable magnitude, like a customer satisfaction program or a brand and communications tracking study. All of these steps may or may not be necessary if the partner is not engaging in work that touches many internal customers but they are still good tools to have available.

Bringing on new partners is a great opportunity in many ways. I always looked forward to new perspectives, tools, techniques and meeting new, smart people. But perhaps what I looked forward to most was the chance to interface with experts on the supplier side who, in the beginning stages of the relationship, are somewhat naïve about the business but ready and excited to apply their knowledge. This naïve optimism can lend itself to breakthroughs in consumer learning.

Situation analysis

The first step in selecting a new research partner is to do your own evaluation of the current state of business. If a new partner is being brought in to revamp an existing workstream, ask yourself: What value is the current program providing to the organization? Have the key questions changed over time? What decisions is this work impacting? What is working well that we don't want to lose in transition? What are we missing?

As the insights leader, you are likely the best person to evaluate where and how a program could be stronger. With your understanding of strengths and weaknesses of methodologies, you are also in the best position to know what aspects of the current work need bolstering and what methods might improve the outcome of the work.

Your later stakeholder discussions around these questions will vary by group. The insights team may be concerned with methodology, data collection and partner responsiveness while internal clients may focus on delivery of insight, clarity of the information or actionability of the results. It's better to have a solid POV on strengths and weaknesses of the current scenario going into the selection process (i.e., prior to formally reaching out to the stakeholders) than to be totally open, if for no other reason than you can test and build your hypotheses as you go.

Developing needs, objectives and selection criteria

The next step is to investigate, interrogate, articulate and gain alignment with key stakeholders in terms of what you're trying to accomplish with the work in question. Key stakeholders usually consist of: 
  • ·         the internal consumer insights team;
  • ·         key internal clients (include key executives that use the output of the work or see the output consistently); and
  • ·         key external clients.

I would typically make sure I covered several points with the key stakeholders, including objectives of the work, desired outcomes and selection criteria for the new partner. If replacing one partner with another, I also tried to understand what the stakeholders thought was working and what could be improved. Here are some questions I would use to facilitate the discussion:


Why are we doing this work? What do we miss if we don't have it? How is this moving the brand or business forward? What is in-bounds for this work vs. out-of-bounds? What must be learned? Are there strategic changes coming in the business that will impact this work at a later time?

Desired outcomes

What decisions are being directly informed by this work? What is the risk level of these decisions? Is anything getting in the way of the team's ability to make the decisions they would like to (i.e., missing information, information that isn't clear, information that's difficult to interpret, etc.)? Is there something in what we're doing now that we don't want to lose? Some dynamic we have with the current supplier we want to avoid in the future?

Despite working together every day, these more strategic and reflective discussions with stakeholders could elicit new information or perspectives. These talks are critical and were always well worth the time.

Criteria for selection

When it comes to evaluating potential partners, consider including the following criteria: methodological savvy, analytical sophistication, innovation, service levels, people, communication of results, ability to synthesize insights across studies and expertise in the category or industry. Typically, some criteria are more important than others and should be weighted more heavily in making the final selection.

You can use your selection criteria and weights to develop a scorecard. For some really large projects, several stakeholder teams may contribute to the scorecard.

Final internal alignment

Once you summarize and synthesize the feedback, you should be able to precisely articulate the objectives of the work; what decisions you expect the work to influence and how; and what the selection criteria is for the new partner company. It is wise to get sign-off on this document, as it will drive your request for proposal (RFP) and will be what key stakeholders take away from your discussions. These documents are also crucial for the future. If needed, you can share this with new stakeholders, showing the key criteria and the selection process.

The search

I always liked to solicit proposals from a spectrum of potential partners. This can help you crystallize your objectives and criteria and help you see what you are missing now and - just as importantly - what you have today that is better than you might have thought.

This spectrum can be defined in several dimensions so you'll have to pick the most relevant dimension for the situation. I would advise having at least two suppliers that will view your situation somewhat similarly and bring similar tools and approaches. This can elicit some good thinking and help keep bids competitive.

Some of the dimensions I used in the past were boutique suppliers vs. large, more general suppliers; newer firms vs. more established firms; methodologically innovative vs. traditional; and current suppliers vs. new-to-our-company suppliers.

Developing the RFP

You will use the material you developed in the previous steps to create your RFP. I'm sure there have been great articles written on RFP development so I will simply offer some of my experience on this point, rather than relay best practices.

I liked to allow some room for creativity on the part of the potential partner. I always looked forward to seeing how different partners would approach the work and solve the puzzle. The more I imposed or stipulated in the RFP, the less creative thinking I might see. On the other hand, if the RFP's requirements are too loose or vague, you won't see good thinking either; guardrails keep people from driving all over the road.

I would typically allow for one round of questions prior to having potential partners present in-person or deliver the proposal. I usually did this discussion via phone so that if something wasn't clear in the RFP, we could address it prior to a lot of work being done on the supplier's part. I would do everything I could to ensure I gave each potential partner the same information.

One valuable lesson we learned through doing this is that the questions asked by the potential partner say a lot about them. Often we would get a feel for the level of engagement we were engendering and some idea as to how the potential partners approached problem-solving.

There is an opportunity during presentations for the potential partners to give you perspective on the work ahead, especially if it's new to you. (Of course, you have to signal that you are open to their perspective.) They can help set your expectations about the work so you can in turn better set internal expectations.

In-person presentations

I would only invite in potential partners that we believed to be the strongest to avoid wasting anyone's time. The two main things we would look for in the presentation were the quality of the approach and thinking and some sense for the culture fit between teams.

Another question worth asking is which supplier team members would be working on the day-to-day business. It is nice when suppliers have wonderful presenters but you really need to know who is going to be working with you and your internal clients.

Prior to beginning a new relationship, I would advise you talk to other clients of your finalists. After all, it's always smart to check references. Client cultures and situations can be fairly different so a variety of perspectives can be illuminating.

A winner emerges

After seeing the presentations, use your selection criteria and weighted scorecard to make your decision. There may be some close calls but if the team uses the criteria faithfully, a winner emerges.

Stay tuned for part two of this series where I will discuss onboarding and how client-side researchers can manage the process to ensure high-quality work from research partners.  

By Scott Aaron
Scott Aaron is a principal at Insights for Innovation, a Cincinnati research company. He can be reached at This article appeared in the May 20, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
Article ID: 20130526-1

viernes, 7 de junio de 2013

Tips from a traveling moderator: facility faux pas and fantastic finds

Article AbstractModerator Gwyn Gibbs offers advice on how qualitative research facilities can improve to be more accommodating to moderators, clients and respondents.

As a qualitative moderator coming off of a 24-city tour - visiting 24 facilities in under three months - I saw the good, the bad and the ugly in research facilities across the country. Based on my experiences, here are a few things you can do to help your facility stand out - and some ideas on how to make it happen. 

Do: Have great recruiting, with respondents who show up and who show up on time. Without respondents - and without respondents who arrive on time to get signed in and hear all of the introductions - we do not have any research.
Idea: One facility held an early-bird raffle to encourage early arrival. Participants who arrived early had their names put in a jar and the respondent whose name was chosen received a small reward.
Idea: One facility over-recruits by one respondent and does not charge the client for the extra efforts.
Hint: Do take the extra time to go over directions, traffic patterns and parking with respondents when calling to confirm.

Do: Know all the hotels in your area. Most moderators have no idea where they are or how far you are from their hotel or the airport.
Idea: One facility offered to send a cab to the hotel to pick me up.
Hint: Anyone answering the phone should be able to give directions from all hotels and the airport.

Do: Have a designated qualitative assistant. Moderators usually make all of the room adjustments, paperwork requests, copies needed and the all-important dinner questions right away. The hallways at facilities are atypically long to provide quiet and confidentiality to research rooms, however this makes for a lot of time and foot travel when I'm trying to find someone to help me.
Hint: Introduce the qualitative assistant and plan on them shadowing the moderator for the first 15 minutes after they settle in. It's a great help to have that person ready to answer and pitch in, and then the moderator can grab a breather or meet with a client.

Do: Make it easy to get from the research room and back room to the restroom, front desk and respondent waiting area. Some facilities are one big maze, and although you may know exactly where you are, the moderator, the other clients and the respondents are in foreign territory.
Hint: Wall signs pointing to these popular destinations can be very useful when things get busy.

Do: Supply focus room-friendly supplies. Because research minutes are very expensive, once the group starts there's no leaving for the moderator.
Hint: Have a large-faced desk clock (our eyes are old!), working flip-chart markers, non-sticky flip-chart paper (their sticky cousins don't travel well), a pad and pen, water, tissues and hand sanitizer.

Do: Have cost- and health-minded back-room amenities. With cost-conscious clients it is best to keep the food to a minimum to assist clients in maintaining strict budgets. With cold and flu season around, it is best to keep prepackaged snacks on hand.
Idea: One facility has a water cooler, which is much more eco-friendly than the 10 bottles of water I can drink in a research day, not to mention other clients or respondents.
Idea: One facility baked a small batch of homemade cookies. The cost was minimal and the experience? Priceless.
Hint: Wrapped granola bars, packaged nuts/dried fruit are great for healthier-minded, protein-wanting clients, and they are more sanitary than their open-bowl counterparts.

Do: Have something available to assist the moderator in transporting materials. Often the materials are hauled in manually by the weary moderator en route to the hotel or airport.
Hint: A recyclable bag with handles (and with your logo!) is great for carrying flip-chart notes, screener lists, research stimuli and bottled water. These are just a few of the items that may be in tow late in the evening.

Do: Partner with a great transportation service. Research often ends in the dark hours of the evening, and moderators (often traveling alone) are getting into unfamiliar cabs in unknown cities.
Idea: One facility had partnered with a car service. The Escalade arrived and was charged to the facility (to be billed later).  Another great feature was that the driver was very customer-service oriented because they wanted the facility business. What a great last impression!

Do: Get feedback from your moderator about the service of your facility. However, handing out those customer service surveys as the moderator is leaving is problematic. By then, I'm wiped out and the last thing I want to do is to fill out a questionnaire about someone who is standing in front of me.
Idea: One facility put the questionnaire in a small, lightweight goody bag with a self-addressed stamped envelope to return to the facility. 

As you can see, it's the little things that make the difference. Do your best to make it as easy and pleasurable for moderators, clients and research participants as possible, and you'll be surprised at how far these small gestures can take you!
By Gwyn Gibbs

Gwyn Gibbs is senior project director at Integrated Marketing Associates, a Bryn Mawr, Pa., research firm. She can be reached at
This article appeared in the February 8, 2010, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
Article ID: 20100225-1

Creative consumers are a good thing, really

This insight, written by Bryan Urbick, explores the grounds in which consumers’ creativity can really help to produce innovation in design.

I can still hear the voices, trying to persuade us against our idea.
In the mid-1990s when we first decided to progress with some new research methods we had developed, tested and refined, we had a few pushbacks. Stated simply, the methods involved working with consumers in the same way that teams develop new ideas – brainstorming, creative techniques to help people think out-of-the-box and utilization of various stimuli to help drive the creative process.
Of course the process was designed to ensure engagement and facilitated in a way that maintained focus on the project objectives. The crux of the objections and negative comments were based on the belief that consumers are not creative.
Our position then, as it is now, is that no one is creative when not in an environment conducive to creativity. The opposite is also true – anyone can be creative when the context is right.
Interestingly, the creative process was (and still is) a research tool we use to uncover opportunity areas. By evaluating new consumer ideas based on the prevalent themes, a picture of unmet needs emerges – and even if the consumer-created ideas are not pursued, the unmet needs can be clearly defined, with ways to address them clearly plotted out. The fact that by doing this style of research we were able to help facilitate consumers creating usable ideas was merely a by-product of the process.
Now, of course, consumer creativity is not a groundbreaking thought. Consumers, who were once deemed the last people a company would turn to for innovative ideas, are now often at the center of it all. Boundaries have blurred, hierarchies are flattening and at times it appears that everyone can be consumers, researchers, innovators and producers – all rolled into one.
I notice this much more these days when conducting qualitative research projects, from the more traditional focus groups to many of our non-traditional methods. It seems as if consumer respondents feel more ownership and genuinely try to help companies develop new ideas to solve their problems.
It wasn’t that long ago (1909 to be precise) that American farmers were lobbying car manufacturers for an automobile with detachable backseats. It took about 10 more years for Detroit to come up with the pickup truck. One can imagine what the car makers’ response might have been: “These farmers … what would they know?”
“How shortsighted! How narrow-minded!” you might say. And yet this attitude from the early 1900s is not that dissimilar from those naysayers just 15 years ago who felt the need to tell us that “consumers aren’t creative” when we presented our research methods.
Why is this? I believe it is primarily driven by two factors: 1) there is a desire that those hired to create new ideas maintain their worth; and 2) they haven’t seen the context in which a typical group of consumers can actually create anything of interest.
I am thankful, though, that more and more marketers and manufacturers leap with joy when new and obviously very necessary design innovation is suggested by consumers – and many take note and pursue those ideas. Open innovation schemes are becoming more prevalent and ideas are accepted from many sources, including consumers.
It’s about time that we acknowledge that consumers can be creative and allow ourselves to tap into the rich resource of consumer experience to innovate our products and services.

By Bryan Urbick 

Bryan Urbick is founder and chairman of Consumer Knowledge Centre, a London research firm.

This comment was originally published by Quirk’s Marketing Research Review in November 3, 2011 at 18:21.

viernes, 22 de febrero de 2013

El primer Grupo de Discusión. Impresiones

Si alguna vez se ha preguntado cómo es participar en un grupo de investigación de mercado, le gustará ver que dicen los que ya han participado. En este vídeo los asistentes a un grupo de discusión cuentan sus vivencias sobre la experiencia de haber participado en un estudio de mercado organizado por "A Window" en Barcelona, España; las impresiones fueron recogidas inmediatamente después de haber participado, por primera vez, en un grupo focal. 
ESTE VÍDEO TAMBIÉN PUDE VERSE EN El Primer Grupo de Discusión. Impresiones

miércoles, 28 de noviembre de 2012

The face-to-face interface

This article, written by Stephen Turner, details the benefits unique to face-to-face research, including group bonding and access to nonverbal cues and metadata. 

The Internet has, in a few short years, redefined our abilities to reach diverse segments of people where they live and work either as a batch or real-time process. Thanks to consumer-level proliferation of broadband connectivity, Webcams, smartphones and the like, we can conduct complex interviews with dispersed and even rare samples of respondents using audio and visual communications of considerable fidelity. There is no question that this is a great step forward for our discipline.

But, in the midst of this rush to capitalize on the efficiencies of digital research, I want to cast some words of serious caution. My intent is not to denigrate the Internet as a research tool but to remind the reader that it does not erase the need to gather face-to-face data in pursuit of understanding human beings. My thesis is that our work isn’t fully done until we sit across the table from those we wish to understand – physically in their presence as we engage in discourse about their needs and interests.
Not the first time
This is not the first time, incidentally, that our industry has encountered such issues. In the first half of the 20th century, opinion polling (the forerunner of marketing research) was conducted largely by canvassing sampled neighborhoods on foot, with rigid rules about which households you should stop at and with whom you were to speak when you got there. But the efficiencies of mail and telephone surveys were too seductive to continue relying solely on a face-to-face approach.
Furthermore, it was clear almost from the onset that mail and phone studies each had its own set of limitations and biases. Mail surveys allowed you to provide visual stimuli but you had little control over who answered, when and with what sorts of preparation. Additionally, it was all but impossible to stop people from backtracking or otherwise distorting the order in which they answered questions. Phone surveys solved some of these problems but had their own issues to contend with – no visuals, for example, unless they were distributed beforehand. But more troublesome was the temporal imperative to answer the questions in relatively short order whether you understood the question or had the wherewithal to answer. Each approach had advantages but left something out in the process.
An extraordinary tool
In comparison, the Internet is an extraordinary tool. It can be used in so many different ways – from analyzing content that flows on its own (e.g., blogs, reviews, social media) to various synchronous and asynchronous querying techniques from chat boards to online focus groups, which simulate face-to-face encounters with considerable precision. And with today’s smart mobile devices, respondents can take the interview with them – into their homes where they’re comfortable or to the store where they can describe what goes through their heads as they weigh their options.
However, like all of the new techniques before it, there is still an important body of information left on the table, even as our technological skills bring us closer to the experience of face-to-face communications. My sense is that Marshall McLuhan’s phrase, “The medium is the message,” is as relevant to Internet-based research as it was to the advent of TV when McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man was published in 1964. Indeed, I am absolutely sure it is.
A social animal
Man is a social animal. Parts of our brains have evolved over many millennia to attend to communications that take place on levels other than verbal. There are thousands of scientific articles attesting to the fact that a lot of what we “say” to each other is transmitted via all of our senses in ways so nuanced as to defy verbal recognition.
Moms and infants communicate with each other long before language forms for the little one. Adults recognize others’ dispositions and moods instantly without knowing exactly how or why. Experts in nonverbal communication tell us how to recognize when people are lying, just nervous or, perhaps, romantically inclined. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, he describes peoples’ abilities to make good decisions instantly even when high-level cognitions tell them to do otherwise – decisions made on the basis of nonverbal communication.

The effects of nonverbal cognition are an important part of social and personal understanding. Today’s brain scientists tell us that we echo the appropriate emotions of others whom we are watching. We experience genuine fear and excitement and sadness and anxiety as we observe others in situations manifesting those emotions. So it happens that group behavior ebbs and flows with a rhythm that is interconnected among group members in ways that cannot be explained as an aggregate of individuals’ isolated thoughts and feelings. Say what you will about groupthink, the truth is that we think and behave as groups in real life. We are an inherently social species.
Taken in context
When you have a group discussion in a face-to-face environment, interactions take place on an entirely different level than they do in an Internet-based focus group. Interactions in digital groups take place on the basis of literal interpretations of what is being said. 

Interactions in a face-to-face group are based on literal communications taken in the context of a continuous flow and interpretation of descriptive metadata (having to do with how the information was delivered) – information our brains have come to understand and over the past million-or-so years. Such modifications often yield very different sets of messages.

I’m not trying to say that moderators, even the best of them, are extraordinary in their ability to read all the subtle cues that emanate from face-to-face encounters. What I’m saying is that all of us are hardwired to do this. A good moderator is perhaps better tuned in to such vibes than most. He or she may not be a studied expert in turning covert communications into overt messages but has learned how to use that underlying current of information to arrive at a deeper sense of what someone is really trying to say.
A good moderator thinks carefully about the literal meaning of what someone is saying, modifies that literal meaning in the light of nonverbal cues and then – this is the key – asks the respondent to clarify the extent to which the moderator’s interpretation of what was meant fits or doesn’t fit the respondent’s intended message. This is an iterative process and dramatically more effective in person than online.
Furthermore, and just as importantly, this same process is going on with everyone who is party to the conversation. Because we are human and because our brains are designed to attend to the flow of emotive cues that surround individual pronouncements, our reactions to what someone says in our presence are continuously being modified and do not always track with a literal interpretation of what was actually mouthed. Despite the efforts of even the most rigid of moderators, those reactions enter into the dynamics of all group discussions.
The metadata
People posture. They do it all the time. They do it to convince others and themselves that they truly are the person they project. The interesting thing is that we’re often more capable of – or at least willing to – acknowledge the pretenses of others than we are our own. Focus groups (as well as 12-step programs) make use of the fact that, as social animals, we sense when other people are misrepresenting themselves, perhaps because we are familiar with the same pattern in ourselves but also because we are all expert at attending to nonverbal cues that accompany the communication. Furthermore, it doesn’t take long in a physical group setting for members to press each other to explain discrepancies between what they literally say and what they seem to be saying when one takes into account the metadata.
Unfortunately much of that metadata is missing when we interface digitally. In a face-to-face setting, micro-expressions that would never be seen on screen are readily apparent, such as eyes rolling back, a one-sided sneer, a particularly-intense rather than off-handed delivery – all things that fine-tune the intent of one’s words. Body language is vivid. Hand gesticulations, submissive posture, a slight turn away from the listener or a cock of the head all add shades of meaning. Sighs, snorts, giggles, huffs and murmurs emphasize the emotional components of a viewpoint. Indeed, a host of marginal cues that may not be seen or felt in an Internet transmission are obvious in a face-to-face setting – perhaps to be considered at a low level of consciousness but nonetheless pertinent to interpreting an intended meaning.
And I’m only mentioning here things that are overtly apparent. Some communicators precluded from Internet representation entirely (e.g., odors, flop sweat, etc.) can modify how we interpret what literally spills from the mouth. Smell-O-Vision has been talked about for years but it isn’t here yet.

Lost in transmission
It’s not just odors, of course, that are lost in transmission. The sensing devices that feed remote interviews are, by-and-large, fixed in their focus. Cameras are generally trained on the face and upper torso and rarely offer acute details of either. Microphones also tend to be focused to filter out extraneous noise, blocking metadata in the process. Because almost all transmissions involve duplex communication, there is very little by way of useful sidebar information.
In a traditional, face-to-face focus group, I can direct my visual or audio focus anywhere I want at any time. If there’s a sidebar event taking place, I can divert my attention from the primary conversation to the sidebar (and I can assure you that sidebars are frequently more interesting and relevant than the primaries). Doing this is all but impossible in a digital encounter where sidebar information, if present, is generally too indistinct or garbled to track.
A complete story
So, it happens that 40+ years of conducting marketing research studies of all types have convinced me that face-to-face inquiry is an essential part of truly understanding peoples’ thoughts, feelings and dispositions toward the products, services and communications we study in our work. To be sure, we can get a huge amount of reliable and valid information by carefully collecting data via the Internet but we won’t have a complete story until we lace in some of the richness that comes only from sitting down across from someone in the physical world and talking things through.
The problem, of course, is that face-to-face work is expensive and time-consuming. It is especially difficult when you need to talk to people who are geographically dispersed. Still, I believe leaving out face-to-face work entirely is equivalent to the drunk who looks for his lost watch under a streetlamp because that’s where the light’s best.
What I wish to advocate here is that, as an industry, we develop hybrid approaches to research that include components suited to digital research in addition to substantial face-to-face work.
A goodly number of our clients are already marrying digital and face-to-face approaches that transcend the sum of their parts to create new avenues of understanding. The surface is just being scratched, with new ways of using smartphones and tablets to gather personalized observations and bringing those observations into face-to-face settings. I believe these approaches have enormous promise for illuminating peoples’ attitudes and motivations.
Not just words
But no matter how elegantly it is done, no matter how closely the medium mimics reality, I remain convinced that if you don’t spend a good deal of time and energy on thoughtful discourse in the physical presence of your customers, you are never going to understand exactly what they are trying to tell you. Articulateness is not just a matter of words. It also comes from the way words are packaged and no emoticons – no matter how clever – can achieve the warmth of face-to-face interaction.

By Stephen Turner
Stephen Turner is chairman of Fieldwork Inc., a Chicago research company. He is based in Honolulu.
This article was originally published in December 2012 by Quirk’s Marketing Research Review. Article ID: 201206608

jueves, 19 de abril de 2012

How Simultaneous Interpreting Can Best Communicate Meaning And Nuance In Foreign-Language Focus Groups

Research practitioners know the impact that interpreting can have on work.  Poor interpretations can give clients the wrong impression as to what they are hearing and its significance. More importantly, if the QRC is not acting as the moderator nor speaks the group’s language, he or she can also be misled by inaccurate interpreting, which can skew the QRC’s final report. Thus, it is worthwhile to explore the nature of focus group interpreting and examine the benefits derived from using professional moderator-interpreter dyads to avoid the pitfalls of standard translation services. This article was selected by the American Market Association for its Resource Library.

If viewing your foreign focus groups is important to you or your clients, you may have wondered: How can we deliver the messages across the one way mirror in the way they emerge from the focus groups?

This is where simultaneous interpreting (also called simultaneous translating) comes in. As research practitioners, we know the impact that interpreting can have on our work. Poor interpretations can give clients (who are watching the groups) the wrong impression as to what they are hearing and its significance. More importantly, if the QRC is not acting as the moderator nor speaks the group’s language (which is common when American QRCs must carry out focus groups outside the U.S.), he or she can also be misled by inaccurate interpreting, which can skew the QRC’s final report. Thus, it is worthwhile to explore the nature of focus group interpreting and examine the benefits derived from using professional moderator-interpreter dyads to avoid the pitfalls of standard translation services.

Interpreting and translating can be used interchangeably. In this article, I often refer to interpreters, rather than translators, to highlight the added complexity that comes when attempting to communicate not just the words a respondent says but the fullness of meaning that can be lost on those who do not speak the language and understand the cultural references.

Before exploring how to improve the interpreting itself, we must first be aware that the message received is directly influenced both by the interpreter and by how the focus group viewers process what they see and hear. In reality, simultaneous interpreting is a complex process that occurs in the interpreters’ minds and is thus limited to their own comprehension of the group discussion and its subject matter.

We should also acknowledge that cultural barriers and the pace of simultaneous interpreting may sometimes confuse foreign viewers. The seconds in between one statement and its translation can present an obstacle to getting the message through to the back room.

Likewise, it may lead to the misinterpretation of body language or cause a viewer to lose track of which speaker the interpreter is referring to.

In fact, we cannot control the way speech is processed by the relevant parties, but we can minimize misunderstandings by helping ensure that the message is conveyed correctly. This highlights the importance of transmitting the message in its entirety, with its cultural load, feeling and intention.

In a successful simultaneous translation, the interpreter’s speech flows naturally at the pace set by the group discussion. It appears to be the result of a rare ability based primarily on intuition, instead of what it really is: the culmination of a long process in which instinct, skills and preparation converge.

Indeed, we can minimize the problems that hinder the flow of communication towards the viewing room when we acknowledge that simultaneous interpreting for focus groups is quite different from any other form of translation. To prepare for a successful interpretation experience, consider the following.

Simultaneous interpreting for focus groups requires additional preparation.

Conference and focus group interpreting demand adequate preparation. Simultaneous translators/interpreters need to study the background material and ascertain whether or not their subject knowledge is sufficient or should be brushed up in time for the event.

Preparation for a focus group, however, requires additional efforts, as the interpreter needs to thoroughly study the discussion guide (aside from other materials) so as to understand its rationale from a marketing perspective. The interpreter needs to be ready to convey the information that is of interest to the client, even if the moderator jumps from one subject to another, following the flow of ideas. Clearly, this can only be possible through conscientious preparation and two-way communication between the moderator and the project leader.

The briefing should include the interpreter.

Successful interpreting at a conference or during a focus group session must take the viewing client — and the QRC, if he or she is in the back room, rather than moderating the group — into account. Even if interpreters are properly prepared for the event, they will require briefing on the day it occurs.

During the briefing, the project leader and the moderator update the simultaneous interpreter on the latest considerations (special requirements, timetables, etc.) and offer suggestions to help the interpreter finetune the translation to the audience’s level of expertise. A focus group briefing runs much longer than a briefing for a conference, since it focuses on study objectives and identifies different considerations for each section of the questionnaire.

This is the time for interpreters to raise questions and clear up any doubts.Only in this way will the interpreter be able to capture the participants’ relevant reactions.

The interpreter’s role

When working at a conference, simultaneous interpreters aim to deliver a coherent, clean and accurate speech. For market research purposes, the emphasis falls on the ability to convey a message that is richer than the words themselves.

In this respect, simultaneous interpreting for a focus group may be much more challenging, as the interpreter must communicate not only the verbal content, but also the respondents’ impressions, their doubts and feelings, their body language and their reactions to the ideas discussed.

Thus, the interpreter conveys the multiple signals that comprise the message: the context, the line of the argument and the degree to which respondents react to a given situation. This kind of performance facilitates comprehension in the back room, allowing viewers to focus on those points that are valuable for the project. That said, however, the role of the interpreter is limited to translating what the participants say, and it is not, in any way, related to explaining or analyzing the meaning, the implications or the impact of what participants say, which is the QRC’s role.

Interpreting for focus groups

Following up and communicating a piece of conversation in a way that is meaningful for the research requires a set of skills and organizational capacity that do not compare with conference interpreters’ usual assignments, in which a single line of speech is followed. Experienced simultaneous interpreters for focus groups are used to interpreting while discussions take place amongst participants, who under normal circumstances speak simultaneously, overlap and interrupt each others’ lines of argument.

This turns interpretation into a fine art in which the simultaneous interpreter has to perfectly understand the connotative message delivered by the source speaker(s), then reconstitute it and adapt it to the audience, in its own language and in “real time,” while considering the marketing objectives.

Changing needs, changing instructions

Generally speaking, conference interpreters receive a set of instructions that remain unchanged during the assignment. Conversely, the nature of the instructions addressed to market research interpreters is dynamic and characterized by change and development; in fact, the instructions evolve with the flow of the focus group dialogue.

Furthermore, while conference interpreters normally work in an enclosure and have minimal or no interaction during their shifts, market-research simultaneous interpreters must be open to receiving input from the client or the moderator at any time. In reality, they have to be in sync with both in order to do their job properly.

Having examined the distinctive features of interpreting focus groups, and prior to assessing the improvements brought by using moderator-interpreter dyads, we should look into whether or not it is appropriate to assign all our market-research projects to the same interpreter.

Context Matters. Interpreters with Industry Experience Help.

A couple of months ago, I moderated focus groups with motorcyclists and professional racers. One of my objectives was to trigger a discussion about their motorcycles’ performance, and we expected that participants would engage passionately on the subject of mechanics. As we did not want to miss that information, the approach to the project called for a simultaneous translator who understood the mechanical jargon within the context of the racing world. I gave a clear briefing to the facility, and it hired an interpreter who did a wonderful job.

We can assume that a simultaneous translator who does a good job in one particular field may not be the best alternative to cover another. Previous experience interpreting focus groups and a degree of specialization on the subject matter to be researched are prerequisites to qualify for assignments. Not any professional interpreter will suffice.

The Moderator-Interpreter Dyad Improves the Outcome of Interpreters.

Over the years, I have become increasingly aware of the risk involved in not considering the benefits derived from mutual understanding between the moderator and the interpreter; the importance of their working synergy and alignment behind a goal is obvious when the focus groups begin.

In my view, improving the outcome of simultaneous interpreting requires a comprehensive approach, such as that provided by professional moderator-interpreter dyads. To achieve project success, it is vital that the moderator and the interpreter are acquainted with each other’s needs. Only in this manner would the interpreter be able to capture the participants’ relevant reactions. When the interpreter is familiar with the objectives of each section of the questionnaire and understands the purpose of the qualitative exercises, it is more likely that the recipients will receive meaningful information.

In fact, pairing moderators and interpreters produces an overall better result than if each professional were working toward the same goal individually. When the two prepare the session together, share their knowledge and doubts, work as a team to sharpen their abilities, and are ready to support each other if the opportunity arises, we can expect better results. For instance, the moderator can ask participants to speak louder or more slowly or to speak in turns, showing concern for the interpreter’s task. As for the interpreter, in the midst of the discussion, when everybody overlaps each other, he or she can focus on the lines of speech that are, according to the brief, more relevant to the research objectives.

Therefore, the key advantage of hiring a moderator-interpreter dyad is that two members pair up to reach a common goal: fulfilling the QRC’s designated need. Assuming that both are experienced professionals instinctively alert to their individual roles, their ability to be attuned to each other during the group discussion will result in the richly detailed and organized representation of the focus group experience that we, as practitioners, require.

Of course, moderator-interpreter dyads are not readily available everywhere, but this should not prevent practitioners from using their valuable contribution to their work at every opportunity. Essentially, these dyads are a synergistic response to the real issues posed by interpreting in the context of group discussions.

By Aníbal Marrón (1)

(1)Aníbal Marrón is Managing Director of MG Business Research Solutions and Partner at A Window. He is a consultant specialised in positioning and help organizations by suggesting actionable solutions to market situations.