I love my job...
as a depth interviewer
Doing depths is so much better than sitting at a desk, on or off a telephone; so much better than looking at, or specifying data tables; so much better than sitting in endless meetings with colleagues or client. Why on earth does anyone in research want to do anything else?
Doing depths means you meet people. And I’m sorry, maybe there are those who like chatting to strangers on the phone, but you can’t get to know someone like you can sitting in their front room, office or whatever, sharing a coffee and having a chat.
Doing depths means you go places – all right so it’s more likely to be Brussels than Bangkok, and more likely to be Birmingham than Brussels, but it’s better than the same old wall all day every day, and sometimes it’s fascinating. And sometimes it is Bangkok.
Doing depths means you can pry into respondents’ lives, and for every one that’s a boring pen-pushing finance manager or a bored housewife, there’s at least half a one who’s got some stories to tell or who’ll provide you with a real insight into a way of life, or an unusual mentality, or a weird and wonderful sector of industry about which you knew nothing when you started the project three weeks ago.
Doing depths means flying the flag for MR – it means the acceptable nervousness of starting an interview with a sceptic, or an anti-marketing nerd, or a very busy businessman, followed by the sheer satisfaction of making a convert – ‘that wasn’t bad after all’ or ‘I’ve enjoyed this’ or even ‘That’s really been useful’ – being interviewed or prompted helps people think about things they wouldn’t otherwise find time for or see in the same way.
Once you’ve got over the nervousness of the first few dozen, depths are something you can take pride in, and build on: I’m still getting better at depths after thousands of interviews, and whereas I still do a mix of respondent types I’m now trusted to interview anyone any time. The agencies I work for respect what I bring to the party and I’m treated as a senior member of the team, but I have much more flexibility than the bored execs I’m sometimes briefed by.
I remember being a little surprised, when I first got into depths, that such a career existed. Do you honestly mean that people will pay you to go and talk to people who have been pre-identified as happy to talk to you, about fairly interesting subjects, and that the mugs will take over all the analysis and reporting for you afterwards, so you can go and talk to some more? Blooming marvellous. Next please!
as a depth interviewer!
Don’t go thinking that face to face depths are all fun and games – they may seem preferable to telephone interviews and arguably they are, but they offer the humble market researcher great potential for suffering. Here are ten of my worst opening lines from a twenty-five year career in consumer, b2b, medical and other research – some of them with brackets underlining the reasons why they cause one’s heart to sink into one’s boots:
- ‘I forget what your colleague said on the ‘phone, but I do hope this isn’t going to take more than 3 minutes as I have a meeting’ [45 minute interview combining topic guide with ‘pre-completed’ grid of company data]
- ‘I’ve asked the Chairman, Managing Director and the Divisional CEOs to sit in on this one, because the relationship with NatWest is very important to us, and if we like the proposal we’ll probably sign up for this today’ [junior interviewer with vague but technical concepts for early development, on showcards, first interview of project]
- ‘I don’t know why I said Yes to this because I hate research’.
- ‘Lord knows why they’ve paid you b**ody management consultants an arm and a leg to come all the way out to China to ask a bunch of questions when we could have told them the answers ourselves – but fire away, I’ll try to be helpful...’ [internal interview with ex-pat country manager for client organisation]
- ‘Don’t want to answer that, try the next question… Nope… No… This isn’t going to work’.
- ‘I can’t seem to rouse him – heavy night - but have a go yourself while I get you a coffee – bedroom’s in there’ [student’s punk girlfriend in North London bedsit]
- ‘I hope we don’t need a computer or anything [for this web site assessment accompanied surf interview] because mine’s bust’.
- ‘I was supposed to do this in a free period but a colleague is off sick and I’ve got 3B – but you can come and talk to the class about what you’re doing and why the government is interested in our views anyway. I’m sure the [fifteen-year-old East London comprehensive] girls will be interested...’
- ‘I don’t know how much your tape recorder’s going to get of this, given the canteen / trading floor / fruit market / accident & emergency ward / tropical storm in the background, but you can just write fast, can’t you?’
- ‘You can talk to the radio operator but he’s a Filipino and doesn’t speak any English. Or you can talk to me, but I don’t know anything about the radio… I’m sure we can answer all your questions between us’.