15 Ways to Conduct Successful Customer Focus Groups

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You could be an entrepreneur, running your own small business to know the thought processes of your customers. Or, you could be working for a company and have been assigned to collect some customer feedback.

A customer focus group can be defined as a well-structured discussion on some topics of interest among 6-10 persons, representing a target market. These people could be a group of potential customers or our existing customers. The purpose of customer focus groups is frequently to get a hang of their decision processes and true motives. At times, the goal is also to generate fresh product ideas or receive initial reactions to potential promotions or products, positioning strategies, brand names, and so on.

Check out these 15 ways to conduct excellent customer focus groups:

1. Ensure that the participants are representatives of the market of interest

Prothero and relevant screening questions should be used. For instance, have used the service/product a specific number of times, should have bought the product in the last 6 months.

2. Proper clarity on the purpose of a customer focus group

Never go to a focus group hoping that it will teach you something interesting. Be sure of what you want to know prior to beginning. List down a few areas (3-4) and then allocate a specific amount of time for discussing each one of them. You can begin the process with some general topics and then proceed towards more specific ones. Make a list of a few questions for each topic and move from general points to more specific. The document is a “moderator’s guide” that can be used to ensure the group is on track.

3. Focus groups should not have more than 10 participants

If there are more than 10 persons in a focus group, everyone will not get an opportunity to speak. However, it is commonplace to hire one or two extra members in case some of them do not show. However, in case more than 10 people turn up, it is better to pay them and send them back.

4. Respondents should be comfortable with one another.  It is necessary for the participants to be comfortable in the focus group. For instance, it is important to find out whether respondents from both genders are comfortable while discussing a topic together or not. In case they are not, separate groups may have to be formed.

5. Have a test run, preferably with a co-worker or a friend.  You need to make a run-through, albeit informal with somebody you can rely upon to soothe out the issues prior to going live. If you have plenty of queries or want to be certain whether you are giving time to the right kind of topics or not, it is the tie to polish your approach.

6. It makes sense to have more than a group for each target segment. If the responses coming across multiple groups are more consistent for the same target segment, you can feel more confident about the results that are obtained.  

7. Make sure that you make audio recordings of such sessions. It is essential to do so as you may not have sufficient time for taking down notes when a session is going on.

8. Begin the focus group’s session by a self-introduction. Introduce yourself and explain the main objective of the group without divulging much. Explain that all of them are expected to join the discussion but should not talk simultaneously. Make sure that they are aware that the session is being recorded. Also, give an opportunity to them for introducing themselves.

9. Abstain from asking a question, but go near each participant to get their response
Ideally, the interaction among the respondents should be like a discussion. Make sure that the group members start responding if they are too quiet.

10. Ensure that the initial few questions are easy and general
The idea behind doing so is that the initial 10 minutes should be so designed that everybody feels comfortable and starts talking.

11. Observe the facial expressions of the participants. If you look closely, you may find participants showing their reactions in different ways starting from widening their eyes, smiling, or even grimacing. You can then ask this respondent for their thoughts.

12. Appropriate probing questions should be asked after getting a response. When relevant questions are asked, respondents will be more inclined to clarify and reveal their true feelings.

13. Sometimes, it is imperative to play the devil’s advocate to help in force discussion
You may ask the respondents their thought on what others like them feel. Very often, participants are more eager to speak about others rather than themselves.

14. Make sure that even the quieter respondents participate by making eye contact with them while asking a question

You need to ensure that everyone is contributing to your customer focus groups. You can prod them by asking specific questions and addressing them directly.

15. Show flexibility. Do not be too rigid by blindly following the moderator’s guide. Based n the discussion, you may have to change the sequence of questioning, spend less or time on a certain topic, add or rephrase questions.

Customer focus groups can offer valuable data through the knowledge base and are not tough to conduct provided you are certain of what you want to achieve from them. You need to select the participants and plan the groups accordingly.

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TechFond - Latest Technology | Analysis | Enterprise | Startups | Product Reviews | How Tos: 15 Ways to Conduct Successful Customer Focus Groups
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