Charlotte branding agency

Want to know what your customers think about you? Then ask them.

4 Tips for Conducting In-Depth Interviews Over the Phone


For every business and every brand, ongoing in-depth research plays an essential role in helping you understand your internal audience (your team), your external audience (your customers), and your competition. Whether you are launching a new product or simply want to better understand existing brand attitudes, there are a lot of effective qualitative research tools out there. If you don’t have much time or money, however, there’s no substitute for picking up the phone.

As a Charlotte branding agency, we believe nothing beats dialing your target audience: there are no geographic limitations or travel costs, respondents can easily jump on a call at their convenience; and the interview feels more like a casual conversation – not a formal interrogation. Here are 4 tips to consider.

1. Keep it casual.

Setting a tone that encourages subjects to speak freely is critical. If you can put people at ease, you’ll have a better chance of uncovering the kind of raw, emotional insights that could inspire an entire marketing strategy. We recommend doing what’s called an in-depth unstructured interview. This style of interviewing is much more like a relaxed conversation.

That means you should have a list of questions handy, but don’t stick to the script. Your main job as an interviewer is to listen and occasionally ask probing questions to get more insight or to gently steer the conversation where you need it to go. To glean the most insight, your questions should be fluid and always changing based on the responses you get.

2. Start with easy warm-up questions.

Doing this eases the subject into the interview. We often start by asking about where they live or how long they’ve been in their current position. Not only does this give you more demographic or even psychographic information, it also provides you with fodder for directing the conversation into a more casual place before getting into the meatier questions.

This becomes much easier if you’re able to do a bit of research on the interviewee before you chat with them. Often, a quick scan of their Linkedin profile provides a great way to kick off the the interview and build rapport.

3. Go with the flow

Don’t ask a question in a way that suggests a particular answer. This might seem obvious, but when you’re deep into an interview, it’s easy to let a leading question slip out. So stay nimble and be ready to go where the conversation takes you. Listen carefully, take great notes, and be prepared to follow your interviewees wherever their stream of conscious carries them.

4. Take note of paralanguage

Paralanguage refers to all those aspects of speech which are not directly related to words – things like  intonation, pitch, tone, the volume and speed of the response, and the pauses between words. An interview is about not just what is said, but how the person is saying it. If you’re really listening, you’ll  pick up on subtle changes that can help you know when to move onto another topic or to go deeper with a more incisive line of questioning.




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