July 4th is the annual date of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The contest pits competitive eaters against one another, seeing who can eat the largest number of hot dogs (with buns) during the ten-minute regulation time.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach, if your objective is to down the maximum number of hot dogs. Quantitative is the way to go, if your over-arching question is, “how many?” But if what you want to do is savour each dog, explore the taste carefully, compare varieties, or experiment with the effects you can get on taste by changing the toppings, then this isn’t the methodology for you. Similarly, if you want to probe deeply into what your customers believe, and why, then asking them to plow through a plethora of questions over the shortest period of time is not the best way to go. Instead, carefully select a small sample of customers, each with some special characteristics. Have a few questions on hand that are vital, high-level, conceptual questions. Then let a skilled moderator or facilitator keep the conversation going…but count on your customer to do most of the talking, while you concentrate on listening, learning, and figuring out how you can address their kudos, queries, or concerns.
Listening to one frank comment at a time,
Megann and Steve