From the desk of Carolyn Jillson
A friend recently lamented to me about her teenage son’s inability to conduct “real conversations.” Like many parents of tweens and teens she is concerned that texting has replaced face-to-face conversations. “How will he ever develop meaningful relationships if all he does is text?” she asked. Another friend has been exasperated at her mother’s inability to discern when to use the various communication techniques. Her mom sent a text to inform the immediate family that grandpa was close to death. But she picked up the phone to announce that paper towels were on sale and she had an extra coupon. It seems like no generation has a lock on how and when to use all the various communication tools available.
When is it best to pick up the phone and make a call instead of sending a text or an e-mail? In an era when we can communicate efficiently and accomplish so much by email, there are still occasions when having an actual conversation is the most productive and appropriate way to communicate. We find these questions come up when we are selecting qualitative research methods, but we also use a combination of communication methods behind the scenes.
An efficient recruit uses both e-mail and phone calls to screen and confirm respondents. Even when we use online recruiting methods for an online research project like bulletin boards or video diaries, we try to also do confirmation calls on the phone. We find that this personal connection with respondents elicits stronger commitments to the projects. We end up with better show rates and more enthusiastic participants.
An e-mail blast can reach many people and quickly screen out those who don’t fit the most basic requirements. It is a good way to confirm basic demographic information and check availability and interest.
Phone calls are made to confirm essential information, ask more complicated screening criteria, to do scheduling, to explain study requirements and to obtain verbal commitments to the research projects.
Automated online tech checks can be the best way to verify that people have the required hardware and software. If they don’t have required programs or latest version, links can be provided for immediate downloads.
We like to have technicians call respondents and conduct live tech checks for webcam interviews. A live technician can walk respondents through the steps of connecting a new webcam, can troubleshoot problems more easily and can insure that people get set-up with good lighting and clear sound.
E-mail creates a paper trail and an electronic filing system. This has not only eliminated the need for large stacks of paper cluttering many office desks, but enables us to quickly retrieve information.
When I find many e-mails bouncing back and forth endlessly, I pick up the phone. Phone conversations facilitate discussion when input is needed from multiple people. You can also read the tone of people’s voices and create more personal conversations on the phone.
As qualitative researchers, we are also experts in talking to your customers. We have conversations with people on a variety of platforms in order to create connections with them and discover what they do/ want/ need and why. Sometimes it’s easiest just to ask the questions while other objectives are more complex and best addressed through discussion or observation. Luckily, we have mastered a wide variety of communication platforms and we can pick and choose the appropriate combination for your qualitative research questions.