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When It Comes to Your Company, What’s Worth More to You — Any Feedback or Honest Feedback?


Whether you’re working on a new initiative or simply haven’t heard the voice of your customers (or employees) lately — now is the time to check in.

And that’s where in-depth interviews (IDIs) can be invaluable.

IDIs helped our client avoid a near disaster

Recently, we conducted IDIs for a large manufacturer looking to increase sales in emerging industries. We talked to their field salespeople and customers to gather opinions on what the most lucrative industries might be.

Through these conversations, we uncovered something important and unexpected. They revealed a dire need for improved customer service as well as more support for key sales people. This was something the moderator skillfully honed in on by probing particular comments and allowing respondents to feel uninhibited in their feedback.

This would have been nearly impossible to achieve if the company had conducted the interviews themselves since many people expressed they had not felt comfortable talking directly to company employees.

It became clear that crucial needs were not being met. A couple of big accounts were considering changing suppliers. The company had gotten out of touch with their market. And luckily, we brought them right back.

In this case, IDIs were a true life saver. We gave the manufacturer very specific feedback on critical issues they could quickly act upon.

Why use third-party professionals? (READ: Not your internal staff)

  • Respondents need to feel safe and comfortable giving their honest opinion. They’re much more likely to be open with an objective outsider who won’t take negative feedback personally. Or — in the case of employees – doesn’t influence their job security.
  • A skilled moderator can relate to all types of people in a likeable, genuine way. That means adjusting their approach and vernacular to fit the respondent and subject matter — whether it’s Jane the full time mom, Ron the factory foreman or Dave the C-level executive.
  • Special care is required for people who are frustrated and just want to vent as well as those who are excessively chatty. A seasoned interviewer keeps respondents on topic and extracts valuable information, yet doesn’t stifle their need for expression. This is an acquired skill that can only come from conducting a lot of interviews with a lot of people.

Without question, a worthwhile investment

Yes, bringing in outside consultants is more costly than having your intern call a few customers. But in reality it’s a bargain… if compared to the sales lost when a big customer drops you– or the sleep you’ll lose when senior management wants to know why you didn’t see it coming.

About the Author

At Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm, I specialize in probing the minds of consumers and professionals -- revealing what truly matters to them...and why. Find me on LinkedIn.


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