Shahzad Qureshi (April 14, 2015)
An important aspect for any company is to find out the current needs and wants of customers in a particular market. Companies around the world allocate millions of dollars for market research since it is paramount to creating a customer-centric product or service. The competitive environment of today’s global market has promoted the notion that customer is king; hence products and services have to be designed keeping in view the demands and wants of customers. Conventional marketing research methodologies including market surveys, questionnaires and demographic studies provide insightful information, which is mainly quantitative in nature. Focus groups, however, are most often conducted in purpose built facilities, which enable a company’s decision makers to observe discussions in real time.
A Focus group is a type of qualitative research methodology, which primarily aims to gain insightful information about customer perception, opinion, belief and attitude towards a particular product or service. Focus groups are an emerging trend in the world of market research and customer feedback. They involve a group of interacting individuals, who are chosen based on a demographic analysis. These individuals have some demographic trait in common, which allows them to find common ground and actively participate in a discussion. The discussion is kept on track by a moderator’s involvement, which ensures that the interactions generate information about a specific or focused issue. The moderator’s job is to guide the participants towards openly discussing the issue at hand. This is done by creating an environment which promotes and permits everyone to present their line of thinking backed by reasons. It must be made sure that the moderator does not push for a consensus and lead the discussion in a systematic manner without any bias. Focus groups produce the best result if the moderator continually engages participants, while not allowing the conversation to deviate from the issue at hand. The data because it is directly coming from customers helps generate new ideas that can be beneficial for the decision makers in a company.
After the focus group has concluded, all the collected information is meticulously organized and analyzed to find clues and insights which could lead to new product development or improvements in current products or services.
The dynamic nature of Focus groups enables the marketing team to capture insightful information about consumer perception, purchasing habits, behaviors and reservations about certain products or services. This research approach provides quantitative data, which is more useful for product development purposes, since it deals with exact wants and needs of customers as opposed to numbers and stats which are of limited use. It is one of the quickest research methodologies, since it can be concluded in days or even hours. On the other hand, other data collecting approaches like surveys can take up months to complete. Some Focus groups have the capability to measure and assess the customer reaction before the product/service is launched, hence potentially help save millions of dollars if the product/service is flawed. Moreover, they offer immediate feedback and ideas for improvement without launching the product at a large scale. Additionally, Focus groups help determine the needs and preferences of end-users or problems they might be facing. In addition to verbal interactions, companies can also record non-verbal responses such as body language and facial expressions which provide an added advantage to analyze responses.
Effective feedback mechanisms and recognizing a customer’s voice is an integral part of delivering high quality customer service experience, especially for businesses in the service sector. Focus groups can be effectively used to improve customer service standards, as it can offer qualitative feedback and suggestions regarding the customer service of a company.
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