Get to Know the Customer Environment

In-Context Interviews (ICI’s) take place in the context of where a product or service is used or purchased. A key objective in choosing this methodology is to observe and understand the habits, practices and motivations of your target audience as they are using or choosing your product or service. They are sometimes called in-home interviews when they take place in a consumer’s home or in-store interviews when they take place in a shopping location. They can be as brief as a ten minute conversation at a store-shelf or as long as a three hour discussion in someone’s home. Learn More (Case Study)

Helpful Hints for Successful In-Context Interviews

  • Be curious –  don’t be afraid to dig around and ask the obvious question. A question to which you think you know the answer may uncover a valuable insight. Usually the individual you are interviewing wants to help you and is willing to explain their motivations, behaviors and rationale.
  • Video and audio tape the interviews –  this practice provides a record of the interview and allows you to go back and review. Be sure to ask permission before you start the cameras rolling. Having access to editing equipment can allow you to add video clips to your summaries and presentations.
  • Male / Female Teams – this is a good idea for in-home interviews. Two males entering a woman’s home could make her feel uncomfortable. Also, men and women approach situations differently; the diversity in the team can be helpful for uncovering insights.
  • Check directions and have a phone number –  facilities usually do a good job at providing accurate directions. However, in a few situations, we had trouble finding someone’s home and needed to call.
  • Be a good guest. Lastly, remember you are a guest in someone else’s home. Be kind, considerate and gracious.

Can’t Do an ICI? Technology can help.

Sometimes an in-context interview may not be feasible for your research plan. If you have recruited respondents for a single focus group or repeated sessions (whether in-person or online), have them take you to the context where they use your product with their smartphone. Give them instructions to capture what they are doing before, during and after using your product. Have them record their thoughts and emotions in their smartphone journal video entry. They can then upload their smartphone video before the research.

What do you look for in an ICI?

The following is a list of things I pay attention to during an in-home interview:

  • How events and unexpected circumstances affect their lives and your product’s usage
  • What impact do other members of their household have on their product or service usage and their decision-making
  • Uncover the reasoning and rationale for their product choice and how they use their product
  • Identify any compensating behaviors (steps they may take to alter the product or service so that it works better for them)
  • Observe the obvious (where are things located, what catches their eye in the aisle, how much time does the task take, how much time do they spend shopping)