In-depth interviews using a virtual meeting/video meeting
In-depth interviews have normally been undertaken using a qualitative style of interview technique during face to face meetings with the client. In the current coronavirus pandemic, and in the period afterwards, this may no longer be possible and if an in-depth interview is needed, it’s likely to be conducted over a video conference call using Skype, Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or other online meeting software.
This approach to the in-person interview and the relative [perceived] closeness of the parties during a video call may put unexpected strains on both the interviewer and client if they are unfamiliar with the use of such technology, and have an unintended effect upon the interview. No longer can an interviewer, who when invited into a client’s meeting room (where they can assess and organise the room layout for the optimum interview) feel quite so organised!
In-depth interviews are often conducted with VIPs, key accounts, and important clients. As such, these interviews are usually undertaken with a relatively small sample of clients to get useful insights and opinions from respondents in their own words. The respondent may not be familiar with being interviewed during a video call.
Whilst an in-person interview is normally extremely flexible, as a skilled interviewer will allow the participant to cover the topics that they wish to, while concurrently observing body language and other non-audible clues to steer the conversation appropriately, it’s not so easy using software. Experienced interviewers who have been used to doing this in person will have to adapt their approach as they develop experience in conducting these conversations remotely with the new technology.
The challenges to interviewing via phone or video link
Unexpected challenges may confront the interviewer, such as how is the interview to be recorded? Software makes this very easy, but how will the client feel about appearing on a video? Automatic transcription services within the software (e.g. in Teams) are also easy to use, but cannot be relied upon to capture nuances, rhetoric or innuendo.
Interviewers will also need to be aware that some clients (who may be working from home) may join the interview via a VPN connection, and that VPN connections may be subject to an unexpected drop out at a crucial moment – which may take up to 2 minutes to reconnect. Sound quality can sometimes be an issue on a congested VPN connection to a home, if this is the case you may need to mute the video link sound and use a mobile phone for the voice element of the interview.
Consider too, how you would facilitate the video interview if the client asked a second person to join the interview.
Creating new best practices
If many interviews are to be undertaken, probably by several interviewers, a discussion guide will be needed to maintain consistency in the structure of the meetings and conversations, particularly as the video interview could suddenly become more structured – almost like a semi-structured telephone interview.
The choice of interviewer, and the effectiveness of their online meeting technology can be key to the effectiveness of these interviews. For example, they could now be undertaken by an experienced staff member or an experienced client feedback interviewer using the online meeting technology to record the conversation (with the client's permission) to assist with the note-taking. These interviewers will be independent from relationship management or service delivery teams so that they can focus on undertaking a client listening meeting and feeding back to the relationship owner to take effective follow-up.
Meeting timings are likely to change too – in a typical hour slot, time is normally taken up arriving in the meeting room, sharing tea/coffee, introductions, etc. – in a video call the start can be a lot faster – how will you socialise the client, building rapport and empathy before starting the interview.
The rationale for in-depth virtual/video interviews includes:
Undertaking an in-depth conversation allowing the client to be involved in driving the agenda
Using a video meeting or conference facility where body language can be observed
Demonstrating to a client that they are valued and their opinion is important
The likelihood of a high completion rate.
By contrast, in-person virtual/video interviews have constraints:
They may be time-consuming for both you and the client, although a lot less so for the interviewer who has not had to travel to undertake the in-person interview
It may be potentially challenging to undertake interviews remotely using video technology
It is possible for the interviewee or interviewer to influence the type of feedback received with the agenda that they follow. For example, if time constraints limit the desired discussion points.
Become familiar with your online meeting technology – test out all of the functionality (recording, transcription, pausing the call)
Be ready for unexpected technical challenges (dropped VPN connection, poor sound quality, etc.). Have a mobile phone ready to use
Determine how you will manage the time element of the interview – particularly if time has been lost during the initial stages of the interview due to technical reasons
Ensure you have a bottle of water ready if you get thirsty
Work out how to socialise the client and build rapport at the start. How will you seek permission to record the interview etc?
Download a copy of the checklist.
Continue the discussion
If you’re interested in understanding the process of client feedback to a greater extent or are interested in initiating or scaling up a client feedback programme in your firm, get in touch with our team who will be happy to talk further to assist you and to share our experiences.