Mastering Focus Groups and Depth Interviews: A Practitioner’s Guide and How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer? Using Journey Mapping to Drive Customer-Focused Change

Reviewed by Susan Fader Fader & Associates Teaneck, NJ susanfader@faderfocus.com

Reviewed by Susan Fader, Fader & Associates, Teaneck, NJ, susanfader@faderfocus.com

Mastering Focus Groups and Depth Interviews: A Practitioner’s Guide by Roger A. Straus, PhD, Paramount Market Publishing, 2019

How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer? Using Journey Mapping to Drive Customer-Focused Change by Jim Tincher and Nicole Newton, Paramount Market Publishing, 2019

It takes a lot of skill to field market research properly. Both books drive this point home but focus on different aspects. The first provides an overview of qualitative research and the second provides a deep dive into CX (Customer Experience) through journey mapping.

Roger A. Straus, the author of Mastering Focus Groups and Depth Interviews: A Practitioner’s Guide, has a PhD in sociology and is an experienced focus group moderator and in-depth interviewer who has designed and fielded many qualitative studies across categories and demographics. He has both client and custom research supplier experience.

Straus has distilled his decades of experience into his book. The genesis for the book is Straus’ belief that many non-qualitative researchers who commission qualitative research insist on a specific design study that is not the best match and/or are leaning toward do-it-yourself (DIY) approaches. He believes they don’t have a true understanding of the skills and all the moving parts that go into both deciding and designing the best qualitative methodology, which lead to a well-executed qualitative research study. While the catalyst for this attitude may be perceived cost and/or time savings, Straus believes the problem is that they don’t recognize the skills required to be an expert qualitative researcher, partially because seasoned professionals make it look easy, effortless even, to craft the optimal qualitative research design.

Straus provides a good overview of the pros and cons of different types of qualitative research—in person, online, phone—and provides a detailed outline of how to execute each. Two chapters in the book, “Success Strategies for Moderators” and “Session Design Principles,” may be good refreshers for any moderator/interviewer, regardless of their experience level, but the book’s main target audiences appear to be people beginning their careers as qualitative researchers and users of focus groups outside of just the market research context—basically anyone who uses or wants to use focus groups for applied research.

How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer? Using Journey Mapping to Drive Customer-
Focused Change,
by Jim Tincher and Nicole Newton, is more specialized. The authors both had solid CX experience at large corporations before moving to their current company, Heart of the Company, where the main focus is on CX/journey mapping. Tincher is currently the mapper-in-chief, and Newton, who is also a RIVA-trained focus group moderator, is their B2B practice leader.

Like Straus’ book, experienced market researchers do not appear to be the book’s primary target, even though they would benefit from reading it. Instead, the primary targets appear to be a mixture of people not directly involved in market research, but whose businesses would benefit from journey mapping, and researchers who focus on CX.

While the focus is on how to use and create journey maps that lead to changes within an organization/company, many lessons and ideas can be extrapolated and applied as a way to enhance a qualitative researcher’s journey mapping tools on any topic where journey mapping may be beneficial.

The book is also interesting in that it touches on a very relevant discussion in the world of market research—are CX, or even UX (user experience), part of traditional market research or are they silos unto themselves outside of traditional market research? Ray Poynter, a thought leader in the world of British market research, recently addressed this head on in a LinkedIn post: “But that (CX and UX) IS MARKET RESEARCH! I have noticed more and more people defining what they are doing as ‘not market research.’ For example, UX researchers running a focus group, CX researchers using surveys…But! To me all of these are market research, which is why I think we need to re-think the branding.”

How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer? is many books in one: an excellent primer on journey mapping; an insight into how those who see themselves as CX experts perceive themselves to be outside traditional market research; and perhaps a catalyst for traditional qualitative researchers to begin to better incorporate the CX perspective into how they position themselves.

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