The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster. Offices closing, employees working from home, and concerns about COVID-19 are among the many new realities organizations face. As harrowing as they are, don’t let the present operational decisions threaten your sense of control and leave you making decisions in the dark.

Thriving through change, rather than just surviving, requires (virtually) capturing t­he voice of your employees and customers, especially now that you can’t just walk the halls or show up at a store to see how things are going. These insights are valuable for your strategic decisions, and their engagement is critical to coming out of the present situation stronger than ever.

When your “new normal” arrives – and it will – consider how hearing from your employees and customers today will set you on course for:

  • Driving a way forward that inspires your people
  • Defining or reinvigorating your company’s culture so it maximizes innovation and productivity
  • Equipping managers to lead from a place of strength
  • Implementing effective and hoped-for systems or technology
  • Solidifying your customers’ loyalty, brand awareness, and excitement for the products they’re eager to spend their hard-earned money on

With methods for virtual data gathering, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) pause your strategy or wait to discover what your people are experiencing on the front lines of your organization. In addition to conducting interviews by phone or video conference, Root can quickly gather observational and group data even when we can’t be there in person. These methods are cost- and time-effective, and they make people feel comfortable and connected to their organization or brand even as they’re quarantined at home.

 Digital ethnography 

  • What is it?
    • A smartphone-based app that gathers insights through video, photos, and open-ended responses, in addition to traditional survey question formats
  • How does it work?
    • Respondents are prompted by push notifications to respond to various questions in the app each day
    • Captures in-the-moment, in-the-emotion insights
  • What are the advantages?
    • Traditional surveys are tiresome, so engage your people in a variety of ways for deeper insights. Possible types of data include video, photo, responses to multiple choice and short open-ended questions, and numeric ratings
    • Participation over multiple days reduces the burden on respondents and provides leaders with a fuller picture of people’s daily habits or experiences
    • Take the long view: You can “tag along” with respondents for days, weeks – even months!
  • What types of projects is it best for?
    • Journal or diary studies: See what it’s really like to be a customer in your industry
    • Shopalongs and the pathway to purchase: Understand the moments that matter when consumers are buying your product
    • Diagnosis journeys: Better understand respondent emotions following a diagnosis and the steps required to manage a patient’s illness
    • Product usage: See how and where consumers use a product
    • Hybrid: Use as a supplement to in-person visits in order to “follow” additional respondents selected from a larger sample

 Virtual focus groups

  • What are they?
    • Virtual focus groups gather insights from small groups of people digitally rather than in person; typically, through WebEx, Zoom, or other online platforms
  • How do they work?
    • Respondents use webcams and experience a “small group feel” from the comfort of their home or office
    • Screen sharing engages respondents through interactive activities and brainstorming (such as viewing video, polling, sorting, or responding to rating questions as a group)
    • Creates a non-threatening group environment that facilitates openness and sharing
  • What are the advantages?
    • Convenience: Respondents can participate from any location…even their couch!
    • Flexibility: Can easily shift dates, unlike in-person groups that require travel planning
    • Representation of geographically dispersed respondents: Can get a much more representative sample when you’re not limited by the number of sites (typically due to timing and budget concerns)
  • What types of projects are they best for?
    • Appropriate for a vast majority of industries and projects, but here are a few for which they work especially well:
      • Customer insights: Gauge your customers’ honest thoughts and opinions
      • Discovery with front-line or manager-level participants: Understand your current culture and leadership behaviors
      • User research: Get reactions to a new technology implementation or a recent tech rollout

In changing and uncertain times, we need methods that are fast and flexible. Virtual discovery allows you to regain control and proactively move forward with a full body of insights at your disposal. Looking beyond COVID-19, the use of online methods for this kind of data gathering will be increasingly common. What tools are you using to keep a pulse on your people and customers?

Contact: Dr. Kari Terzino, Senior Director of Insights,, 419-725-1108

March 24, 2020

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