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Tips for Managing the Virtual Backroom

As experienced qualitative consultants well know, the consumer discussion is only one piece of research engagements requiring careful management. The backroom, and the clients in it, also require the consultant’s attention, expertise, and tact before, during, and after the participant involvement.  

Just as managing the backroom during in-person qualitative can come with its own challenges, so is the case with online and mobile qualitative work. The need for client attention doesn’t vanish simply because the group isn’t physically together. In fact, client care and communication should likely increase to help bridge a geographic gap, ensure key points are understood, and help the team stay aligned throughout the fieldwork. 

While every project, client team, and specific online approach will have their own nuances for consultants to navigate when it comes to when, where, and how often touchpoints occur, here are our overarching suggestions for managing the virtual backroom.

Tips for managing the virtual backroom:

1.      Walk through the platform

Prior to the fieldwork, if the client is new to the approach or platform that will be used, provide a demonstration to help ensure client comfort, answer initial questions, and give an overview of how the backroom works throughout the engagement.

2.      Find an ally

During the fieldwork, assign a backroom point person to manage the team’s comments, probes, etc. Like in-person qualitative, a client team member very familiar with the objectives and discussion guide is a valuable filter of backroom feedback – particularly as the backroom often includes clients with varying degrees of familiarity with the work.

3.      Leverage tool features

Most platforms for online qualitative offer a variety of features to help moderators keep an eye on the backroom throughout the engagement without taking attention away from the participants. Ensuring you are aware of the tools available and know how to maximize them prior to the first session will lessen the risk of overlooking client comments and questions when the session gets hectic. 

4.      Deliver daily downloads

Debrief after each session/day, ideally with the full client team. Don’t stress about this taking place via teleconference or webcam discussions rather than in-person; the conversation is the important piece, no matter how or where it happens. Taking the time to share immediate takeaways and hypotheses is helpful for both the research team and the client team. And, it’s especially valuable if the fieldwork spans multiple sessions, since learnings from each session may impact the discussion content and/or flow of those that follow.

5.      Don’t skip the final debrief

As with in-person qualitative, the final debrief is a key part of the engagement: the consultant’s opportunity to synthesize the data into digestible and impactful points for the client team. Book this important discussion for a time that all stakeholders can fully engage, even if it means putting it on the calendar for a day or two after the fieldwork concludes.

As with all qualitative work, consultants will rely on a mix of expertise and instinct to deliver the right degree and type of client communication throughout each engagement. However, the recommendations presented above will no doubt be a useful starting point. For even more information about managing the backroom during a study, Insights in Marketing can help! Contact us today to learn more.

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