Best Practices for Overcoming Challenges in Expert Interviews for Primary Research

Expert Interviews

Research is the most cardinal component of businesses, irrespective of the domain. As per a study by Greenbook, 85% of market research professionals use qualitative research methods as a part of their approach, and expert interviews happen to be a dominant qualitative technique. The relevance of empirical expert interviews as part of primary research is apparent for companies to obtain valuable information on the market, consumers, products, and services with an unwavering aim to discover the unknown and tap into the expert’s insider knowledge. However, the challenge is to choose the right expert.

What sets them apart?

Engaging in in-depth conversations with experts facilitates ruling out assumptions, fact-checking, addressing research gaps, and posing relevant questions. It expedites the identification of challenges and priorities that may not be obvious to outsiders, thereby streamlining the research process. The plus point is that experts are quick to introduce interviewers to the technical vocabulary of industry geniuses.

Major problems faced by interviewers

  • From finding the right experts and contacting them to scheduling interviews as per their availability and managing their time constraints, it’s not a cakewalk.
  • Experts often have their own personal experiences, biases and perspectives that can influence their responses. Interviewers need to be aware of the potential biases and plumb deeper to understand the topic.
  • Managing complex and technical information can be quite a task, interviewers must ensure they have sufficient knowledge to pose the right questions for relevant insights.
  • Diverse opinions and perspectives through multiple expert interviews can become difficult to synthesise. Therefore, the challenges lie in extracting valuable insights and identifying common trends.

Best practices that can be leveraged by interviewers.

  • Rigorous research and Evaluation of Experts:

This is the chief factor that must not be disregarded. It’s essential to spend adequate time researching and assessing experts to ensure their qualifications, subject matter expertise and history are in check with the primary requirements of the study. The interviewers must be familiar with the expert’s background, achievements, and industry experience, enabling them to ask relevant questions that also somehow reflect their interests and preparation. Engaging with experts with suitable credentials not only enhances the quality but also the reliability of the insights provided.

  • Clearly Define the Purpose of the interview:

Before the interviews commences, the objectives of the interview must be clearly explicated to gauge maximum relevance and benefit from insights. This includes details about what is to be achieved or interpreted from the discussion, and the areas where expert input can deliver the maximum value. Clearly defined objectives also help structure the questions and guide the conversation seamlessly.

  • Prepare focused questions:

Leveraging the purpose of the interview to pull out invaluable insights from experts, a list of well-thought-out questions must be prepared beforehand. The questionnaire must be tailored to the expert’s knowledge and competence, along with the study’s challenges or opportunities being addressed. The idea is, to begin with broader, open-ended questions to encourage detailed responses, and gradually follow up with probing questions to delve deeper into distinct topics. This ensures a captivating discussion that generates deeper insights and enables experts to provide more actionable recommendations.

  • Active listening and Comfortable Environment:

In the course of the discussion, interviewers must stay all ears to the experts to avoid skipping crucial pointers. They must also avoid unnecessary interruptions and provide ample time and room for the expert to comprehensively express their insights and viewpoints, so they feel valued. It’s always good to take notes of important details and follow-up questions to remove traces of any doubts and confusion. A collaborative, comfortable environment and a free flow of thought-sharing are the mainstays of any quality conversation.

  • Seek clarification:

If complex or technical concepts are discussed, one must not hesitate to ask for clarification. Experts are accustomed to their field’s jargon and may unintentionally assume certain knowledge on the interviewer’s part. Asking for clarification indicates the activeness of interviewers and ensures they understand information more accurately.

  • Safeguard Confidentiality:

When engaging with experts, ensuring confidentiality is vital as it fosters trust, encourages open communication, and protects sensitive information. By ensuring confidentiality, experts feel confident and are more likely to share their insights and perspectives more freely, and it also safeguards the expert’s/proprietary identity, allowing them to speak candidly without fear of repercussions. Overall, it upholds the principle of privacy and ethical standards, maintains professional relationships, and ensures the integrity of the research process.

  • Express gratitude and Build Lasting Relationships:

Once the interview concludes, it’s thoughtful to express gratitude for the expert’s time and insights and maintain follow-ups to ensure a bond that lasts beyond the interview. If appropriate, share with the expert any relevant findings or insights from the interview once the information has been analysed or even published. Remember, maintaining rapport also benefits in the long run, whenever the need arises.

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