Customer focus groups are a popular way to obtain feedback, but they too can be very expensive. These groups are very effective for gathering information on customer expectations and requirements.
Surveying a focus group is a research method used to find out what customers are really thinking. A group of customers is assembled in a meeting room to answer a series of questions. These carefully structured questions are asked by a skilled moderator who probes into the participants’ thoughts, ideas, perceptions or comments. The moderator has a clear understanding of the type of information wanted and a plan for obtaining it. Meetings are designed to focus on the current, proposed and future products and services. The people selected to participate have the same profile as the customers that the organisation is trying to attract. As an incentive to participation, these people are reimbursed for their time. Focus groups are sometimes used with an organisation’s employees to examine internal issues.
Imprint analysis is an emerging technique used in focus groups. This is a good way to obtain the intrinsic feelings associated with a product or service. Feelings are not as easily obtained from customer questionnaires because customers often hold back information on surveys. Word association, discussions and relaxation techniques can identify a customer’s emerging needs, even if the participants are unable to directly articulate those needs. Imprint analysis helps in understanding the human emotions involved in a purchase decision. For instance, a major ice cream company discovered through customer satisfaction surveys that their customers wanted to eat healthier. Before implementing a line of low fat ice cream, the company decided to do an imprint analysis. The imprint analysis discovered that these customers would consume low fat foods and deprive themselves of desserts during the week. But on the weekends, these same people wanted a super rich ice cream, containing more fat than any ice cream presently on the market. These customers wanted to reward themselves for eating healthy during the week. Needless to say, the ice cream company launched a new, full fat and extra creamy product and sold it at a premium. Their market share increased significantly, creating many loyal customers due to the extra insight that the imprint analysis provided.