Focus Group Definition.
A focus group is basically research that organizations do to gather information about customer perspectives and opinions about new ideas, products or services either being offered or in the product development stage. Focus group participants are asked questions in an interactive setting and are encouraged to discuss thoughts freely with other participants. The open and free discussions typically generate ideas and can provide a wealth of information for the business or organization.
When to Use a Focus Group.
Organizations use focus groups to gather customer insight into current or prospective products, services or ideas. Determining when to use focus group interviews should be part of a customer service, marketing or product development strategy and should have very defined goals. For example, I worked with a pediatric hospital that was trying to improve the customer experience for parents of hospitalized children. We performed a focus group and gleaned information from parents about the accommodations that were available for parents. The results of the focus group interviews helped us design parent lounges that met the unique needs of parents who often spend days, weeks or even months in the hospital with a sick child.
What is the Purpose of a Focus Group?
Focus group research is used to develop or improve products or services. The main purpose is to provide data to enhance, change or create a product or service targeted at a key customer group. The above example targeted improving the experience of parents of sick children. The value of the information gathered is dependent on defined objectives and the preparation done prior to conducting the focus group interviews.
What are the Different Types of Focus Groups?
There can be focus groups for about anything – product focus groups, customer improvement focus groups or merely idea generation. So whether your organization is developing a new website, wanting feedback on the customer service of the organization or simply trying to find new ways to improve the employee experience – a well planned focus group with clear objectives can help flush out the answers.
How Many People Should Participate in a Focus Group?
The whole point of gathering participants is to get as many different ideas and perspectives as possible, so having too many people can limit the ability to get ideas from all participants. Keep in mind that more is not necessarily better in this case. The ideal size group is 8-10 people depending on the demographic and topic being researched. Group sizes can be as many as 12-15 participants but requires a strong moderator to facilitate that many people. Focus group participants should be selected based on their familiarity with a product, service or purchasing behaviors. It is also recommended to facilitate three or four different groups to ensure a good respondent mix of perspectives and ideas.
Focus Group Sample Questions.
Questions asked of group participants should be based on the objectives of the project. For example, if the focus group objective is to determine why customers do not use a dry cleaner delivery service, questions might be:
- What is your knowledge of the delivery service availability?
- What is your understanding of the service?
- What is your perception of the cost of the service?
- Can you tell us about your experience when using the delivery service?
Paying someone outside of the organization to facilitate a focus group typically provides the most objective results but can be a financial investment. There are also certain demographics of customers that may require a fee for participation which can increase the budget for the research. For this reason, it is important to develop a focus group plan with very defined objectives before investing in this type of customer research.
If you would like more information on how The Thriving Small Business can help you plan and facilitate a customized focus group, please complete the following and we’d be happy to assist you.
photo by: Duke Energy