Recruitment Perspectives

Remote as the new reality

In our next Perspectives series, we’re exploring one of the most challenging aspects B2B researchers and their clients face today: recruitment. For the next three installments, we’re sharing different takes on a range recruitment-related topics from Thinkpiece’s CEO, Bonnie Dibling; our rock-star field manager, Cori Bussetti; our lead healthcare researcher, Nancy Miller; and our technology moderator, Chris Dethlof.

In the first of our recruitment series, we’re wondering if remote is the new normal that we all need to accept.

The Question
Should B2B market researchers and their clients fully embrace remote interviews and focus groups?

While there are some instances where in-person is preferable, enticing people to physically show up is more difficult than ever. The cost savings, convenience, and reach of remote interviews and focus groups offer clear and compelling recruitment advantages that are winning clients over.

CEO Perspective
“For highly specialized professional B2B audiences, in-person is pretty much over with. If you want to attract audiences to show up in-person, you’ll need to find creative ways to do so.”— Bonnie Dibling, CEO

For highly specialized audiences like the ones we work with — specialized doctors and technologists — you can pretty much forget about in-person interviews and focus groups.

These professionals simply don’t have the time or the inclination to set aside a few hours of their day to drive to and from a facility and sit in a room. For these high-level audiences, interviews have to be completed around their schedules, not the other way around. So remote provides that convenience and flexibility.

This is true for our specialized B2B audiences, but I see this as true for Gen Z as well. How are you going to get a Gen Z’er to show up for an in-person interview, when they live and breathe online 24/7? I see this as being a big emerging challenge for researchers who need access to this younger audience.

That being said, there are some modalities of research that are better when done in person — mock debates, for instance. You simply won’t have the same level of engagement for that kind of group online.

Clients who want to do in-person will have to be willing to pay participants more for their time. You’re also going to have to get more creative and innovative with the format of in-person focus groups to entice respondents to come. They have to be fun, engaging, but also worth the participants’ time in terms of the value they get from the experience as well. That’s going to take a lot more than just serving them Subway sandwiches in the lobby.

Field Manager Perspective
“In-person isn’t off the table entirely, but we need to think long and hard about whether the investment of time and effort is worth it or if remote is the better way to go.” — Cori Bussetti, Field Manager

I believe there’s still a place for in-person focus groups and interviews. That being said, it’s getting harder and harder to find people who are willing to show up for in-person. It takes time, often a commute that cuts into their workday. Time has become so valuable, that you’re going to have to pay people a lot more these days to motivate them to participate in-person.

So while in-person isn’t off the table entirely, we do need to validate the extra cost, time, and effort it takes to do in-person interviews and focus groups. We have to ask ourselves, is it really necessary to be in-person, will it make that much of a difference, or can we do just as good of a job using a remote platform?

Phone and online interviews are definitely here to stay. We haven’t had a request for in-person in a long time, so our clients seem to have fully embraced remote. And it’s clearly working for them.

Healthcare Research Moderator Perspective
“With the right approach, remote interviews and focus groups can be as engaging and effective as in-person.” — Nancy Miller

Should interview and focus groups be remote? That depends. There’s still a need for in-person, like with ethnographies, when you want to look someone right in the eye.

But there are huge advantages to remote that clients are catching on to. They’re less expensive, for one. You’re not booking flights and hotel rooms and rental cars. They’re also more efficient and take up less time — for the respondents as well as the researchers.

To make remote focus groups and interviews as effective as in-person, you need to get creative with them especially when online fatigue these days is a very real thing. Remote has be interactive and engaging. A lot of that responsibility rests with the moderator, but there are tools you can try as well like asynchronous bulletin boards that allow participants to respond, provide video feedback, post photos and more, whenever they want.

So I would say, make remote work. But when the research calls for in-person, make it worth the respondent’s time and effort to be there in the flesh.

Tech Moderator Perspective
“Now that people are comfortable with remote settings, getting them to physically show up for in-person interviews and focus groups is a difficult ask.” — Chris Dethloff, Tech Moderator

I wouldn’t say yes definitively remote is the new reality, because things are evolving all the time. I will say that remote research can be used very effectively. I do in-depth interviews for large tech companies all the time, and did so even before COVID. So that hasn’t changed for me. I do see it being more of an adjustment for B2C researchers who want those in-person interactions.

For us and our clients, remote makes sense because we’re looking for technology specialists based on their knowledge rather than their geographical location or even their titles. So having the flexibility to do these interviews remotely as opposed to a set time at a specific facility allows us to expand our search, find and talk to the people with the very specific knowledge we need, wherever they are.

It’s not just researchers and clients who are realizing that remote has a lot of advantages. It’s also the respondents; they’ve had a taste of remote over the pandemic, they like it, they’re used to it, and many of them are not going back.

To get those people to physically show up for in-person seems like a difficult ask. Ask them to hop on a call or Zoom, without disrupting their day, and they’re much more willing.