Podcast

Episode: 34 |
Lisa Overton:
Customer Intercept Interviews:
Episode
34

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Lisa Overton

Customer Intercept Interviews

Show Notes

Our guest today is Lisa Overton, a McKinsey alum and an expert on market research. Today Lisa is an independent consultant working on a range of strategy, marketing, and communications issues.

Previously, Lisa ran a boutique qualitative market research firm that offered traditional services such as focus groups as well as more innovative services including customer intercept interviews.

In our discussion today we focus in on how to do those customer intercept interviews, and Lisa shares a range of lessons learned that you and I can apply in our practice.

We discuss the incentives you need to offer the customer, how to approach customers, the best time of day to get a good interview, how to record responses, how much it will cost to hire capable interviewers, how many they can do per hour, and the types of questions you might want to ask to elicit surprising insights.

We also do a role play in which I play a grocery shopper and Lisa interviews me about my grocery shopping habits.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hey there podcast listeners. Welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional.

Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top-tier independent management consultants.

I’m your host, Will Bachman.

Our guest today is Umbrex member Lisa Overton, a McKinsey alum and expert on market research.

Today, Lisa is an independent consultant working on a range of strategy, marketing, and communication issues. Previously, Lisa ran a [boutique 00:00:40] qualitative market research firm that offered traditional services, such as focus groups, as well as more innovative services, including customer-intercept interviews.

In our discussion today, we focus on how to do those customer-intercept interviews, and Lisa shares a range of lessons learned that you and I can apply in our practice. We discuss the incentives you need to offer the customer; how to approach customers; the best time of day to get a good interview; how to record their responses; how much it will cost to hire capable interviewers if you don’t do it yourself; how many you can actually get done per hour; and, the types of questions you might want to ask to elicit surprising insights.

We even do a role-play in which I play a grocery shopper and Lisa interviews me about my grocery shopping habits. I feel that I’m much better prepared to do this type of research after this discussion, and I hope you find it useful.

Lisa, thank you so much for joining. It is great to have you on the show today.

Lisa Overton: Thanks for having me.

Will Bachman: So, Lisa, I know we can’t go too long here because you are an avid sailor. I understand you’re gonna be going sailing right after we talk today.

Lisa Overton: That’s right. I have a dock time in an hour and a half so I’m going to leave directly after this conversation and go out on the San Francisco Bay. It’s a gorgeous day here for sailing.

Will Bachman: Oh, that is awesome. I understand in addition to sailing, you also do some swimming. Is that right?

Lisa Overton: Yes, I swam competitively all through my teens and college, and let it go for awhile. A few years ago, when I moved to San Francisco, I took up open-water swimming. So, I now swim in the very, very cold waters of the San Francisco Bay, and have, in fact, escaped from Alcatraz. 

Will Bachman: Wait, wait. I mean, for real, how does that work? So you would be, I mean this is like a thing and you can sign up, and you actually would jump in the water from Alcatraz and have to swim to San Francisco? I mean, how does this work?

Lisa Overton: That is exactly how it works, yes. You sign up with a group of people … and I did it on my birthday a couple of years ago … and they take you out in a boat, and you jump off the boat right next to Alcatraz and just swim until you get to shore.

Will Bachman: What do you have to do, anything special, like do you put some stuff on your body, or what does one do when one is open-water swimming?

Lisa Overton: No. There is nothing special you do. You wear ear plugs to keep your ears from getting cold, and thermal swim cap to keep the heat from escaping from your head, and then just a pair of goggles and your swim suit. I trained a long time for it, and most people do a lot of training just to get used to the cold water, and make sure that you’re in good enough physical shape to do it. But lots of people do it. It’s relatively common here.

Will Bachman: And how long of a swim is that, both in distance and in time and so forth?

Lisa Overton: It’s a mile and a half. So, the people who are very fast do it in 20, 25 minutes, and people who are slower do it in a little under an hour.

Will Bachman: Wow. Okay. So, you have escaped from Alcatraz. That is pretty cool.

Lisa Overton: I have.

Will Bachman: So, when you’re not out on the water, or in the water, talk to me a little bit about your consulting practice. I want to talk about that some, and then really want to deep-dive today in some of your real deep expertise around [Unmire 00:04:26] Market Research. But, before we get into that, just kind of give me the overview of the types of stuff you’re doing today.

Lisa Overton: Sure. I have a lot of different areas that I focus on actually in my consulting practice. I have a pretty eclectic mix of clients. I tend to have a pretty strong focus on marketing and on strategy, and I’ve done a lot of work in the technologies-based healthcare financial services and retail.

For a time, my entire consulting practice was focused on market research. I had a market research firm, with a business partner, that focused very heavily on qualitative research and in-depth insights into consumer behavior that we would get at using qualitative methods rather than the more conventional surveys and quantitative techniques that people are familiar with.

So now, I am currently working for a financial services client doing a high-level strategy project for their two main business lines. And, as you know, I just wrapped up a project for a big retail company that was thinking about how to address the changing landscape of e-commerce in the world of Amazon and whole foods.

Will Bachman: Great. So let’s talk about that market research firm that you ran for a while, ’cause I think you’ll have some insights that are helpful for any independent consultant who might be thinking about doing some market research or engaging a firm to do it.

So, maybe the first thing is, could you walk us through the different service lines that you offered? And then we can spend some time talking about several of those.

Lisa Overton: Sure. Of course the form of quantitative research people are most familiar with, companies who are most familiar with, are focus groups. And we did conventional focus groups, but we also did some more creative versions of focus groups. We actually were using on-line panels to do virtual focus groups, and one of the really interesting things that you can do about that is that you don’t need to do, you can do it [asynchronistly 00:06:35]. So, you can have focus groups that involve homework and people contributing video or blogging, and then coming together for a couple of different conversations.

And, unlike a focus group where you’ve recruited a group of people and you only have a small period of time for them to interact with each other, you can develop a sort of community if you’re engaging on-line focus groups.

We also did in-depth interviews in areas where customer behavior was particularly sophisticated, and in a subject like healthcare, I think, or an area where decisions are very complex. In-depth interviews that are, whether they’re individual or group, are a really good way to get at how customers think about complex decisions in their path to purchase.

We also did a lot of intercepts. And I’m using that term kind of broadly. We would try to interact with consumers as they were interacting with the brand or store or service that we wanted to find out about. So, this would involve talking with people on-sight in whatever, and mostly it would actually be the physical channel, brick and mortar, that we would physically have interviewers go and talk with shoppers as they were going through a store and making decisions. And talking with them about what they were noticing, what was influencing them positively or negatively, and what would determine their path to, how they would make their determination about purchase.

There were several other types of qualitative, a purchase that we took on, you know, some of which are quite passive, and you can certainly do these things, like ethnographic studies, where you’re trying to get a view of consumers’ lives. Not just the purchasing decision, but all of the things that make them who they are, to really get a deep understanding of your consumer. But these are the big blocks of things that we did.

Will Bachman: Let’s talk about these customer intercepts.

Lisa Overton: Sure.

Will Bachman: So, I have a whole range of questions around this. First, maybe, is incentives. What do you have to give people to get them to talk to you?

Lisa Overton: We, generally, found that a gift card is a good incentive. And not necessarily a gift card for anything related to what you’re talking about. So, we usually gave Starbucks or Pete’s gift cards. Five dollars or ten dollars, depending on how long we wanted people to talk to us, was usually enough. You know, it effectively opens the conversation by saying, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” And, I think when we used gift cards, we assumed that we would have to offer a certain amount of gift cards and incentives, and that you start the conversation with that. And you say, “Can I offer you a $5 gift card to talk with me for 10 minutes.” And then some of those people will agree to talk to you, but won’t be usable interviews. So, you think of it as incentive at the start of the interview, not something that you hand to someone at the end for completing the interview. In other words, it’s gone the minute that somebody agrees to talk to you.

Will Bachman: And then when would you approach people? Is it typically in the store? Is it after they’ve made the purchase and they’re walking out? And, how would you approach people? Talk to me about that a little bit.

Lisa Overton: This would depend. In some of the cases that we were doing intercepts, our client was the store itself. So, for instance, I was doing a study in 10 of high-end grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest and, because the client was the store, they gave us permission to have our researchers actually in the store. So, in that case, we intercepted people before they began shopping. So, right after they walk into the store, just as they’re getting their cart and about to start shopping.

Or a client that can’t give that kind of permission. So, a brand within a store for instance. We would do the intercepts in a neutral place. So, if it’s a shopping mall, or an outdoor mall … We’re lucky enough in California to have mostly outdoor malls … so we were able to intercept people sort of in pedestrian areas near the place where they might be shopping for the brand that we were interested in asking about, or the product.

Will Bachman: How would you approach people?

Lisa Overton: Well, I’ve done a lot of these myself so I know how I approach people, but I also hired people. These can be very time-consuming projects. When I hired people to do these studies for my firm, I quite literally would train people with a script for how to start the conversation that would, of course, begin with introducing yourself by name, explaining what company you’re working for, and, of course, one of the first things that you say is, “Would you be interested in talking with me in exchange for a $5 Starbucks gift certificate? No strings attached. Just want to get your opinion.”

I think that the success rate of interviewers has a lot to do with their personality, but it also has to do with time of day. You can be really smart about thinking about when people are likely to feel relaxed about having a few extra minutes to talk to you, and not thinking that you’re getting in the way of them just getting into the grocery store and getting home. So, don’t try to do shopper intercepts at 5:30 p.m. You get a different demographic of people, depending on what time of day you’re doing the intercepts, but at times of day when the store is particular busy, you tend to not have a lot of success with people agreeing to talk to you, or if they talk to you, they’re hurried and rushed.

Will Bachman: They’re trying to go home and make dinner, right?

Lisa Overton: They’re hungry. Yeah. They’re trying to go home and make dinner. And I’m focusing on grocery because I’m just remembering this particular study that I have in my mind as I’m talking with you about this.

When we’ve done studies … I’ve done studies for electronics, for instance, and a large electronic retailer. Same thing. Saturday afternoon is not a good time to try to get people to talk with you. There’s just too much distraction, the lines are too long, and people are feeling too pressed for time. 

So, the main thing in getting people to talk with you is just clarifying for them how much time you’re going to need from them and … And I feel really strongly about this … really making sure that your interviewer sticks to it, because the quality of information that you’re getting from somebody goes really sharply down when they get irritated with you.

So, you’ve got to design a study with your client’s agreement that you can get done in what you might consider a normal cocktail party conversation. That length. And then be ready to wrap it up and move on at the deadline. Stick to it.

Will Bachman: How do you just practically collect the information? Clipboard? Do you try to make some kind of survey you can do with an ipad, or how would you practically collect the info?

Lisa Overton: We used tablets, and I think that that is the, by long arms, the best way to go. You can do it the old fashioned way, of course, with clipboards and paper, just taking notes. But you’re gonna have people, you’re gonna have at least one interviewer, maybe two, maybe three, and lots and lots of people that you’re talking to, so it’s a really good idea to have a digital recorder so that you are capturing the conversation. Note taking is just not ever gonna be able to capture the nuances of the conversation in-the-moment. It’s just is too much to grab.

We used tablets that we pre-programmed with some quasi-demographic questions up front. Typically, we would show the person we were talking to the tablet, let them make their own choices. If we had multiple choice selections, get them involved physically in the interview. It tends to increase peoples’ commitment and engagement in the conversation to touch the tablet or answer questions themselves. 

Then, when you get to the qualitative, open-ended questions, the way that we programmed the tablets was that you would press a button on the tablet to begin recording. So, the digital recorder was embedded in the survey.

Will Bachman: Oh, that’s really cool. So, you would use the tablet itself as the recorder. And then, practically, would you have a microphone attached to it, or how would you actually record the audio?

Lisa Overton: We did use a microphone. This is actually a couple of years ago. It may be that the quality of the microphones on ipads is just better now, or any tablet is good enough. At the time that we were doing these a couple of years ago, the audio just wasn’t good enough unless you used an external microphone.

Will Bachman: Okay. Yeah. It’s also a little bit awkward. Like, you can sort or hold a iPhone up to somebody’s face, but it’s a little awkward holding a big [inaudible 00:15:59] ipad up to … “Please speak into this tablet.”

Lisa Overton: Yeah, indeed. We actually used like an interviewing clip microphone. So we would ask the person we were talking to if it was okay to clip it to them, and if that wasn’t possible because of what they were wearing, or they said no, then we would just hold it up in the air. So it was actually quite small, but … And these little details, once you make a couple of mistakes and you realize you have unusable audio, you do actually work out these kinks. And because these are expensive, your time is expensive, it is really a good idea to do some practice runs and work out all of these kinks before you actually have somebody in the field asking questions.

Will Bachman: That seems like a pretty good idea. To actually do a couple dry runs at home. You said you embedded the digital audio recording in the survey. What tool did you use? Like Survey Monkey or Qualtrics? Or was there some other kind of program?

Lisa Overton: We used Survey Monkey quite a bit. It’s so easy to program. I wouldn’t use … I used a professional … I can’t remember the name of it actually, but for large-scale quantitative survey, and we actually did some of those even though it wasn’t our focus. We would sometimes augment qualitative work with quantitative. We used an enterprise level on Survey Software. But for what I’m talking about, effectively you are, Survey Monkey is fine because really what you’re just trying to do is structure. A couple of questions for your own sake to create what I would think of as almost pseudo-segments. So, if you’re doing a hundred interviews with people, you want to ask them questions up front that can let you say, “This person is a really frequent shopper,” or, “A frequent shopper of this product,” or, you know, something that can let you create segments within the hundred people that you’re talking to. Survey Monkey is entirely fine for that. There are several other options as well.

Will Bachman: Wow, that’s cool.

Lisa Overton: And then the recording option is just that they’re free-recording software that would be dependent on whether you’re using an iPhone or a tablet. But it’s nothing sophisticated. It’s just stuff that’s already on your phone.

Will Bachman: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Would it be within the Survey Monkey itself that you would … Like, you get to question 8 and then it’s, “Press record” or you’d get out and you’d go to some voice recorder?

Lisa Overton: Yeah. We did it within each, we created a file for each person that we were talking to that contains the responses to the quasi-demographic questions and also the audio. We usually offered to a client, or provided some audio in our reports to the client. So we would, of course, analyze of the interviews and talk about the major themes that emerged and have direct quotes and so forth, but we actually included audio in our deliverable to the client. So it was really important that the questions that we asked people about themselves matched up to the audio that we wanted to deliver for them.

It really is not that much. It’s not very challenging from a technical perspective, but it just gives a lot more color to the report to be able to include people speaking.

Will Bachman: Yeah. What would you do with the audio itself? Would you have transcripts made of it, or, practically, how would you deal with all these audio files?

Lisa Overton: We used an off-shore transcription service and their main clients are probably not qualitative research companies. The accuracy is not perfect when you get back these transcripts. Typically, when we hired people to do these interviews for us, we asked them to review the transcripts because they could just remember the conversations. So, the problems that we would have with accuracy would get corrected by the person who conducted the interview.

Will Bachman: Oh, cool. You do these typically, what do you recommend? Just one person acting alone, working in pairs, have multiple people out there? What works best?

Lisa Overton: We always had interviewers in pairs. It makes them look like a team, and it makes them look a little less creepy, I think. It’s not necessarily a safety issue, but it’s just kind of a good practice to have people out in the field with teamwork rather than just one person by themselves. Especially since you’re talking about, in some cases, standing in busy shopper areas. They tend to do a better job and enjoy it a lot more if there is more than one person there doing it.

Will Bachman: How would you go about hiring folks, and would that change at all if you’re doing it today? Craigslist or Task Rabbit, or, you know, how would you find the folks to do these?

Lisa Overton: I definitely would consider Task Rabbit as an option. I mean you have to meet in person. You have to meet anybody that you’re gonna be using for this kind of work. Their person-ability is critical to the success of the project. People are gonna have to want to talk to them and, frankly, that means they’ve got to have a pleasant demeanor. They’ve got to be neat and put together. Looking professional-looking. 

We actually had … Fortunately, because my firm was located in Los Angeles, so there are a lot of aspiring actors. And that’s actually a great population for something like this. They tend to be pretty fearless. They are good with memorizing scripts. All kinds of reasons why aspiring actors are a good choice for this. We didn’t task them necessarily with doing a lot of the analytical work. We just wanted them to do good interviews. Right? We did the analysis.

So, we also worked with some graduate students from local universities in fields like psychology and sociology that have an emphasis on field work. For those kinds of people working for us, we actually did sometimes get them involved in the analysis because that’s what they’re interested in. When you’re doing, effectively, field work and talking about human behavior, people who are in academic fields where that’s interesting for them, can make good candidates for this.

The other thing is that there are a lot of people who used to do work like telemarketing that has become pretty obsolete. So there are temp agencies that will place people for call center-type work. Again, you have to interview them in person to be sure they’re going to represent you well. But there are a lot of people who do this kind of work on, if you think very broadly and creatively about what the work is.

Will Bachman: What do you typically have to pay to get someone who is capable?

Lisa Overton: If you want somebody who is capable, you should expect to pay somewhere around $50 an hour, $45, $50 an hour. That’s assuming that you’re in a market like Los Angeles, San Francisco. Major metropolitan areas. In other areas, you probably could pay a little bit less. Just wages are highly dependent on where you are. But we found that having a good quality interviewer, getting paid well was not something we wanted to skimp on, ever.

Will Bachman: That’s like decent money, right? That’s not just sort of typical student, undergrad, like odd jobs. That suggests it really does take someone who is skilled and disciplined that doesn’t mind hearing a lot of rejection all day.

Lisa Overton: Exactly.

Will Bachman: I imagine it varies a bit, but talk about the range in the number of surveys, or intercepts, per hour that someone can do if it’s a five to eight-minute survey.

Lisa Overton: Yeah. You can’t possibly, physically, do more than five in an hour, but we would average probably three to four an hour per person.

Will Bachman: And that’s assuming that there’s sufficient flow. You’re out there at a time of day with sufficient flow of people. Right? Of shoppers.

Lisa Overton: Right. Exactly. And we would work that out, typically, in advance so it wouldn’t necessarily be like a 40-hour work week. We wouldn’t say 8 to 5, three people per hour. That’s not actually the way that it works because of the flow of traffic.

These projects tend to be pretty time-consuming, though the actual time that you’re in the field, if you’re looking to talk to a hundred people, can be three days. These are studies that the client really does need to be quite thoughtful about because you’re getting a depth of information and you’re getting a type of insight into the way people think that is just really very, very different from what you would get from someone clicking through a survey on line.

Will Bachman: Yeah, it’s much more real that they’ve actually just been in the store. I mean, it’s much more likely that they have direct experience than an online survey respondent.

Lisa Overton: No, it’s fascinating stuff. And the things that people think about and notice when they’re shopping are very surprising. And being with someone as they’re making their purchasing decisions is just very different from asking someone abstractly how they might make those decisions. You know, people say that they think about one thing, but they actually think about something else. I’m thinking, in particular, of a client of mine that actually changed where they positioned their product in the store, entirely. Meaning, they had been in one section of the store, and they decided that their product was actually something different in peoples’ minds and should be with other kinds of things in the store.

That was not entirely because of our work, but it was largely because of our work being in the store with people and asking them, “Where do you think you would find this?” And, when you did find it, “What are your impressions of this product based on where it is?” So, as it happened to be, it had previously been in the section near pretzels and snack food and so forth and had a strong connotation of not being very good for you.

So these are just things that when you’re actually standing with somebody in the environment where they’re making their decisions, if you’ve got a good rapport with them, if you’ve set up the interview properly, if they feel good about getting a gift certificate and speaking honestly with you, people will tell you really surprising things about how they actually make their decisions.

Will Bachman: What are some tricks that you’ve learned to come up with questions that help elicit those surprising responses?

Lisa Overton: Well, the main thing is to have a good technique for probing and following up. So people, very rarely, will tell you the full truth or the full story the first time they mention something. So, when we trained our interviewers, or when we did the interviews ourselves, you ask an open-ended question. Whatever response you get, give the person time to answer you and ask open-ended, probing follow-on questions. “What do you mean by that?” “Can you explain that?” “Can you give me some more detail about that?” “Can you give me an example of that?”

Will Bachman: Let’s illustrate this. So let’s say that I’m in the grocery store. I’m a shopper. Pick any client that you want. Let’s do one here. Let’s go out on a limb.

So, you’re interviewing me for any client that you want.

Lisa Overton: Okay. So, I’ll skip the part of this where I would have the tablet in front of me and say, “I just want to ask you a couple of questions about yourself.” But these questions tend to be like:

How often do you shop in this store?

Will Bachman: Like every couple of weeks, typically.

Lisa Overton: Okay, so do you shop at other stores more frequently than here?

Will Bachman: Is it like a grocery store?

Lisa Overton: Yes.

Will Bachman: Yeah. So, I only come here every couple weeks. A lot of times I’ll just pick up the groceries at California Market, the little kind of green grocer, which is on my walk home. But when we need to stock up on more stuff, we’ll drive over here and get more cans and larger stuff.

Lisa Overton: Okay. So when you say, “stock up,” what would that typically mean for you in terms of how much money you’d spend?

Will Bachman: So, for like coming here, it might be $150 bucks or something. Plus or minus.

Lisa Overton: Okay. And you would do that every couple of weeks, you think?

Will Bachman: Every two or three weeks maybe. It’s more like if we’re having a party or doing something like where we need to buy like a ton of chips, a bunch of vegetable platters, and a bunch of fruit. Just more than I want to carry home from the local green grocer-type place.

Lisa Overton: Got it. And if you are thinking about the different places where you might buy groceries, other than quantity, other than how much you need, what are some of the other factors that would make you go to the local green grocer versus here?

Will Bachman: Um, I mean, I guess I have a perception that they’re maybe a bit fresher since that’s kind of what they focus on. Sort of more than half the store is fruits and vegetables. But it’s more about convenience. They’re a little smaller store, so if I need maybe a bigger selection of stuff, I come here to the super market.

Lisa Overton: Okay. So, what are the things that are important to you when you say selection? What are you referring to when you talk about selection?

Will Bachman: Um, just the number of sku’s. Particularly for, not so much the fresh fruits and vegetables, but like, you know, peanut butter. Maybe the local place doesn’t have sort of organic peanut butter with no sugar in it, or something. So it can’t be-

Lisa Overton: Got it.

Will Bachman: Right?

So, you know, you just have a broader variety of sku’s here at the super market.

Lisa Overton: Do you typically find that in the super market they have everything that you’re looking for?

Will Bachman: No.

Lisa Overton: Everything that you need?

Will Bachman: Not everything that we need, but typically it’s a larger set. I mean, so, more specialty stuff, you might have to go to, you know, more specialty store. Like, if we want to buy sort of fancier, higher quality prosciutto or something like that, I might go to the Italian, like Muncan, or meat store. Something like that. But, just sort of, for all the basics, they’ll have a broader selection.

Lisa Overton: In terms of the quality that you expect from the things that you buy at the different places where you buy groceries, where would you place this store relative to other options?

Will Bachman: Um, I guess I’d say, maybe, on a scale of 1 to 10, with the best in New York City at a 10, I’d say it’s maybe a 6. So, it’s not necessarily the best-

Lisa Overton: I’m dying to know which store we’re actually talking about here, Will. Breaking from behind our role here. This is not looking good for whatever store you’re talking about.

Will Bachman: It’s not a national chain, but it has a parking lot, you know. In New York City, a place with a parking lot makes all the difference.

Lisa Overton: Got it. Got it.

So, what are the aspects of convenience? Why is this a convenient option for you? Because it doesn’t sound like it’s necessarily the best option in terms of quality or other considerations. It’s really just the most convenient option, right?

Will Bachman: It’s convenient. I mean it has a decent enough selection. I mean, it’s not like the fruit is bad, it’s just, it’s not like amazing. Right?

Lisa Overton: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Will Bachman: So, but it’s good enough, and it has a parking lot, and it’s, you know, a mile from our house. So, you know, if we want to go to, you know, drive the fairway or something in Manhattan, or whole foods, or some place awesome, that’s a major trip. But this is sort of a 3-minute drive.

Lisa Overton: So, walk me through how you … and this where literally I would say, “Walk with me” … walk me through how you typically shop in this store.

Will Bachman: All right.

Lisa Overton: Where you go first, and what you select.

Will Bachman: Okay. So, and I would walk you through. So, I typically come in here, you know, they open up right into the fruits and vegetable sections. I typically walk around there some. The organic section is pretty small and stuff is often not that great looking. But the other regular fruit and vegetables is fine, so we walk through there. Typically, I mean, I never buy meat because we raise our own meat, and then typically the interior of the store there is where we’d probably do most of the stocking up stuff. Like, cans of tomato or just pasta, or that kind of, and then typically not buying like our fresh milk there ’cause we’d just do that on my home from the subway.

Lisa Overton: So, at some point in this process, as we’re walking around, I would have a particular area that I’m trying to learn about. Right? So, in the example that I was thinking of, it was a nut product. So, at some point I would stop you near where this product was stocked, or things like it were stocked, and I would say, “Take a look at this section. Is this something you would ever shop for?” And, based on your response, I would ask you questions about what you notice in the display.

If we walked away … Sometimes I will ask questions in-the-moment, sort of:

“Tell me what you think about, what do you think this product is?” 

You know, “Without looking at the nutritional information, what would you guess is the calorie count or the amount of fat in this?” 

“Who do you think makes this?” 

“What do you think are some, you know, other products that are similar to this in the store?”

Sometimes we would actually walk away from the thing that we wanted to ask about and then ask about whether the customer noticed it. And, if they noticed it, what their impressions were. If they can free-recall the price or any of the … if there are marketing materials … if they remember any of the verbiage from the marketing materials, what those say.

So, at that point, rather than asking … we would start the interview as we just role-played, talking about overall shopping behavior. Figuring out where this store fits into your shopping universe. And then from there, go, physically, to the area of interest for the client, and combine in-the-moment questions about impressions with non-synchronist, asynchronist questions.

Maybe at the check-out, to then ask shoppers to remember where something was in the store, or remember what the promotion was that was attached to it or whatever that might be.

We have … I didn’t mean to cut-off our role playing, it was delightful, and I was getting very excited by this hypothetical store that we were in and figuring out how to make it better for you. I was about to go into, “What could they do to make you shop here more frequently?” But does that give you a sense of how these interactions might feel?

Will Bachman: Yeah, that was great. And it was so realistic to me that … It was interesting. I found that, one, I was actually having fun answering your questions, and, number two, I found that I wasn’t able to even be kind of critical or analyze your questioning ’cause I was so engaged in the role playing myself. I was just answering the questions. Right? So I’m gonna have to go back ’cause I can’t even, now, even process the questions that you were asking, and the approach that you were using, ’cause you get so engaged in answering the questions.

But that was awesome. It really, I think, helped show me what it would feel like to go through that process and the kind of insights into behavior that you could get from it. So that was cool.

Lisa Overton: There are a lot of ways that you can use this type of format to … There are a lot of insights that you can use this type of format to get at, that are difficult to get at in other ways.

Interestingly, price sensitivity is one. People will tell you that they will buy things at a certain amount, abstractly. Like, out of context. But the truth of the matter is people remember prices and react to prices very, very differently when you’re standing right in front of the thing that you either want or you don’t want.

And a lot of this stuff has to do with conversion. Right? It’s like, it’s just a classic funnel. You’re trying to figure out whether somebody is aware of your product. Has a favorable impression of the product. Would consider buying it. Is likely to buy it. Buys it. Will buy it again. And a lot of these decisions, we’re all, as shoppers, we’re making dozens of them every minute that we’re standing in the store. And all of the marketers, like me, out there are behind the scenes trying to change the way that you think as you’re standing there. So, talking with people in that moment can reveal so much.

Will Bachman: That is really cool. So we could spend a ton more time just diving into this. It’s fascinating, and you know so much about it. You’ve been truly in this dream. I know you have your dock time. I wanted to maybe just ask one question at the end here about professional development. So, what are some ways that you keep learning, other than just the normal project work that you’re doing, anything kind of deliberate that you do to continue your own professional development?

Lisa Overton: I stay really active with my academic alumni networks. This is especially important for people who have moved away from where they went to school. Like me. I went to undergraduate and graduate school on the East Coast, and now live on the West Coast. But my alumni organizations are, in part because we’re kind of far away from the motherland, they tend to do affiliate programs. So, I went to Columbia for business school. Columbia does a lot of events with other ivy league business schools and with MIT for professional development. So those things, through my alumni networks, range from just attending a panel that is on a subject of interest … I went to a [Pentec 00:39:07] panel recently talking about Blockchain technologies just because I’m curious about it. I’m not likely to work in that field, but I feel interested in it, and I know a lot more about it now.

But they also will have actual skill-building opportunities. Classes that you can take in coding or in project management, or learning a concrete skill. So, like everyone, I wish I had more time for this and could dedicate a lot of my energy to professional development. But I find that these are really good avenues for it.

Will Bachman: Any books you’ve read recently that you particularly recommend, or maybe books that you’ve read awhile ago that had an impact on you that you recommend?

Lisa Overton: Yes, “10% Happier.” It is a fantastic book and, I think it is technically a business book, but it’s really more about life. It was written by Dan Harris, who’s a news caster, and the point of it is how you can be more productive and happier through mindfulness and meditation. And I’m not actually mindful in this meditation generally-type of person, and nor is Dan Harris, which is the point of the book. It’s actually a very popular book in Silicon Valley. The full title of the book is “How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.”

So he comes right out and acknowledges that he wants to reduce stress, but not at the cost of losing his edge. So, for a lot of pretty competitive business types, this is just a great book about just getting a little bit more control over the stress in your life but still remaining competitive.

Will Bachman: Fantastic. And I imagine one way to do that is to get out in the water. I don’t want to hold you back from that. So, Lisa, thank you so much for joining, and have a great sail today.

Lisa Overton: I’m about to be a lot more than 10% happier, I’ll tell you that.

Will Bachman: All right. Thank you so much for joining today.

Lisa Overton: Thanks, Will. I enjoyed it.

Will Bachman: Thanks for listening to this episode of Unleashed. The show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional.

Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top-tier independent management consultants.

The mission of Umbrex is to create opportunities for independent management consultants to meet, share lessons learned, and collaborate.

I’d love to get your feedback and hear any questions that you’d like to see us answer on this show. You can email me at Unleashed@Umbrex.com. That’s U-M-B-R-E-X dot com.

If you found anything on the show helpful, it would be a real gift if you would let a friend know about the show and take a minute to leave a review on itunes, google play, or stitcher. And, if you subscribe, our show will get delivered to your device every Monday.

Our audio engineer is Dave Nelson. Our theme song was composed by Gary Negbaur, and I’m your host, Will Bachman.

Thanks for listening.

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