April 6, 2011

You may feel that by talking with customers on a regular basis and reviewing surveys, that you have you finger on the pulse of your customers thoughts and attitudes. But the key to Focus Groups is to that you get a specific group of people together to discuss indepth a specific issue. This gives you detail that you otherwise would not get.

You can ask general questions that are open ended i.e. not giving a yes or no answer. Also do not over react to the answers (poker face) in a bad way :-) but do be encouraging lots of hmmm tell me more .......Just ask them questions to get to the detail, drill down. I.e. so why was that, how did that feel, what they do..... so use for example how, when, where, what and why?

Allow them to vent and tell you the bad stuff, don’t shut that down.

Also create a list of issues you want feedback on, this will ensure you don’t waste time and forgive the pun stay focused.

This might mean creating some broad questions.

 KEY basic info & broad general questions

  • Get data on: age, first time buyer or move up, from area or outside
  • How did they hear about you?
  • Why did they buy from you?
  • What they wish you had when they were choosing?
  • What would they change?
  • Why NOT buy from competitors? (both new build and existing homes)
  • Would they recommend your homes to family or friends? (follow up on both yes or no)

Drill down questions

  • External: landscaping, drive/walk way, yard, visual aesthetics of the home (curb appeal), materials used, colors
  • Internal: layout, flow, number of rooms, size of rooms, finishing (standard of workmanship)
  • Community: density of housing, closeness to schools, shopping, parks, demographic of area
  • Pricing of home: home plans available, pricing of options, value for price
  • Value added: energy savings
  • Competitors: price comparisons, differences
  • The Home Buying Process: what the process was like to work with
  • Financing: ease, support, questions answered

Also ensure you engage with all those attending, ensure everyone gets to talk.

Ask 'so did anyone else experience that......' 

Ensure you have refreshments, have someone to JUST take notes, have some small talk initially to relax them, ensure you tell them WHY they are there i.e. honest feedback to help you improve.  Have comfortable chairs and have them sit in a circle if you can to create a sense of community and discussion.

Ensure YOUR top questions are answered, remember why did you want and need to have a focus group in the first place!

Ensure you have someone keeping an eye on the time, because time will FLY!!


Next Time Mission Statements

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.