Quant or qual? Are we asking the wrong question?

Anyone interested in better understanding customers wrestles with questions of how to do so.  “Should I use quant to measure or validate or should I use qual to understand the context?”  But are these the right questions to ask?  Do they lead us down a path of valuing the methodology applied more than the insight generated?

Instead, should we be asking questions of the insight and letting the answers guide the methodology…to work back from the qualities of the insight to determine how best to interact with customers?

If we did so, we’d be asking different questions altogether.  Here are three simple questions we can ask to begin to turn the camera around from the methodology to the insight.

Is it fresh?
Customer insight is like milk.  If it sits around too long, it shouldn’t be used.  Stale insight can be as damaging as great insight can be transformational.  Maybe customer insight needs a “best if used by” date…but I digress.

The point here is that customers’ lives move too fast.  Just consider the past six months or think out to the next six.  What was relevant then, may not be today and what is today may not be tomorrow.  It’s not enough to have your finger on the pulse of the customer every now and again.  It must be constant or it might as well be too late.

Is it honest?
So much of quant or qual happens in “single servings“.  A 15 minute survey, a two hour focus group.  The experiences we have with customers in quant or qual are limited to small windows of time.  You don’t get to know people in a single-serving.  You see only parts of people and only the parts they feel comfortable sharing in a single-serve environment.

Honest does not mean a “‘statistically significant’ survey filled out by people who would rather be doing anything other than filling out a survey.”  True, honest insight comes from having conversations with people.  Getting to know them.  Spending time with them…over time…not in a single serving. 


Is it actionable?
Insight is only as valuable as it is actionable.  It should tell you something you didn’t know.  It should inspire.  It should be that simple.  If it is, insight gets passed along.  It gets talked about.  Insight becomes a story, not a data point.

When you work your way back from the quality of the insight to the methodology (rather than the other way around) you see interactions with customers not through the lens of quant or qual but as engagement.  As conversations.  As getting to know your customers as real people.

Ask yourself if you spend more time thinking about how to interact with customers than actually interacting with them?  By engaging customers, you’ll spend more time listening and less time planning your next quant or qual study.