Contextual Interviews are conducted in the environment, or context, in which the service process of interest occurs. This ethnographic technique allows interviewers to both observe and probe the behaviour they are interested in.
Why is it used?
One of the key benefits of making an interview contextual is that it helps the interviewee to remember the kind of specific details that so often get lost in a traditional focus group setting. Most people are more comfortable providing insights into their thoughts and behaviour when discussing these from within a familiar environment, and these insights can be both validated and expanded upon by the observations of the interviewer — what people don’t say is often just as valuable as what they do. Insights aren’t just limited to the interviewee however. Contextual interviews allow researchers to also gain an understanding of the social and physical environment surrounding the service being examined. This helps generate a far more holistic understanding than is possible via traditional interviewing techniques.
When is it helpful?
Breaking up interviews so they are conducted in various locations helps people to tell a more lively story about their everyday experiences. Conducting interviews in a setting which is comfortable will help interviewees to convey their experiences and personal context in more detail. This helps researchers to get a much richer notion of the person they are speaking with.
How is it applied?
These interviews can be conducted with customers, staff, and other relevant stakeholders. The interviewer visits the interviewee within the environment in which they interact with the service under review, and uses a combination of questions and observations in order to generate the desired insights. Participants are usually selected via a specialised recruiting process, which will take into consideration factors such as how to put the interviewee at ease. This point is crucial, as conducting a successful interview is dependent on making people feel comfortable sharing what are often intimate insights into their lives. The interviewer will also often be faced with a number of potential locations. Here, it’s important to take into account the environmental prompts that might help provoke a more in-depth discussion — discussing work routines is always going to be easier when the conversation takes place in the office where those processes are defined. The interview will usually be documented via audio recordings and photographs, and may even be filmed – a technique which often produces richly engaging materials to present to the service provide and the wider project team.
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