I was talking recently with a colleague who runs the market research department of a large media company. In addition to evangelizing research, managing her staff, and synthesizing results, she was attempting to conduct a usability study on her own as the moderator. While I didn’t doubt her ability from a technical standpoint to conduct the interviews, I came away from the conversation with some ideas about how best to conduct the interviews. . In particular, I wondered about her ability to effectively serve her customers. In order to moderate 10 hour-long interviews, she had to schedule them around the remainder of her job, which meant that the length of time from the first interview to the last stretched for more than two weeks. The primary reason was that she would be exhausted if she attempted to conduct more than three interviews in a day, and with meetings and other obligations, there were several days during which she couldn’t conduct any sessions at all.
My question is: Wouldn’t it be better service to hire a professional moderator to complete the sessions in less than two days, and have a written report of findings and recommendations in the client’s hands in less time than it would take to conduct the sessions internally?
Price always enters this discussion, and hiring a professional moderator certainly adds a cost to the project. My argument is that there is an opportunity cost to waiting for up to a month before uncovering study results, and there is the very real potential that a development team simply will not wait and will move forward without the benefit of testing. Then, once results are uncovered, there is the possibility that the offering will require reengineering, again adding cost to the project. The opportunity and reengineering costs are likely to be far greater than the cost of hiring the professional moderator.
There are lots of reasons to hire a professional moderator – speed, efficiency, unbiased views, professional training – and it’s something that should be considered, especially if the customer can be better served with timely results.