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What are the telephone in depth interviews? The case study

In-depth telephone interviews use the telephone to carry out motivational interviews when – working on a sample that is geographically dispersed or difficult to reach due to time requirements – there is a need to guarantee a high standardization of the interview.

As occurs in the classic face-to-face interviews, this qualitative methodology aims to access the perspective of respondents to investigate opinions, behaviors, psychological and motivational attitudes that guide the decision and choice mechanisms.

Just like in face-to-face interviews, the moderator leads the conversation following a discussion path, a sort of guide or a canvas that allows them not to leave out any essential points. The respondent can express themselves rather freely using their own mental categories and language, in an interview that the moderator will be able to make flexible but stimulating.

The main advantage of this technique is the possibility of reaching a fairly large sample distributed throughout the national territory: the same moderator can conduct interviews in different cities, agreeing days and times with the respondents without having to ask them to move to reach a central location or without moving themselves. The presence of a single moderator is important to ensure uniformity of work and standardization of the interview.


The in-depth telephone interview, such as the face-to-face interview, lasts about 60 minutes, and takes place on the day and time agreed between the moderator and the respondent. The interview can be recorded to allow further analysis.

The moderator, even if only by telephone, must be able to create a favourable atmosphere for an open and relaxed interview, keeping the respondent’s interest alive, stimulating them to interact and discuss and encourage collaboration.

It is essential that the respondent is absolutely comfortable and that there are no disturbing or distracting elements and no interruptions during the interview.

Although there is no visual contact between the moderator and the participant – and therefore all those components of non-verbal communication (mimicry, posture etc.) that often can provide additional information – a skilled moderator will nevertheless be able to motivate and stimulate the participant and collect important information.