Purpose: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a challenging, yet opportunistic, environment in which to conduct transformative service research (TSR) and assess research methodology . The purpose of this paper is to evaluate and gain important new insights of a group interviewing method with vulnerable people and their support group, adapted and transferred online during COVID-19 . Design/methodology/approach: This research examines the experiences of 35 participants (nine family groups composed of parents and young people), involved in a research project that explores a sensitive topic, youth alcohol consumption and family communication, that was moved online during lockdown . Researcher reflections on running group interviews face-to-face prior to COVID- 19 and online during lockdown are included in the data . Findings: Thematic analysis of participant interviews and researcher reflections reveals four key benefits and three limitations of online group interviews with vulnerable people and their support group . The benefits include being comfortable, non-intrusive and safe; engaging and convenient; online communication ease and easy set-up . The limitations relate to lack of non-verbal communication, poor set-up, and privacy and access issues . Practical implications: The global environment is uncertain and being able to implement effective qualitative research online is essential for TSR and service research in the future . This paper provides a step by step procedure for an innovative online group interviewing technique that can be used by TSR and qualitative service researchers . Originality/value: Conducting research during a pandemic has provided unprecedented insights into qualitative research approaches and methodology . This paper contributes to literature on service and TSR methodology by providing a framework for researchers to investigate vulnerable groups online in an effective, safe and non-intrusive way . The framework also has the potential to be applied to other service contexts.