4 ways survey call centers are adapting to new TCPA changes

Change is sweeping across the decades-old phone survey industry, and large survey call centers across the US are reacting in a variety of ways to the new TCPA regulations that we summarized last week.

As one of the industry’s leading suppliers of phone survey research systems and dialers in the US, the Voxco team has a unique point of view on the 2016 reality of the dialing landscape. We have a direct connection to many of the largest and most advanced survey call centers in the US, and we have talked numerous times with most of them since July 2015, when the TCPA changes were first announced.

We’ve seen first-hand how most of them initially reacted to the updated regulations, and how they have adapted in the 18 months since. Here are four distinct groups that we have observed:

1. Integrated Manual Dialing Solution

These survey call centers have absorbed the full cost of adapting and complying, and it’s already paying off. They have fully adapted by setting up a second, distinct dialing environment where they have integrated a manual dialing solution with their CATI survey software.

Based on the respondent list, these survey call centers split projects across the two environments:

  • They use an autodialing environment for dialing known landlines or for dialing mobile numbers where they have received consent to call (usually respondent panels). This environment can now also be used for some government projects.
  • They use a manual dialing environment for dialing unknown numbers and known mobile numbers.

The benefit of this decision is the ability to retain interviewer productivity by having CATI systems feed phone numbers directly to interviewers who then manually activate the dialing hardware with as little as one click. Because the dialer is integrated with a CATI survey system, project accuracy and analytical consistency are retained via native call recording, live monitoring, and dialing analytics pulled directly from the dialer.

2. Manual Dialing on Detached Phones (Analog or PBX)

This second group has their interviewers using physical telephones to manually dial mobile and unknown respondents in a separate environment from autodialing projects. When a new case is presented to an interviewer via their CATI system, they switch their focus to the physical phone, and manually dial the 10-digit number.

While the process is technically compliant, it negatively affects call productivity and accuracy, which is hurting bottom lines. Using real phones (vs. a fully integrated manual dialing system) to dial causes a huge drop in interviewer productivity – some project managers we have spoken with have told us it can add 30-50% more time per call.

With no CATI-integrated dialer to assist interviewers, project managers are seeing lower calling accuracy via interviewer misdials, and the lost benefits of built-in call recording, live monitoring, and integrated call analysis that come with dialing hardware.

3. Manual Dialing via an Existing Autodialing Solution

For various reasons, this third group is unwilling to make sweeping changes to their internal dialing environment set-up. Yes, they are aware of the TCPA changes, and try to comply with the manual dialing rules by having their autodialer prompt interviewers to physically dial mobile and unknown numbers. But they are still manually dialing from within an autodialing environment, which negatively affects the ‘evidence’ that proves those calls were manually dialed.

When projects have razor-thin profit margins, it’s hard to justify making huge internal changes but this solution really is the worst of both worlds: lost productivity via interviewer manual dialing, paired with the inability to prove compliance since projects are completed from within an autodialing environment.

4. Laying low & observing

Yes, there are still some survey call centers who when we first reach out to them, admit that they have been taking a wait-and-see approach. It’s clear that the definitions swirling around the TCPA are still fluctuating, so some survey call centers may still be continuing with no major changes, waiting for more concrete definitions of compliance.

Revenue is dropping as they avoid major new projects, and active projects are being completed using the same processes that were in place 18 months ago, including the use of autodialers. Retaining maximum productivity while accepting maximum risk. And it’s probably only a matter of time before a respondent who is aware of the new regulations pushes back.

Next steps

The new TCPA regulations are here to stay. Yet there may be survey call centers out there who are not fully compliant with the new rules, and remain at risk. And many of those who are compliant, are doing so at greatly reduced productivity by using detached phones to manually dial mobile and unknown respondents.

The TCPA regulations will remain an obstacle for many survey research studies, so it is becoming more essential by the day to move towards compliance sooner rather than later. Consider Voxco TCPA Connect, which allows a distinct manual dialing environment while retaining maximum project productivity, consistency and accuracy. Contact us to review how the process works.

Still shifting: An update on TCPA and survey dialing in 2016

Despite the FCC labeling their sweeping new TCPA changes as final back in July 2015 when they were announced, the actual dialing reality for survey call centers in the US is still shifting and settling.

The initial July 2015 ruling was a set of strict, sweeping changes that affected everyone in the phone survey research industry. In summary, it stated:

  • An autodialer may not be used to contact any mobile number in the US unless explicit consent was received from the number’s owner.
  • Dialing hardware could not be used, even if it only had the ability to be used as an autodialer, regardless of whether those features were being used.
  • The burden of knowing which numbers were mobile and which were landlines rested on the shoulders of the dialing party. If a number had been reassigned, a call center was responsible for tracking the change, and was only given a single erroneous dial to figure it out.

The ruling itself aimed to counteract an outdated reality – it seemed to be a response to the cost of incoming calls to mobile phone owners. It ignored the fact that major carriers across the United States have all but abolished the charging of talk and text by the minute in favor of unlimited anytime calls.

Another thing that seemed clear to industry analysts was that the changes were designed to dissuade fully robotic telemarketing and automated random-digit dialing. But since the changes were so sweeping and did not specify anything regarding the content of the calls, it also unfairly targeted real interviewers at survey call centers who use automated dialers to contact numbers off of authentic lists of respondents.

So naturally, the changes were not taken lightly by valid survey call centers across the nation. Industry leaders from CASRO and the MRA filed a motion to intervene. They demanded clarity around the definition of an autodialer, and sought relief from the risk of dialing reassigned numbers.

Possibly due in part to the pressure from legitimate researchers, the FCC has since announced exemption for the federal government and its contractors, indicating a shift back towards exemptions for legitimate survey call centers working on legitimate research projects.

Shortly thereafter, a closely followed TCPA court case came down on the side of the defendant. Thanks to this ruling, the hotly debated definition of an autodialer finally had a little clarity, and it shone a little more light onto the FCC’s definition. Because a real human had activated the dialing within their CATI system to dial the phone, it was not considered an autodial. The hardware used did not have the capacity to auto-dial without human intervention, and had no predictive or random number capabilities.

So it’s clear that the initially sweeping TCPA regulations are being relaxed a little to account for human-staffed survey call centers conducting valid research. More changes are still expected and being pushed for, and far more concrete definitions should soon help survey call centers better adapt.

We’re keeping a close eye on the shifting definition of the ruling, and ensuring that Voxco TCPA Connect always adapts to the legal reality. TCPA Connect is a manual dialer with no capability of autodialing or predictive dialing. It can be used as a single button-dialer that connects directly to Voxco CATI and lets human interviewers contact respondents far more efficiently than manual dialing. We offer multiple possible deployment scenarios that fit varying needs.

Designed and managed by phone survey experts, Voxco TCPA Connect will always offer the maximum productivity while allowing call centers to adapt to the 2016 dialing reality. Give us a shout to see how it could work for you.

Four New Software Feature Updates this November

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This month we’re rolling out another handful of helpful features that will make managing survey projects easier for our loyal users. Many of these monthly feature updates are client-requested, so don’t be shy – let your Voxco rep or support team know what new features you want to see in the future!

Here we go:

1. On-premise SAML Survey Access

SAML Survey Access is an option that is now available for our On-Premise customers (yes – we offer on-premise survey software). This will make a big difference to our on-premise users who seek an extra level of third party security when they are authenticating respondents. SAML access lets users authenticate survey respondents using a SAML claim attribute mapped to the respondent PIN. This needs to be integrated by users on their side, but now the Voxco platform will play nicely with SAML authentication providers.

2. Delete sample files off FTP

After you’ve finished uploading sample lists off of the FTP site, we’ve added a single-click option to the Import Sample process that allows for the automated deletion of the sample source file from the FTP site after it has been successfully imported.

On the sample import window, under source: FTP, there is now a check box that you can select called “Delete file after download.”

3. Saveable response variables

Users will now see that the variables they have input on the Responses page will automatically be saved when they load a new page or log off, and return later to complete what they were doing. Once the user returns to the response page, previously saved variables will be displayed as they were last left and can be edited from that point. The variables will be automatically saved on a per survey and per user basis; this should boost productivity among our regular survey programmers.

4. Survey link variables on exports

When exporting respondent and response data, a Survey Link system variable can now be added to the files. This could help users in various situations, including those who create follow-up email campaigns in separate software – the unique survey URL can now be included in the export file and imported into personalized emails that include the correct, unique survey link.

All changes coming soon

Change number 1 above is available now for all of our on-premise platform users. Contact your Voxco rep or our support team to schedule a time to update your on-site software with all of the above updates.

We’re rolling out the other three changes for our SaaS client starting this week. Call or email our support team if you have any questions about the updates and how to use them. Talk next month!

Feature Update: Enhanced questionnaire structure view

This week we started rolling out the newest version of our Voxco Online SaaS platform to include a highly requested feature. In the past, after questionnaires were written and programmed, the default preview display made it difficult to present the questionnaire structure to others and request their feedback. Well no more!

We have reviewed and updated the entire questionnaire structure preview to make it more helpful when presenting questionnaires to others.

These changes will make the questionnaire structure preview easier to understand on-screen, including the ability to add survey settings and block settings directly via the display. We’ve also added an option to export the questionnaire structure display into Microsoft Word as an HTML file. The Word file can then be formatted, edited, and presented to others:

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Now Voxco Online users can easily share questionnaire structure with non-users, who can see all questionnaire language and survey logic in one place. This is especially helpful for market researchers who regularly present questionnaire content and flow to their clients for their feedback and approval.

If this is something that could benefit your market research team, give it a try! You can access the new questionnaire structure preview directly from the survey editor with the slider under the side navigation (choose ‘Structure’):

voxco-online-questionnaire-structure-view

You can then export the previews to an HTML file by choosing ‘Print All’ or ‘Print Selected’ in the side navigation, and then choosing the new ‘Save as HTML for Word’:

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Stay in touch! We’re regularly updating the software with new features, many of which are requested by clients.

August Software Feature Updates

August Voxco Survey Software Feature Updates

Another month, another round of survey features being added to the Voxco platform. We’re excited to update you on what’s new now that the software was updated overnight. Here we go!

SFTP Support

When uploading survey results to an external site, or downloading raw data files for importation into the Voxco survey platform, we now offer full SFTP support in addition to the pre-existing FTP service.

SFTP is an even more secure method of transferring data that uses a private and safe data stream. Its major benefit is that it encrypts the connection between your computer and the FTP server, never sending file data or passwords as clear text.

SaaS Support for Twilio

Twilio allows its users to programmatically make phone calls and send text messages using its web service APIs. Now, Voxco clients who regularly use Twilio’s short codes when auto-sending SMS text messages can now be fully compliant with provider requirements by enabling an automated response for keywords like ‘help’, ‘stop’, or ‘unsubscribe’.

Survey Widgets Compatibility

Ok, this one isn’t new, but we’d like to highlight it anyways. Survey Widgets offers the ability to add even more innovative features to your online surveys (e.g. enhanced sliders, rotating image galleries, or dynamic image rankings). Fun surveys enhance the respondent experience and drive completion rates & response quality. Their entire library of widgets are fully compatible with Voxco Online and Voxco Mobile Offline.

Lookup Table Filter Conditions: New Operators

You can now more easily return values which are or are not in a list of comma-delimited values by using the new In/Not In operator.

AllRows Piping Command

You can combine the above operator with the new AllRows piping command to generate a CSV list of all answers across a loop.

The command can also be used to return a list of all answers for all mentions of a specific question across all rows of a loop.

For example:

Q1 Checkbox question with choices 1,2,3

  • Q1 loop 1 = 1
  • Q1 loop 2 = 1,2
  • Q1 loop 3 = 3

[Q1.AllRows] will return 1,1,2,3

Update Details

Have any questions about the above functions or compatibilities? Contact your local support center or your Voxco rep. We’re happy to help you get the most out of your Voxco survey software!

July Software Feature Updates

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Voxco regularly integrates brand new features to our online survey software. Sometimes these are based on client requests, sometimes they’re just add-ons that our hard-working development team thinks would be an awesome addition to what is already the industry’s most flexible survey platform.

We’re going to get in the habit of sharing these new features with you via the blog each month as they are released. The features below were updated onto our SaaS platform yesterday, July 20.

Keep an eye out for future updates. For now, here’s what’s new this July!

Windows 10 Support

We now support Windows 10 for all browser-based elements of our platform, including Design, Pronto dashboard, and Supervisor bar for 1.10.5. So you can finally accept those pesky Microsoft update notifications! 😉

Scheduled sample imports & updates

It’s now possible to schedule one-time or recurring sample imports from an external data source.

Users of Voxco Panel Manager can now also schedule one-time or recurring sample updates to automatically update your survey with new panelists.

Task notifications

You can now select that the platform sends automated email notifications to project stakeholders once a task is completed or if it fails. This is helpful for keeping track of the successful execution of distributions and other key project tasks.

Panelist field configuration

You can now specify which panelist fields are required for a panel. This enforces validation every time you import panelists, update panelists, edit an individual panelist or add a new panelist. One more way to ensure that your panel is on-target, every time.

Link panelists to surveys via Survey Sample Import

We’ve added a handful of new automated options for linking panelists and surveys via the existing Survey Sample Import feature. You can now link samples to panels via Panelist ID, Email, Username, Phone, and more.

Copy distributions

Project managers who execute numerous similar survey projects can now further streamline their distribution set-up by copying distribution settings from a past survey. Some small feature changes can make a big difference to project productivity.

New respondent filter options

We’ve added several new options for the the survey respondent filter. You can now identify respondents based on the number of days since the following activities occurred:

  • A respondent started a survey
  • A respondent terminated a survey
  • An email or SMS invitation was sent
  • An email or SMS invitation has NOT been sent
  • An email or SMS invitation was received by a respondent
New survey data cleaning options

You can now choose to clean the answers of calling questions on pre-load. When this option is selected, a pre-load cleaning Branch To action will clean the answer of the calling question.

SMS Invitations

Reminder that since our Voxco Online 5.5.1 update, we have offered the ability to send SMS survey invitations.

As a communication channel, SMS text messages are growing in popularity and offer new reach to the channels with which you can invite respondents and panelists to complete surveys.

If you’d like an overview of how Voxco SMS invitations work, please reach out to your Voxco rep.

Translating custom questions

Can be done via the Translation module, just like other question types.

New features available now!

If you’re using the Voxco platform via the cloud, these new features are available now. If your platform is hosted on-site (yes, this is something we offer!), contact our support team to schedule an update.

To see the full details on each of the above updates, please view the individual sections in our online help section.

Onwards and upwards – see you next month!

Events Season Recap

photo_by_Allen_McEachern

May and June are always a flurry of industry events. And Voxco attends as many of them as possible – the level of insight that can be gained and connections that can be made via networking at these events is unmatched. Roll the highlights reel!

In May, Vincent and Jeb attended AAPOR in Austin. There is literally no better event for hearing North American pollster thought leaders share what’s trending in the world of public opinion and survey research. It’s awesome to have detailed conversation about survey strategy with people who love the topic as much as we do – shout out to a few clients we spent time with there: NORC, Precision Opinion, Siena College, Recon MR and Roanoke College.

At the end of May, Voxco had a different kind of event experience. C2 Montréal is one of the largest and most influential business conferences in North America, and it happens right here in our home town. We reached out to C2 this year and offered our platform and our professional scripting services to help them get a better attendee feedback system than they had been getting from the lower-end DIY platform they used in years past. For the first time, they combined post-event online surveys with in-the-moment mobile interviews, which gave them a much more robust level of feedback. Keep an eye out for a more detailed client success story, coming soon.

Speaking of Voxco having the home field advantage, MRIA was also held in Montreal this year. Two and a half jam-packed days of Canadian-focused #MRX insight from some of the premier industry thought leaders. Our booth was a center of attention both for our own clients and new friends we met for the first time. The Canadian crowds always put a smile on our faces, and it was awesome to welcome them to our own city!

New this year was our first appearance at ICES-V just last week. The once-every-four-years International Conference on Establishment Surveys brought us into contact with a number of leading statisticians from across Europe and the world. Our CEO, Raymond, is especially numbers-savvy, so he was gleefully absorbed with talking shop with many of the world’s leading national statisticians. The advanced professional capability of our platform really drew in the crowds to the Voxco booth and software demonstration, and we can’t wait to tailor a the right platform for many of them.

So now the summer is here. And with it comes a short lull in industry events. As we put our nose to the grindstone and plan our run up to Fall and our first few conferences (ESOMAR and others) it’s nice to have a short moment of focus on what matters: making killer multichannel survey tools. But gosh do we love the chance to share our survey nerdery with like-minded industry colleagues! 😉

Online surveys are not enough

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Part 2: Get surveys noticed in the offline world

You don’t have to read Part 1 of this blog series to be aware of the worrying issue facing market researchers: online surveys are being ignored in growing numbers thanks to survey fatigue in respondents. While online remains an essential part of any survey program, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that they are getting noticed – they’re just too easy for respondents to ignore.

So how can your survey stand out? By changing channels completely, and using the personal touch of an interviewer. There’s something to be said about the old-school survey method: it’s harder to say no to a real person’s interview request than it is to ignore one of hundreds of web links seen online each day. There is a reason face-to-face interviewing is often referred to as ‘intercept.’ You are literally intercepting a respondent in the middle of their day and getting noticed.

Adapt. Existing survey methods are in decline, and only the flexible will survive. Managing effective survey programs in 2016 requires you to complement online surveys with offline channels that can help create a more representative tapestry of insights. Here are some of the major advantages of complementing online surveys with other, interviewer-lead channels:

In-the-moment feedback

Most online survey invitations are sent after an event or experience. Imagine a customer satisfaction survey, automatically sent via email after a purchase: the respondent opens the email a few hours or days later and completes the survey, remembering back on their experience. But when a respondent is asked about an experience while they are still experiencing it, their answers are typically more emotional, and more direct.

Thoughtfulness of responses

When an interviewer is asking questions personally, they are better able to nurture the conversation and ensure that the respondents fully understand questions and carefully consider responses. Interviewers can ask follow-ups and add prompts to help elicit more robust answers. There is no way of knowing if respondents online are taking the time to consider their answers.

Respondent access

To survey respondents online, researchers either need their email, or they need to get their survey link into a respondent’s hands somehow (like via the bottom of a receipt). But how can researchers survey truly random respondents who haven’t yet engaged with a brand in some way? Imagine 10,000 people passing through a train station in the morning, or average people in a given city on a given day – how can a researcher get their survey in front of them without ever having interacted with them before? When your surveys are offline, respondents are suddenly everywhere.

The personal touch

In a world of online gadgets, a little offline communication can warm the soul. Offline studies see friendly interviewers approach respondents with tablets and smiles, looking for a genuine conversation. Will many people still turn down the request? Of course! But unlike approaching respondents by sending another email and another web link to click, is it so crazy to think that offline surveys could actually be a positive interruption for some people?

Believe the hype – the rapid evolution of survey technology offers incredible online survey opportunities. But today’s online-overdosed reality may actually require researchers to complement their online surveys with a step away from the web and back into the real world. It’s a fairly fundamental business concept: what’s different gets noticed. So think different.

Want to explore how easy it can be to create engaging offline surveys for real-world interviewing? Get in touch with Voxco today!

 

 

5 Reasons to support the 2016 Canadian Census

Why Marketers Should Support the 2016 Canadian Census

When Justin Trudeau’s newly formed majority government announced the reinstatement of the mandatory long-form census in its very first Liberal caucus meeting, researchers and businesses across Canada celebrated. The mandatory long-form census was a huge step back in the right direction for lovers of data across the nation that Voxco calls home.

Here’s a great article by Jan Kestle, Chair of CMA’s Customer Insights & Analytics Council, first published on the Canadian Marketing Association website here:

Starting at the beginning of May, Canadians are being asked to complete the 2016 Census. And there is good news for businesses, consumers and citizens alike.

As you’ll recall for the 2011 Census, the mandatory long-form census was replaced by a voluntary survey. This move resulted in a non-response bias that meant a lot of small-area data for 2011 could not be released—including data on income, education, labour force activity and special populations like immigrants and aboriginal peoples. The loss of the long-form census was a significant blow to policy makers, researchers, data scientists and marketing professionals.

But today we can breathe a sigh of relief because the mandatory long-form census is back, and the complexity of the Canadian population will once again be documented in a comprehensive and statistically sound way. Support for the restoration of a “proper” census came from all corners of Canadian society and has reinforced the fact that the Census of Canada is a national treasure to be protected and supported.

In this era of Big Data, some people wonder why we need the census. There are many reasons, but here are my top five for marketers:

  1. Key metrics like market share and untapped potential use census-based data to benchmark an organization’s users against total population.
  2. Census-derived demographics are used to weight surveys to make them applicable to the general population—and more actionable.
  3. Segments derived from small-area census data are used by marketers to link disparate data sources together—connecting demographics to lifestyle and media preferences and thereby helping marketers get the right message to the right people using their preferred media.
  4. Census data for neighbourhoods can help harness unstructured data from digital and social media. This allows marketers to link internal offline data to online sources-–getting closer to a single view of the customer.
  5. Using census-derived data to leverage existing surveys and administrative databases results in businesses asking consumers fewer questions. Businesses don’t have to collect data if it already exists in another form—and consumers benefit.

Because of these and many other reasons, we urge Canadians to fill out the Census—whether they get the short or long form. The Census is essential to the fundamental operation of the country—from planning the provision of social services to managing economic growth.

We live in a time when busy consumers expect brands to know and connect with them. The resulting good data will also help us be better marketers.

Read the source article at CMA

Online surveys are not enough

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Part 1: The oversaturation of online surveys.

Online will remain the #1 survey channel for the time-being, and deservedly so. The channel offers the ability for respondents to privately complete surveys on their own time. For researchers, data can be processed immediately, and there are no additional costs for interviewers.

But because of the simplicity and efficiency of online surveys, the market is quickly becoming oversaturated and respondents are getting overwhelmed. Online survey invitations are everywhere, and the surveys they link to are often sloppy. And the resulting online survey clutter leads to survey fatigue, which leads to a range of data collection issues, none of which are good news for researchers:

  • Declining response rates. Many online surveys see single-digit response rates as low as 2%. And respondents who do complete the surveys generally have an extreme opinion: they’re either ecstatic or livid. It’s difficult to get a balanced opinion when you’re only talking to outliers.
  • Reduced respondent attention span. For respondents who still complete surveys, the increased frequency can affect their in-survey attention span. The more survey questions they see, the higher their tendency to burn through questions too quickly without adequate thought.
  • Market saturation. With so many surveys vying for a respondent’s attention, how can one organization get their survey noticed and completed?

So are online surveys doomed? Of course not – but researchers tasked with deploying them are certainly being challenged. We’ve discussed numerous times in the past how to make online surveys more engaging. Here is the TL;DR version:

  • Design surveys well. A no-brainer, but so important. Keep online surveys short and sweet on the surface. Nowadays, if your survey looks cheap or takes longer than five minutes, you’ll start losing a portion of the respondents who were willing to click on the link in the first place.
  • Listen and Adapt. Surveys are a two-way conversation. Ensure that the respondent knows you’re listening to their answers. Use logic to skip irrelevant questions or pipe in past responses. If a respondent feels like they are being heard, they’re more likely to share.
  • Incentivize. Incentives increase response rates which offsets your sample cost. Unincentivized survey requests are a primary target in the rising pushback against online survey invitations.
  • Personalize the invitation. Ensure that survey invitations speak to the right people, and acknowledge the respondent situation. Use a clean sample source and personalize the message to clarify why they were chosen (eg. “Thanks for your purchase of X last Tuesday…”).
  • Create a community. Cut to the heart of your customer base and nurture your own panels of your loyal consumers. It’s a lot of work to create and manage, but an incentivized, permanent panel will give you a constant finger on the pulse of your most important customer segment.

Online surveys are an essential part of any Voice of Customer or research program. But in today’s industry reality, you need to accept that getting a respondent’s attention online is extremely challenging. Get your surveys noticed by complementing well-designed online surveys with surveys conducted via alternate channels.

Break through the heads-down, clutter-ignoring patterns of an average respondent’s daily routine. Think differently about how to get your survey noticed by respondents. Taking your survey project out of your own comfort zone can take you into a new zone where respondents actually notice your surveys.

We’ll expand more on this idea through this three-part blogpost series. Read Part 2 (Get surveys noticed in the offline world) now and Part 3 (The multi-channel advantage) will land in the coming weeks!

Let us help you.

Discover how we can help YOUR organization solve its current survey needs.