Response rate Challenges

Having run my own market research data collection call center for over 10 years, nothing was more important to a research study than the response rate. Response rates are an important measurement in survey research because they reflect the level of effort undertaken during data collection and help describe the reliability of the resulting data. Survey non-response can bias samples (and therefore survey data) by making the sample composition substantively different from the target population. Bias, in this instance, refers to the difference between the sampled units and the target population.

Within today’s ever growing fight for consumer time and head space, market research firms are having to be more and more agile in securing responses when interviewing. People have less and less time given the amount of time they spend sleeping, working, with family and friends and engaging in social media. Let’s face it, as much as we all hate to admit it, participating in a 20 minute survey is not how most of us want to spend some of our precious free time.

Less intrusive ways for interviewing need to be explored. This will be accomplished in a number of ways. Shorter but more frequent studies are one possible way the industry is adapting. Providing alternative ways for respondents to complete surveys is another.  Web and mobile surveys are becoming more and more of a trend and are gaining on telephone and face to face. People are constantly on their phones and the fears of usage charges are fading with unlimited data plans. People are migrating away from laptops and desktops for the convenience of mobile phones and tablets and as a result mobile surveying will become more and more important. In many markets survey-taking is moving from telephone and face-to-face to mobile device and leapfrogging the PC altogether.

A key to achieving higher response rates is taking the survey itself to the various medium that are available to consumers today. If consumers prefer to reply to surveys online or on their mobile devices rather than on the telephone, it is up to the industry to provide those options for participants. Multi-channel data collection solutions are available and research firms are going to need to invest in them in order to achieve the response rate necessary to complete their projects. This is a fact.

Whether it be traditional telephone, IVR, internet or mobile (both online and off line) we need to make it easier for respondents to complete the study as quickly as possible.

Making the survey interesting and engaging is also important. As people become more and more easily distracted and we are fighting for their precious free time it is important to make it easy and as entertaining as possible. Shorter questions with fewer response options are where we are going to have to go. Using all the bells and whistles for interactive web surveys is something we have learned will only bias results and should be steered away from. Just because the technology allows for something doesn’t mean we should do it. Just how happy can I make this smiley face icon is trivial in respect to the results. Having said that, however, there is a fine line when engaging the consumer, especially as the younger generations make their way up the demographic scales.

Incentives continue to be a great way of enticing people to participate. Relevant incentives are key. Use incentives that assist people with their day to day lives that are tied to the study being performed. People love the idea of getting something for nothing.

It has been proven time and time again that people would rather a small change for something bigger (i.e. a draw) than everyone getting something small. Just look at how many people purchase lottery tickets in North America every day!

Regardless of how we do it we as an industry need to adapt and technology is the key. Consumers are what we are all seeking, they are changing and we have to change with them!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Do not hesitate to contact me at


Marketing Research in Australia, and the Impact of IT!

As the 2008 global economic crisis provoked a worldwide downturn in marketing research activities in 2009 and 2010, the industry today is reorganizing and set to grow again.

According to a study by ESOMAR, the world ranking of most dynamic countries in market research remain somewhat unchanged. Only China moved up to rank 6th among countries that invest the most in that sector. The United States still ranks number one and countries such as Canada and Australia have fallen back one rank. After the inflation of 2009-2010, emerging countries in Latin America are displaying growth rates of 14%. The industry is renewing itself and must not only contend with a new global economic environment, it must also deal with issues linked to the integration of new information technologies (IT) in data collection processes.

Web 2.0, mobile telephony and the explosion of tablet devices all contributed to changed collection methods. At the global level, “online” data collection today represents the main investment technology in the field of research. According to a study by AIMIA (The Digital Industry Association for Australia), Australia is no exception and steers most of its marketing research budgets (30% versus 24% worldwide) towards “online” data collection methods.

Some factors may explain this trend for online surveys. First, the high cost of CATI work, which the minimum wage is about $ 25.00 / hour for the Australian interviewers, has contributed greatly to the prevalence of online data collection. The Australian market has proven largely adverse to the off-shoring of call centre work which does contribute to the growth of alternative data collection methodologies.

However, more robust sampling methodologies cannot always be credibly serviced by online panels which are typically not representative of the Australian population. Therefore, government and social research firms remain major drivers in the perpetuation of CATI in Australia, with many large CATI facilities still servicing this need. Commercial research however can and will opt for the online option where possible.

Secondly, Smartphone capability is increasingly becoming the sole point of contact for an important section of the population. The scarcity of accurate and productive traditional telephone databases is making cell phone contact a more popular option than previously. As a result, we may see more growth in this data collection mode.

A recent study comparing 43 countries shows that the penetration of smartphones is among the most significant in the case of Australian adults, with an ownership rate of about 66%. Furthermore, one out of three households owns a tablet device. Australian professionals state that over 50% of smartphone owners have developed a real addiction to social networks. These new behaviours will fundamentally alter the current research methods used in Australia. Contrary to global practices favouring quantitative surveys (17% versus 76%), Australian research companies use qualitative data collection methods more frequently (more than 30% versus 60% for quantitative surveys). When you know that online data collection only represents 1% of the tools used to research information within the framework of qualitative studies, you can easily imagine that the Australian market is likely to turn to more quantitative studies in the coming years.

Marketing research will need to deal with two fundamental factors in order to define the methodologies of tomorrow: adaptation to the new rules of global consumption[i] and the permanent revolution of IT.

[i] Middle class development in emerging countries.

Other sources of relevant information for that market:

Virtual Call Centers: Bringing Remote Interviewers Closer Through Helpful Technology

For this post, we wanted to start by taking a moment and saying thank you for your readership and your comments! Often we get caught up in the intricacies of our field, focusing our articles on the technical aspects as a result, but we’d like to assure you that we read every comment, and take the time to answer all the questions you might have!

One of the hot topics you wanted us to address is the phenomenon of virtual call centers with work-at-home interviewers. You wanted to know if it’s worth it, if it generates cost savings, if the technology is mature, and how it affects human resources and quality assurance.

There’s no denying it, virtual call centers are not only a growing trend, they’re a reality that’s here to stay! It makes perfect sense when you think about it, both from the employee and the managerial point of view.

Why Use a Virtual Call Center?

There are many reasons why a company would create and take advantage of a virtual call center, but first and foremost on every manager’s mind is the potential reduction in overhead costs offered by this approach because it requires no physical space since the interviewers are working from home.

Virtual Call Center

Let’s also keep in mind that with a virtual call center, you can hire employees as needed from ANY geographical region! With a virtual call center you can easily optimize your staff by language, accents, proximity to project, proximity to end clients, etc., as well as having extra manpower always ready on staff to manage work overflow. This type of hiring flexibility allows you to expand when needed without incurring the costs of a brick and mortar expansion.  It can also help your recruiting efforts and reduce turnover if seen as a real advantage by your employee.

Perceived Challenges Managing Remote Interviewers

There are five major concerns that all call center managers share and address: productivity, quality, motivation, technology, and deployment. These five remain constant whether we’re speaking of a virtual call center or a traditional call center.

That being said, let us explain how the Voxco Command Center, with its integrated proprietary telephony system, Pronto, helps address these issues in a virtual call center context.

Productivity is assured through automated dialing with a combination of user defined dialing parameters.  Dialing can be fully automated in all modes (Preview, Power, and Predictive), allowing for unparalleled control over interviewer work pace.

Quality assurance is done using intuitive real-time visual and audio monitoring and recording functions. What this means, is that managers, supervisors, and QA staff, are aware of everything that is going on at all times, in real-time, and can intervene and act upon this data in any way they see fit, at any point in the project.

Additionally, the solution is easy to deploy and maintain from an IT perspective. In fact, all it takes is Internet access. There’s no software for the remote interviewer to download, there are no files for the interviewer to send or receive, everything in one place, secure, and always up to date.

The last challenge, but not the least, is employee motivation: the gremlin of the virtual call center idea. Truth is, in the call center world, this human aspect is the most important, difficult to control, and hard to implement.

Properly training and keeping employees aligned with the company vision and project requirements forces managers to implement various processes and communication protocols.

Technology can do very little when it comes to managing this human aspect. It can offer an intuitive and friendly graphic user interface, it can provide us with helpful and flexible short messaging capabilities to deploy during work shifts; however, the type of communication needed to motivate employees goes beyond instant messaging, and has more to do with HR than IT. A failure to achieve on the above issue will inevitably result in high employee turnover, lack of productivity, and poor work quality, no matter the software being employed.

Command Center is currently being used to manage hundreds of call centers worldwide, combining over 20,000 workstations, 7,500 of which use our Pronto Telephony System.

Voxco Command Center: a call center management solution focused on productivity, quality monitoring, and technological flexibility.

  • Web based CATI data collection interface (no installation/easy to deploy and maintain)
  • User definable access rights and security
  • Audio and visual monitoring and recording for quality control purposes
  • Built-in messaging to interviewers
  • Integrated automated-dialing telephony layer (all interviewers connected to central CATI system)
  • VoIP telephony connectivity efficiency (standard telephony connectivity using regular phone lines also available when bandwidth may not be sufficient for VoIP)
  • All data collected is stored on a central database. Nothing resides on the workstations of the home interviewers

Again, thank you all for your readership and comments, you always manage to surprise and impress us! We hope that this article answered some of the questions you had about virtual call centers. For more information on Command Center or Pronto solutions, visit our website or contact us.

Posted by Eric Perreault

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