Planning on How Best to Interview the Next Generation of Survey Participants

With response rate challenges continuing to haunt the industry, we collectively need to start thinking about how to survey the next generation of survey participants. Youth today are very much driven by technology. They are also very used to being entertained and stimulated. Unfortunately, taking a survey isn’t always the most exciting activity one could do with one’s time.

Educating the next generation to the importance of market research is the first step in getting participation. This is a very large initiative and may need the full support of the industry as a whole in terms of marketing and advertising. Schools and universities are probably the best places to start. Something to think about!

There is debate in the industry today

As far as making research fun and exciting, there is debate in the industry today as to the bias “gamifying” surveys creates. I myself have posted before on being aware of the potential traps utilizing technology just because it exists. The participant needs to be thoughtfully providing honest and open responses to questions and not simply enjoy the experience of taking the survey. For this reason, more research needs to be put into investing rather than simply into making surveys games.

New landscapes

There have been a number of new elements added to the survey mix; web/mobile surveying, crowdsourcing, research panels, and market research online communities all provide new sources of data collection participants. Panels lend themselves particularly well to younger respondents due to the fact they are being paid and typically can complete a number of studies quickly and easily using mobile devices (the young person’s trusty side arm!).

Would you like an incentive with that?

Credit: Within Advertising

Credit: Within Advertising

From my experience, the youth today tend to be less motivated and making the surveys easy to get in front of the respondents is going to be key for getting participation. Incentives are also going to play a bigger and bigger role in getting completes.

Last but not least, another consideration is having research topics that are very specifically relevant to the target audience. Having a survey pop up on a teenager’s smart phone as they walk out of McDonald’s on their experience of the meal they just took along with an incentive for a free meal just might do the trick. This employs smart interviewing technologies and expensive incentives but will give the edge on getting the completes needed!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Do not hesitate to post your thoughts below and I will respond. You can also contact me at jason.mcgrath@voxco.com.

“PS: If you think this is information other research specialists might find useful, tweet about it!’”

Sharing our private space: our new relationship with our phone!

Surveys that use smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular and unavoidable. They make it possible to reach respondents who have become “invisible” to the other means of data collection. They represent a new challenge, but also bring great opportunities to the table. You don’t conduct a survey on mobile devices as you do with more “classical” collection means. Here are some tips that will help you to become aware of these differences and to imagine how far your mobile surveys may lead you.

The first lesson is about the relationship that respondents have with their smartphone and, to a lesser extent, their tablet. The cell phone is one of the objects with which we have the greatest bond of personal attachment: we always have it on us, we customize it, we share practically all of our private life with it and, most of the time, we take good care of it.

This commitment is reinforced by the pattern of consumption of smartphone services, or applications. To install an app on your phone is like inviting someone into your home. It’s the equivalent of giving a not so restricted access to your intimate space. It is accepting to constantly look down upon the logo of a brand that you accept in your circle of trust. For the application user, it is the creation of a direct link with your company.

This trust must be maintained. Otherwise, the sanction will be brutal: your application will be deleted and the link broken in symbolic (you are no longer visible) and practical ways (the respondent cannot answer your studies).

The key elements that will maintain this privileged link are the following:

1. Simple and effective applications, as well as short questionnaires (no more than 5 minutes). Unlike the Web, you don’t “surf” in an application. You open it, access a service or information, and then close it. The cycle is very fast and rarely exceeds a few minutes, but may instead be repeated frequently. It is thus also possible to question respondents more regularly.

2. A presentation that is optimized for mobile use. Do not try to reproduce your Web questionnaires in a mobile version. Instead, reduce the amount of displayed data, be concise. If you have many things to say in a question, try to divide it into several sub-questions. Also try to keep each question on a single page, but be aware that it will never be guaranteed, because the presentation will be different depending on the terminals. There always comes a point where the user will have to scroll down to see the different answers. In that case, consider mixing your answer choices to limit bias.

3. A response mode adapted to mobile. Limit the amount of text input by the respondent. On smart phones, there are many other ways to gather information: selection in lists, choice of date from a calendar, photo taking, automatic geolocation, etc. Thus, if you already have access to the information, do not ask for it again, except if absolute imperative validation is needed. Use the known data of the respondents to skip unnecessary questions and go straight to the point.

4. Solicitation mode: a phone is primarily a personal tool. Respondents can often be uncomfortable answering a questionnaire about their personal tastes when they’re at work, or a questionnaire about their work during the weekend. Try to match your invitations with periods adapted to your respondents’ schedules. These invitations can take the form of “push” notifications. These are considered less intrusive and generate much better returns than emails. Use this function to solicit respondents more efficiently, and to invite or remind them about a pending invitation.

5. Proactive questionnaires. Offer questionnaires in which the respondents decide when to answer, at the frequency of their choosing. Rather than offering a questionnaire on the last movie they’ve seen, offer them the ability to give their opinion whenever they leave the movie theatre… Respondents always have their phone at hand and are better able to judge if they can or want to answer a survey. Remind them periodically through “push” alerts, if needed.

6. 100% mobile features. Ask your users to take photos or videos to illustrate what they’re saying, allow them to send voice comments, etc. All these features make the questionnaires more attractive and will allow respondents to be more involved. They will also allow you to extract more information, if you have the tools to exploit them.

7. Instant feedback. On smartphones, applications are used to obtain a result quickly. The simplicity of the questionnaire is important, but so is the feedback that the respondent gets at the end of a survey. The user could receive such a feedback, allowing him to appreciate the time he or she took to answer: results of the latest survey on the subject, recalling the points earned (in the case of a panel), discount coupon, exclusive content, etc.

Keep these things in mind when setting up your mobile studies and adapt them to your own context. There is no single recipe, but a multitude of ingredients that can be used to build an effective solution for your needs.

Mobile surveys should be seen as a way of collecting data in their own right, offering exceptional opportunities by redefining the relationship you have with your respondents. The technology is still new and evolving really fast, and its uses remain largely to be invented.

Imagination is a must in order to allow your studies to take their place, and especially keep it, on the respondents’ telephones.

Have a good summer!

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 Jason.mcgrath@voxco.com.

Jason

Mobile surveys: advantages, tools and perspectives

Mobile surveys are developing very rapidly; they challenge every data collection and follow-up practices we know. The daily integration of tablet devices, for professional uses as much as personal ones, brings research specialists to question their own approach.

The mobile survey: beyond the trends lie the advantages

“Vue” Magazine, March 2013

Mobility is definitely the rising star in the world of technology and communications. ABI Research, the international research company, declared that 2013 was the “year of the tablet”. More than 145 million units should be sold across the world, 20% of which will be used professionally.

Research companies are thus adapting and integrating mobile surveys in their strategies.

The mobile survey: beyond the trends lie the advantages

In the field of market studies and opinion surveys, specialists are continually looking for new ways to increase the response rates of participants. Since the use of mobile devices is more and more popular, polling firms are increasingly resorting to mobile surveys. And with good reason; the benefits abound:

  • A significant drop in production costs
  • Data that is collected and treated in real time
  • A special link is created between interviewer and interviewee during face-to-face surveys
  • A higher response rate due to the flexibility offered to the respondents
  • Mobile devices’ capacity to collect information (geolocation, camera, audio/video recording, etc.).

Data thus collected can be used immediately, without having to go through data transfers and entries. In short, mobile surveys bring the respondents closer to the polling firms (and their clients).

Which is the best mobile survey solution?

There are many mobile survey solutions: the survey software or the mobile survey application, to name but two. Actually, one has to know how to choose the solution that best matches the pollster’s needs.

Here are 3 mobile survey tools that are often used:

  • Software that is connected to Internet
  • Customized software
  • Dedicated applications (app)

In some cases, firms even choose to develop their own pilot projects. Here are 5 points to validate the solution:

  • Has it existed for a while? Is it a beta version?
  • Can it operate on the main tablets and smartphones?
  • Is it specifically conceived for mobile devices?
  • Does it allow for simple and easy updates?
  • Does it offer a demo version that can be tested?

It is important to keep in mind that the best tool will give the best results if it is selected judiciously and according to one’s specific needs.

What is the future of mobile surveys?

The trends prove it: the advent of mobility is revolutionizing the way face-to-face surveys are approached. Research firms are adjusting their strategic position by diversifying their services and integrating new technologies. In a nutshell, they’re all trying to answer one question: “Which communication tools will better hit a precise target in a given place?”

What can we expect for the coming years? How will the manners in which we approach surveys change?

“In the near future, tablets will become the main device in our profession. They will completely replace laptops for face to face surveys and establish itself for all types of panel”, said David Lacan, Director of mobile solutions at Voxco.

However, to take advantage of this effervescence, we will have to monitor certain critical points closely. One of them being platform compatibility; we are speaking here of an attention to the compatibility of mobile survey tools rather than the processes.

“To meet that challenge, compatible solutions will have to be proposed on as many terminals as possible. The mobile Web is thus very relevant in some cases”, adds Mr. Lacan.

Another significant challenge will be to effectively analyze data stemming from such a variety of sources.

The true challenge of the years to come is not to be found in the means of implementation to obtain information, but rather in learning to analyze data that stems from multiple channels“, explains Michel Saulnier, outgoing president of MRIA’s Quebec Chapter and Voxco consultant.

The future of mobile surveys is flourishing. Still embryonic, it is a solution that will prove beneficial to groups of individuals and professionals, whether interviewers or interviewees.

To learn more about mobility in 2013:

Welcome to the “Vue Magazine” LinkedIn Group of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA).

“PS: If you think this is information other research specialists might find useful, tweet about it!’”

Posted by Eric Perreault

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

Demystifying the Governance of Survey Results

Information behaves just like water. It can be captured, stocked and, if left unused, it can evaporate without anyone really noticing…

Information that is collected through research studies on customer behaviour follows the same logic. Once a program measuring client satisfaction and loyalty is implemented, the results are observed but rarely analyzed and even less transformed into concrete action plans (less than 10% of companies conduct sophisticated analyzes based on the results of their surveys – source Marketing Science Institute). As a consequence, the results evaporate instead of circulating effectively throughout the company.

Since 2010, the biggest research suppliers are aware of this situation. “Marketing research firms had practically all reached the same level in their service offers and their clients started to doubt the utility of these studies…” explains Michel Saulnier, researcher and president of the MRIA. As a reaction, integrated information management models have started to emerge. The principle is quite simple. It consists of transforming the satisfaction or loyalty results into action plans. “These action plans, supported by the implementation of rigorous governance, will allow companies to significantly improve the experience and loyalty of their clients”, Saulnier believes.

As we have seen in a previous article (How to Make Survey Results Come Alive in the Company?), it is important to deploy a governance model. This deployment rests on a few essential steps:

  • First, the involvement and support of a senior-level manager in charge of customer loyalty. That strategic involvement from a company’s upper management is critical to allow the establishment of the steps that will lead to effective governance.
  • Second, client-oriented action committees made up of employees are integrated throughout every segment of the company. These committees act as relays, disseminating information, and as sensors focused on clients’ reactions.
  • Once this structure is established, research studies results are disseminated quickly and regularly (monthly is ideal), throughout the company via the above-mentioned structure.

Demystifying the Governance of Survey Results The client-oriented action committees can thus interact immediately based on the received information and rapidly set up action plans to improve client loyalty. “Of course, a rigorous follow-up and updates of the action plans are critical in obtaining results. There is no one right answer.” Michel Saulnier continues, “only rigorous data analysis, and its transformation into action plans, allows us to measure the results obtained after surveying the clients”. This permanent attention, along with the adjustments implemented by the action committees, allows the identification of “winning solutions”. Once an action is deemed effective in reinforcing clients’ satisfaction and loyalty, it is communicated to the entire personnel of the company and implemented. “For a governance structure to really be operational, it is important to involve the company’s front-line employees, through the recognition of their work as well as a financial bonus in exchange for their involvement in the process.”

This new concept of governance of satisfaction or loyalty survey results is a fundamental step in the strategic management of companies. Once it is set up, not only does it allow you to involve all the personnel with the improvement of the company’s quality, it also allows you to be in sync with clients’ demands.

A permanent guarantee of your ability to compete!

Let us help you.

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