Survey Software Training: A Handy Checklist

Survey Software TrainingDiane, Voxco’s survey training specialist, is a road warrior with thousands of training hours under her belt. She has given Voxco training sessions all over the world, including Chicago, Paris, Milan, Sydney, Singapore….and many more places. Here is her checklist to help you get the most out of your CATI or CAPI software training process. Let’s dive right in….


  • Pre-select your training questionnaires. The best survey projects to learn from are your own. A couple weeks before training, agree with your trainer which of your CATI/ CAPI questionnaires should be used in the training session. Choose something typical, but also be sure to cover more complex scenarios.
  • Book enough training hours. Discuss your needs with your trainer beforehand to block out a realistic schedule. It’s tempting to try to keep it as short as possible. But remember that long-term, it’s always better to have invested a bit of extra time in up-front training.
  • Check your equipment. We know this one sounds obvious but it happens—a room full of trainees, eager to learn, only to just then realize that the projector is out of order. Test your network connections, make sure trainees have their own work stations and yes, triple check that projector.


  • Elect your software champion. Find a go-to colleague, preferably someone software savvy and invested in the project, to be the product champion. This person can help internal teams once the training is over.
  • Group up trainees. If you’re training a large number of people, prioritize different sessions to different groups based on their software knowledge. In our experience, optimal training sessions are achieved when group sizes are no more than eight participants.
  • Encourage questions. Staying on course sometimes means slowing down for a moment. Don’t be afraid to take some time to expand upon a certain topic. We really can’t stress this enough. When someone feels out of the loop, their first reaction is often to disengage. Encouraging questions keeps everyone interested and on the ball.
  • Embrace change. Training offers you the opportunity to revisit old techniques and explore things in a new light. Don’t let yourself get in the way of major productivity gains!
  • Be committed. This means no cellphones, emails or texting during sessions. Of course, work commitments don’t just disappear—which brings us to the next point…
  • Breaks. Breaks allow trainees to stay focused during training sessions and to catch up on other projects between them. Breaks also offer a good opportunity for trainees to get some one-on-one time with their trainer and address some things that may be unclear.


  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Now that trainees acquired new skills, don’t shelve them! It’s important that everyone put the software to use as soon as possible.
  • Knowledge transfer. Avoid knowledge gaps by having your software champion train new resources as often as possible.
  • Set refresher sessions. In our experience, the average trainee absorbs around 30% of their product knowledge during the initial training sessions. A lot more is then accumulated through doing (again: practice, practice, practice!). But one of the best ways to make sure everyone is working at full productivity is through refresher courses. A periodic two- to three-hour session with your trainer transforms software operators to software experts.
  • Best practice guide. Training teaches your team to efficiently use the survey system. As your team becomes familiar with it, you’ll develop your own methods. Consider putting together a best practice guide to share with your team.

That about covers it. And now we’d like to hand the mic over. From your experience, can you think of any other tips to increase software training productivity? Let us know. Just like you’ll learn from us, we’re sure there’s a whole lot to learn from you.

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

“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!

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

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!

Polls and the U.S. Elections

                                                      “Polls are for strippers and cross-country skiers”

–      Sarah Palin, speaking at a Tea Party rally one year ago

Despite this assertion from the defeated Republican vice-presidential candidate, polls continue to be omnipresent in the coverage of electoral seasons. We are witnessing this in the United States, even more than we did recently in Quebec’s elections. The fact is, even if dismissively downplayed by some, political and opinion polls are here to stay because, in addition to being an important gauge of public opinion, they are heavily relied upon and commented on by the media to feed their news cycles. With such a strong demand for polls, their supply will continue. The market (for them) has spoken.

The United States is as fascinating a case as it gets in assessing the significance, or not, of polls in today’s electoral process. Some argue that polls influence election results. Let’s just say that with close to 500 national and state-level polls regularly cited at any time (the Huffington Post Pollster tracking model charts their average daily), hardly a day goes by without a voter hearing or reading about a new poll. This may or may not scare them into volunteering for their candidate or convincing friends and family of the importance of their vote, but it could secure their feeling of being in the lead, maybe to the point of not bothering to vote. Most likely, however, people realize that a poll is not a prediction and that it should not change their vote or electoral behaviour. “The web site is called Pollster, not Forecaster” Stanford University political science professor Simon Jackman reminds us about HuffPost’s tool.

One thing to keep in mind when reading U.S. polls is that national ones often matter less than those in, say, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio or Virginia, a few of the infamous “swing states”, those that could swing either way in the November election and where Obama and Romney will focus their campaigns. That is due to the American political system which, in all its heightened polarization, reduces the significance of polls in most states, even the giants California, Texas or New York because they rarely switch allegiance despite their huge populations. The most sought-after votes are those of independent voters, and most especially in those swing states.

So if you want anything that looks like a prediction, the polls reflecting these battleground states’ intentions are the ones you should pay most attention to.

What does a customer’s tone of voice express? Emotions!

Customer service centers are likely be your organization’s most direct point of customer contact.  A customer’s voice, for them, is not simply an abstract concept, it’s something they listen to directly. Their objectives, however, are primarily defined in terms of effectiveness and cost control; so, It should come as no surprise that customer satisfaction is not their top priority.

A good example of this is the case of gaming software company Zynga’s support center, reported in Call Center Week. When Telus International was awarded its customer support mandate, it started out using traditional effectiveness measures. Since Zynga was aware of the crucial importance of satisfaction for its game players, it obliged Telus to take another approach. This required significant training effort, not only to achieve understanding of how the games operate, but above all to perceive them from the gamer’s (client) perspective. As Zynga’s Services President explains in this article, the gamers are emotionally involved in their games, and this has to be taken into account when interacting with them.

This doesn’t just apply to the gaming world, of course. Now that customers also hold forth in the social media, the emotive aspects of their postings take on more and more importance.

As Frank Eliason, author of the book “@ Your Service”, explains in an interview with Cynthia Clark, the essence of customer service is to treat our customers as human beings, and not numbers. It’s listening to them attentively and dealing with their requests in a respectful manner that will gain and keep their loyalty.  However, if customer service employees on the front line are obliged to operate according to ultra-strict procedures, this can quickly lead to dead ends and frustration. Frank Eliason clearly explains how customer support centers are often incapable of getting their organizations to make the changes necessary to improve the customer experience.

Even then, we hear numerous organizations boasting about their customer focus practices while there remain major gaps between what they preach and actually practise. This study from the Temkin Group shows that only 25% of the 255 companies studied achieve an adequate level of customer focus; not something to crow about!

The conclusion of the interview with Frank Eliason, cited above, is inspiring. It shows that simply reporting stories of unhappy customers can speed up decisions to make changes. Why? Simply because emotions expressed by customers are more powerful than rational arguments.

In fact, how many companies dress up their customer satisfaction studies with abstract performance indicators or dry tables of numbers? Instead follow Frank Eliason’s example and recount the experiences of your customers. Illustrate your report with concrete examples which put the numbers into context. You will be surprised by the result.

To validate directly how your customers perceive your service efforts (and those of your competition), complement your study with a social media analysis. Thanks to Semeon’s tool  you can quickly draw up a sentiment analysis of your customers and bring significant cases to light.

Are you ready to share your customers’ feelings?

Let us help you.

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