by | Jun 27, 2017

Automation and virtual reality are being heralded as the big take-aways from the recent IIeXNA2017 in Atlanta. They’ve been recapped very well several times:

But there was a parallel theme covered by multiple sessions which deserves equal attention – the plight of the survey participant aka. Respondent. In addition to being mentioned in passing during many of the sessions, the topic was highlighted as the main agenda item several times throughout the 2.5 days:

In addition, many of the findings discussed during the Panel: The GRIT Report & Future Impacts focused on sample companies, their value, etc.


My big takeaway from all this talk about sample (aka. respondents/participants/PEOPLE) is that it is up to us, the sample companies, to do better. We’re beyond the point of hoping that survey design will quickly become mobile friendly, and that every survey creator will also be a UX expert. We know that the end client’s cannot (and frankly should not) bear the burden of figuring out how to #RespectTheRespondent and we all know that turning away “bad” surveys won’t help – because there’s always someone else willing to do the work. The time is now for us, the sample companies, to get far better at consulting on respondent engagement, and using real experience to shape the path forward.


Organizations like the GRBN have data showing that bad survey or research experience is tainting the general population’s understanding of Market Research – according to one study they ran, up to 70% of survey takers have recently had a bad survey experience. They also are proving that poor research design does have a negative impact on the consumer’s impression of the brand conducting the research (often times whether or not the brand is explicitly apparent).

Instead of slinging sample for the cheapest price, let’s get back to valuing the PEOPLE who kindly give us their time, attention and opinions in a world with so much else they could be doing. Our competitors are not other sample companies, but the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, etc. all competing for people’s precious free time.

With the influx of cheaper and cheaper sources of sample, we’ve done 2 things to our own detriment. 1. We’ve started treating people as a commodity and 2. We’ve started treating research participants as bad until proven good, instead of good until suspected otherwise.

I know this message got through loud and clear when even the Qualitative Recaps touched on it. In IIeX 2017: A Qualitative Recap by Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research she says: “Clearly, as researchers and clients, we must question the need to ask so many questions. Do we really think the quality of the insights is going to be improved by surveying respondents who are impatient and fatigued?”

We all know what we want:

  • Shorter surveys
  • Mobile-first design
  • Only MVP questions
  • More inclusivity (think: disabilities, accommodating people on their terms, considering whether your screening parameters really have to be SO tight).
  • Sharing outcomes or interesting statistics back to the respondents
  • Saying Thank You!

The asks are not new, but what I feel we need to be doing better is proving why these are so important, and what their implications are on both the quality of the data received as well as the impression of the brand, product, service or industry which is the subject of the given study.

Let’s get consultative! I’m proud of the consultative approach our sales and bidding teams have embraced. You’ll be seeing more of this from us in the weeks and months to come.

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