by | Jun 27, 2017

I’m going on the record calling out sample companies (ourselves included – there’s always room for improvement) to do a better job of consulting with our clients on the topic of research participation. Given that there is far more demand for respondents than there are respondents to fill available survey opportunities, there’s a pretty low barrier of entry for sample companies to sling respondents. I know, we’ve all done it.

But, by doing so, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Sample companies are getting a bad rap in the market research industry. End-clients don’t want to deal with us, they hire research agencies to shield them. During “The Great Sample Debate” at IIeX NA 2017 Tanya Feinstein of Dell, when asked whether she would appreciate a MR agency bringing their sample supplier into the room explained that no, in fact she would not want a sample supplier there “that’s what I hired the MR agency to deal with”.

Long have sample companies bemoaned the user experience of the survey. But aside from pointing fingers (at the end client who “won’t change” or the agency who “doesn’t solicit our council”) what are we doing to position ourselves not as sources of respondents but as experts in the field of connecting brands and researchers with the people they need to hear from?

I believe the change has to come from us. Let’s stop waiting to be invited to the table. Here’s what I believe we can do to prove our worth, instead of just talking about it:

  1. Collect respondent feedback: If you’re not already asking your respondents to rate their survey experience and share their thoughts, you need to start doing this NOW.
  2. Analyze internal statistics: are you looking at drop-rates by client? Are you pinpointing different survey design elements and comparing their performance? You don’t have to build anything fancy for this – use what you have and give it some critical thought. That thought can translate into real learning that you can feed back to your clients.
  3. Share respondent feedback: Then, take it a step further and find the story in that feedback and share it with your clients. Maybe your client is an MR agency and won’t pass it along to the end client, maybe they will. Maybe you think it’s too late, maybe they’ll remember and ask for your thoughts earlier in the survey creation process next time. Build a compelling case for what you’re asking for (mobile friendly, shorter, less grids, flashier look/feel, more engaging gamification or multi-media components, even as basic as adjusting the answer options to align with information you already know about your respondents so that they don’t have to answer their household income or marital status AGAIN!)
  4. Get involved with the organizations in our industry actively working to address respondent issues. Keep an eye on what the GRBN and Insights Association Online Sampling Forum are putting together.

Stop asking for a seat at the table, let’s forge our own seat by being a consultative partner to market research agencies and their clients. We can, and we must, drive real change in the respondent experience – or there won’t be respondents willing to participate in market research.