Looking After Your Respondents

Respondents are crucial to the success of any market research project. Without willing respondents, as market researchers we would not be able to ask the questions we need to be able to reach the answers we seek. However, far too often the time and willingness of the respondent is taken for granted. We need to make sure we keep respondents happy, and want to continue participating in market research.

A common pitfall is for a researcher to get carried away when designing a study. Often there is a large list of questions that we could ask a respondent, and so it is tempting to include as many as possible in the questionnaire. However a respondent can easily be fatigued when a survey is too long, or having to answer similar styles of questions that seem repetitive. This can ultimately lead to less meaningful data, when respondents become disengaged with the questions they are answering. When designing your questionnaire, always put yourself in the respondents’ shoes. Try and just ask the questions that you really need, and will be most likely to generate action from your project.

Another issue can be from poor survey design, particularly for online studies. A survey with poor answer options that aren’t applicable or difficult-to-use question types can leave respondents frustrated. Even a spelling mistake can put a respondent off completing your survey. Having high quality control and survey testing is important to ensure that you show the respondent this is important, and you respect their time.

Choosing an incentive for your project can often be critical as to whether you get to speak to the right respondents in your study. The incentive required should correlate with a number of factors – how much time are you asking of the respondent, how niche is your respondent audience and how engaged will respondents be in your research topic? Often we find that customer studies don’t require incentivisation, because the respondent has a vested interest in ‘having-a-say’; a simple thank you letter may be enough. A hard to reach audience or a lengthy qualitative study (e.g. ethnography or diary study) will require a suitably larger incentive to attract enough respondents to take part.

If we stick to some basic rules about looking after respondents, then we will be making data collection easier and ensuring high quality.

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