Engaging Respondents

In our latest blog Sunam Ikhlaq explains how to engage respondents for better overall results.

Engaging RespondentsOk so imagine this scenario, you carry out a survey of x number of people, trying to find out how satisfied they were with a service provided by x company. Every self-completion questionnaire sent out is filled in and returned by the respondent. Sounds too good to be true? It is.

Looking closely at the responses you see that some respondents have ticked the same box for every closed ended question. This leads you to wonder, did they genuinely ‘neither agree nor disagree’ with every comment or, more likely, did they just get bored of answering questions and thought it was easier  to tick all the boxes in one column. Furthermore the qualitative questions included to allow respondents the chance to add additional comments and really asks them to express their thoughts and emotions were completed by writing ‘N/A’ in the box that asks them to ‘please explain in your own words’.

The greatest lesson we can take away from this common problem is that a high response rate, although desirable, is meaningless if the respondent does not engage with the research.  This is something that can be difficult in practice and although you cannot force respondents to engage, there are practical ways to promote respondent engagement. The same structure of questionnaires and fixed questions presented to all respondents leaves little room for discussion or engagement in dialogue. The Face Facts team always keep in mind three things when tackling respondent engagement. They are: avoid over surveying, make every attempt to ensure we communicate all the essential information and understand how the respondent feels by simply putting ourselves in their shoes.

Firstly we ought to tackle the problem of over surveying. This is one which appears to plague our society today. There are so many ways in which brands and companies can ensure that they are receiving feedback, and especially with increased use of social media, consumers may feel overloaded.

Let me paint a picture for you.  On a typical day whilst you’re trying to carry out your weekly shop you might find that you are approached by an individual carrying out a questionnaire. It’s a familiar scenario; the difficulty in keeping calm whilst answering questions, trying to control your trolley, entertaining your 3 year old, all whilst trying to find out where on earth the tins of beans have been moved to. Then having escaped the supermarket you rush home to start dinner only to be interrupted by a knock at the door. It’s another market researcher asking whether you have time to answer yet another questionnaire. After you escape that and manage not to burn dinner you finally relax in front of the TV to watch Eastenders with a cup of tea and a packet of hobnobs only to be disturbed by a phone call. What a surprise, it’s a telephone surveyor asking how satisfied you were with the service provided by the customer services department in Homebase. You vaguely remember a trip to Homebase about 6 months ago and, being a good sort you manage to answer the questions to the best of your ability, only to find out you missed the end of Eastenders and your tea is now cold.

We’ve all been there at some point (market researchers included). Although it may not be the same company carrying out three different methods to generate data in one day it does make us rethink whether we are gathering data or whether we are simply bombarding consumers. It is important to recognise that consumers will become tired of requests to take part in research (if they aren’t already) and this can also reflect badly on the brand.

Secondly we need to ensure that we are communicating all the essential information to our respondents. This means that we tell the respondent what they need to know clearly and honestly. We tell them exactly why they are taking the survey, approximately how long it will take to complete, the number of questions they will be asked and how the information they disclose will be used. This builds trust and in return the respondent should be easily engaging. Following contact with the respondent it can be useful to send an update of the research and how the results were used. It can be especially beneficial to show the respondent how their answers and involvement have been used in the research. For example we can communicate back to the respondents to show how, the customer has been listened to and their feedback has been taken on board to implement future plans within the organisation.

Lastly we must put ourselves in the shoes of our respondents. We can end up asking a lot of them due to demands by the client or other stakeholders, but ultimately without the help of the customer we would not know how to improve existing products and services. Without the respondent we would have no data to work with. We aim for happy and cooperative respondents to allow us to gain the most out of our research project.

By following these simple, but effective, steps you can encourage engagement amongst respondents and deliver a highly successful project which provide valuable insight.


How do you feel about these ideas on respondent engagement? We would love to hear about your experiences.

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Alternatively you can message me at Sunam@facefactsresearch.com

Posted on November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

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