Skillen: Respondents Headed for Extinction #MRIA

Welcome to the virtual MRIA 2011 annual conference! This post reflects my personal musings and interpretations of this presentation. It was written during the presentation and posted minutes afterward. Any inaccuracies and silliness are my own.

“The survey respondent – headed for extinction?”
With Janine Keogh (Kraft Canada), Kristin Luck (Decipher), Norman Baillie-David (TNS Canadian Facts), and Rasheeda Qureshi (Research Now). Moderated by Shane Skillen (Hotspex).

  • Panelists are water in a bathtub but they are going down the drain. How do we plug the drain? How do we not dirty the water?
  • 0.25% of survey responders do 32% of all surveys, 5% are doing 50% of all surveys. (Sigh, this again.)
  • Is this tiny group engaged? Is it quality data? All that matters is quality. (Bang on)
  • How do we stop people from disengaging? It’s not the number of respondents, it’s the quality. Decrease length and perhaps increase frequency. Don’t cram everything into one survey.
  • Length is not the only issue. Respondents generally want to assist but we are cramming respondents into our format. We never give them feedback. We never tell them how the info is used. They have no  idea how important their information is?
  • An actual responder is here –> How does she educate her friends about participating? She’s told to tell her friends to join. (I think that’s insufficient) What do her friends get out of it? She gets to think about something else other than work or chores.
  • We need to adapt incentives to respondent desires and it depends on the project.
  • Norman thinks we need to find more responders. (Nope, I think we need to do a better job on surveys.)
  • Some surveys are darn right painful. Who is responsible for this? Clients? Providers? Shared? (Seems to me providers aren’t given the chance to influence.)
  • “We’ve been doing this survey for 20 years, we can’t change it.” (I don’t buy this.)
  • If you turn down a bad survey, someone else will do it anyways. (No reason that you can’t put your foot down. Take a stand for quality.)
  • Ten years ago, telephone was it. Online was sexy. Now RR declined and we created that problem, it’s our fault. We need to reinvest in the raw material.
  • We can focus on getting more people in but we really need to focus on the experience or they’ll just leave.
  • Consumers want to talk and engage and when they enjoy the experience, they do it again. Why not try to be more social, make it two way. Think about focus groups and research communities. Take what’s great from them and integrate them into survey research.
  • Technology has done the industry a disservice. There is less direct connection now. Phone, face to face, respondents are no longer real people. They are respondent id. Technology needs to be about improving the experience.
  • Younger respondents are hugely important and their RR is terrible. The only reason we do research is to grow our business
  • Here is what we should all do right NOW.
  • Researchers should be in the schools, speak to classrooms, about research. You can do this NOW!
  • Researchers should share results from the surveys. (Yeah baby!)
  • Answer your own surveys – people don’t because they know it’s long and tedious. Then why ask your respondent to do it? Boring is boring no matter how much the incentive is. You still want to blow your brains out. 🙂 Take a video of the torture session. Take the torturous survey yourself.
  • Incentivize for good survey design (Great idea)
  • Uptake of innovative survey tools has been miserable because of worry about survey trends. Please please please consider it for panelists who are hating grids. Panels are at stake. They are free to use so do so.
  • What about survey experience surveys? That 4 question survey at the end. Why not share it with the client? Show them how their surveys compare.
  • Thank you screens are pathetic. Tell people why their participation matters.
  • Don’t legislate survey length. Create a great survey and make it the right length.


2 responses

  1. hi there. very interesting read. are the
    “0.25% of survey responders do 32% of all surveys, 5% are doing 50% of all surveys.” acurate? who are they from?


    1. This is a general statistic about the entire industry that has been hashed and rehashed for a number of years. It may not be accurate anymore but the theory is likely still very true. A tiny percentage of people are answering most of the surveys out there. Researchers worry so much about generalizability and probability sampling yet we forget that we’re working with such a tiny group of opinion sharers.

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