Point Counterpoint: Telephone and CATI Interviewing should die #MRX #NewMR 

Market research isn’t straight forward. As much as you believe one thing, I’ll completely disagree and believe another. Which brings us to this series of posts. Over the coming weeks, a colleague and I are going to tackle an important research question. I’m going to make one argument and they’re going to argue the exact opposite.  Do we each have the same opinion, do we each believe in our own argument, are we arguing against our real opinion? You figure it out. Here goes!

Keza Kyanzaire: Telephone interviewing should die

CATI or Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing Software has been helping market research companies interrupt people during dinner since the dawn of time (the proliferation of the internet). I admit, there are advantages to this form of interviewing, especially considering that when it was originally conceived, the alternatives included going door to door with a clipboard. However, it’s past time to put telephone interviewing to pasture.

According to the CRTC’s 2016 Communications Monitoring Report, more Canadian households exclusively use mobile phones over landline phones, and the shift away from landline phone usage continues to increase. Telephone interviewers are increasingly beginning to reach respondents on mobile phones. Respondents on mobile are often younger, and age can have an adverse effect on the willingness to participate in research and the quality of the data. As well, a respondent reached on a mobile phone may not be in an environment conducive to completing an interview.

Let’s not even mention the fact that telephone interviewers are often mistaken for telemarketers, which comes with its own set of issues. Market researchers have always had to fight to distance themselves from telemarketers in order to establish trust with participants, and legitimacy in the work we do.

Web-based surveys are an effective alternative to telephone interviews. Not only are they a cost saving alternative, (staffing call centres can be extremely costly and they tend to have high turnover rates) they allow the respondent to decide where and when to participate. Particularly in the case of MROC’s or panels, respondents can choose to participate in surveys that are of interest to them and are more engaged and active. Moreover, web-based surveys allow for visual stimuli and more interactive elements that not only make for a better experience for the respondents, but also allows for a depth in the types of questions that can be asked, and data that can be gathered.

Telephone interviewing has been a great resource for the industry, but with the advantages of web-based methods, why are we still running call centres in 2017. It’s past it’s prime and it is time that they are replaced by more effective and advanced methods.

Keza has an Honors Bachelor of Psychology with a Specialization in Cognition. She also completed Humber College’s Research Analyst Postgraduate Program, where she learned how to conduct both social and market research. Keza put her education into practice as a Research Analyst Intern at Numeris, where she conducted statistical analysis and helped inform business decisions. She is now a Researcher at PATTISON Outdoor. And she’s an experienced speaker having taken the stage at #IIeX in Amsterdam. 

Annie Pettit: Telephone interviewing is the best thing since sliced bread

I’m not a gambling person but I’ll bet you know about research panels. Well, you’re in the minority. Most people who are not in the market and social research industry don’t know that panels exist. Which begs the question -who are these people who know about research panels? Are they just people desperately seeking places to earn money? What causes some people to seek out incentive based activities? One thing I know for a fact is these people have internet. They can afford monthly internet charges, maybe even high speed internet charges, as well as the cost of a device to access the internet. Internet might be a right but it still is a luxury for many people. Let’s check our academic privilege at the door. So how do we gather opinions from people who aren’t aware of research panels or couldn’t participate in them even if they wanted to?

One alternative is mall or central location research. Send your best face to face interviewers to the nearest mall and have them randomly interrupt passersby.  Well, first of all, not everyone lives near a location that is large enough to warrant sending an interviewer. Sorry residents of Nunavut, you’ll never be asked to participate in mall research – your town isn’t large enough for your opinion to matter. You live in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Montreal, or Halifax? Your chances are pretty good of meeting up with a mall interviewer – unless you’re one of those people who takes a ten minute detour through the parking lot to avoid the person with a clipboard. Besides, anyone who’s taken an introduction to research class knows what accidental sampling or convenience sampling is. Goodbye ability to generalize to a larger population if mall research is your game. 

Which is why I’m a huge fan of telephone research. As it has been since the invention of polls, telephone research continues to lead the fight against self-selection bias. If you’ve never heard of research panels, if you can’t afford high speed internet, if you don’t live in a major city, if you avoid people at the mall, telephone methods still value and seek out your opinions. We are currently living through a time where people don’t trust the polls. Let’s not revert to methods that make it even easier to distrust polls. 

If you’re an early career researcher, data scientist, data visualizer, marketer, or similar, and would like to write a #PointCounterpoint article with me, please send a gmail to my full name anniepettit and let me know what topic interests you. Maybe I’ll pick yours! 

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