About Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

Gestionnaire marketing chez Voxco - Marketing Manager at Voxco

The Dreaded Summer Research Time of year!

Summer is a time of year when everyone slows down and business slows down. For the research data collection industry, nothing is truer! Vacations, nice weather and weekends at the beach all make the already difficult respondent even more difficult to reach. So how are we to maximize our resources and manage our time more effectively to get projects completed? The following is meant to provide some practical ideas for making the most out of the summer months and assist in getting those research projects completed.

Weather – Weather is a big factor in determining if people are outside enjoying the sunshine or home sheltering from the rain. Knowing the markets you are calling into and checking the weather forecasts daily when calling on the weekend is a quick and easy way to help hedge your bets that people may be inside. I understand this is not always practice when planning shifts but should be factor whenever possible.

Type of projects – The type of projects you take on can greatly assist your productivity. Web projects are easy to deploy and do not require costly interviewer time. If at all possible, try and take on web projects more during the summer month. The reality is that even during their vacations, people can become bored and look for something to pass the time. A quick and relevant web survey coming down on their mobile device may catch their eye!

All businesses need to keep running during the summer months. A healthy mix of business to business interviewing in addition to consumer research is another way to ensure respondents are available and you are making money.

Incentives– When you do catch people, and the budget allows, offering local fun summer incentives are another way to increase your response rates. Offering a family pass to a local water park for example may just do the trick of turning a “no” into a “yes” when interviewing a parent about their spending habits at the local grocery store. Know your target respondent and know the areas you are calling into in order to reach them. A little bit of planning with the client will always help in getting better results!

2013-08-20Your Own Interviewers – Another way to increase productivity on a project is incenting from within. Offer your interviews summer based incentives during the summer months to see increased productivity. Paid days off on nice days or a get out of your shift 2 hours early with pay are some quick and easy ways to use the summer to your advantage. Who doesn’t want paid time off? Again, the idea of using local summer attractions with passes to the local fairgrounds, for example, for the interviewer who gets the most completes on a project.

Planning shifts – Keeping on topic with interviewers, planning shifts to accommodate slower or down times, try shortening shifts. Even an hour or two a day, when response rates are down or contact rates are low, make a huge difference on a project budget. Keep your interviewers on call as well if response rates and contact rates are particularly high during a shift, and provided you have the capacity, you can even call in extra interviewers to maximize the opportunity.

If you have other ideas or approaches you have used or can think of, please share!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Do not hesitate to post your thoughts below and I will respond. You can also contact me at Jason.mcgrath@voxco.com.

Jason McGrath

by Jason McGrath

Sharing our private space: our new relationship with our phone!

Surveys that use smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular and unavoidable. They make it possible to reach respondents who have become “invisible” to the other means of data collection. They represent a new challenge, but also bring great opportunities to the table. You don’t conduct a survey on mobile devices as you do with more “classical” collection means. Here are some tips that will help you to become aware of these differences and to imagine how far your mobile surveys may lead you.

The first lesson is about the relationship that respondents have with their smartphone and, to a lesser extent, their tablet. The cell phone is one of the objects with which we have the greatest bond of personal attachment: we always have it on us, we customize it, we share practically all of our private life with it and, most of the time, we take good care of it.

This commitment is reinforced by the pattern of consumption of smartphone services, or applications. To install an app on your phone is like inviting someone into your home. It’s the equivalent of giving a not so restricted access to your intimate space. It is accepting to constantly look down upon the logo of a brand that you accept in your circle of trust. For the application user, it is the creation of a direct link with your company.

This trust must be maintained. Otherwise, the sanction will be brutal: your application will be deleted and the link broken in symbolic (you are no longer visible) and practical ways (the respondent cannot answer your studies).

The key elements that will maintain this privileged link are the following:

1. Simple and effective applications, as well as short questionnaires (no more than 5 minutes). Unlike the Web, you don’t “surf” in an application. You open it, access a service or information, and then close it. The cycle is very fast and rarely exceeds a few minutes, but may instead be repeated frequently. It is thus also possible to question respondents more regularly.

2. A presentation that is optimized for mobile use. Do not try to reproduce your Web questionnaires in a mobile version. Instead, reduce the amount of displayed data, be concise. If you have many things to say in a question, try to divide it into several sub-questions. Also try to keep each question on a single page, but be aware that it will never be guaranteed, because the presentation will be different depending on the terminals. There always comes a point where the user will have to scroll down to see the different answers. In that case, consider mixing your answer choices to limit bias.

3. A response mode adapted to mobile. Limit the amount of text input by the respondent. On smart phones, there are many other ways to gather information: selection in lists, choice of date from a calendar, photo taking, automatic geolocation, etc. Thus, if you already have access to the information, do not ask for it again, except if absolute imperative validation is needed. Use the known data of the respondents to skip unnecessary questions and go straight to the point.

4. Solicitation mode: a phone is primarily a personal tool. Respondents can often be uncomfortable answering a questionnaire about their personal tastes when they’re at work, or a questionnaire about their work during the weekend. Try to match your invitations with periods adapted to your respondents’ schedules. These invitations can take the form of “push” notifications. These are considered less intrusive and generate much better returns than emails. Use this function to solicit respondents more efficiently, and to invite or remind them about a pending invitation.

5. Proactive questionnaires. Offer questionnaires in which the respondents decide when to answer, at the frequency of their choosing. Rather than offering a questionnaire on the last movie they’ve seen, offer them the ability to give their opinion whenever they leave the movie theatre… Respondents always have their phone at hand and are better able to judge if they can or want to answer a survey. Remind them periodically through “push” alerts, if needed.

6. 100% mobile features. Ask your users to take photos or videos to illustrate what they’re saying, allow them to send voice comments, etc. All these features make the questionnaires more attractive and will allow respondents to be more involved. They will also allow you to extract more information, if you have the tools to exploit them.

7. Instant feedback. On smartphones, applications are used to obtain a result quickly. The simplicity of the questionnaire is important, but so is the feedback that the respondent gets at the end of a survey. The user could receive such a feedback, allowing him to appreciate the time he or she took to answer: results of the latest survey on the subject, recalling the points earned (in the case of a panel), discount coupon, exclusive content, etc.

Keep these things in mind when setting up your mobile studies and adapt them to your own context. There is no single recipe, but a multitude of ingredients that can be used to build an effective solution for your needs.

Mobile surveys should be seen as a way of collecting data in their own right, offering exceptional opportunities by redefining the relationship you have with your respondents. The technology is still new and evolving really fast, and its uses remain largely to be invented.

Photo David Lacan

Imagination is a must in order to allow your studies to take their place, and especially keep it, on the respondents’ telephones.

The author of this article is David Lacan, Mobile Solutions Director at Voxco.

For more information, you can reach David at david.lacan@voxco.com.

Have a good summer!

Response rate Challenges

Today, I am introducing you to one of my colleagues, an expert of the Market Research Industry with over 20 years’ experience working with market research organizations firsthand!

Happy reading!

By Jason McGrath

Jason McGrath

Having run my own market research data collection call center for over 10 years, nothing was more important to a research study than the response rate. Response rates are an important measurement in survey research because they reflect the level of effort undertaken during data collection and help describe the reliability of the resulting data. Survey non-response can bias samples (and therefore survey data) by making the sample composition substantively different from the target population. Bias, in this instance, refers to the difference between the sampled units and the target population.

Within today’s ever growing fight for consumer time and head space, market research firms are having to be more and more agile in securing responses when interviewing. People have less and less time given the amount of time they spend sleeping, working, with family and friends and engaging in social media. Let’s face it, as much as we all hate to admit it, participating in a 20 minute survey is not how most of us want to spend some of our precious free time.

Less intrusive ways for interviewing need to be explored. This will be accomplished in a number of ways. Shorter but more frequent studies are one possible way the industry is adapting. Providing alternative ways for respondents to complete surveys is another.  Web and mobile surveys are becoming more and more of a trend and are gaining on telephone and face to face. People are constantly on their phones and the fears of usage charges are fading with unlimited data plans. People are migrating away from laptops and desktops for the convenience of mobile phones and tablets and as a result mobile surveying will become more and more important. In many markets survey-taking is moving from telephone and face-to-face to mobile device and leapfrogging the PC altogether.

A key to achieving higher response rates is taking the survey itself to the various medium that are available to consumers today. If consumers prefer to reply to surveys online or on their mobile devices rather than on the telephone, it is up to the industry to provide those options for participants. Multi-channel data collection solutions are available and research firms are going to need to invest in them in order to achieve the response rate necessary to complete their projects. This is a fact.

Whether it be traditional telephone, IVR, internet or mobile (both online and off line) we need to make it easier for respondents to complete the study as quickly as possible.

Making the survey interesting and engaging is also important. As people become more and more easily distracted and we are fighting for their precious free time it is important to make it easy and as entertaining as possible. Shorter questions with fewer response options are where we are going to have to go. Using all the bells and whistles for interactive web surveys is something we have learned will only bias results and should be steered away from. Just because the technology allows for something doesn’t mean we should do it. Just how happy can I make this smiley face icon is trivial in respect to the results. Having said that, however, there is a fine line when engaging the consumer, especially as the younger generations make their way up the demographic scales.

Incentives continue to be a great way of enticing people to participate. Relevant incentives are key. Use incentives that assist people with their day to day lives that are tied to the study being performed. People love the idea of getting something for nothing.

It has been proven time and time again that people would rather a small change for something bigger (i.e. a draw) than everyone getting something small. Just look at how many people purchase lottery tickets in North America every day!

Regardless of how we do it we as an industry need to adapt and technology is the key. Consumers are what we are all seeking, they are changing and we have to change with them!

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Do not hesitate to contact me at Jason.mcgrath@voxco.com.


Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

Marketing Research in Australia, and the Impact of IT!

As the 2008 global economic crisis provoked a worldwide downturn in marketing research activities in 2009 and 2010, the industry today is reorganizing and set to grow again.

According to a study by ESOMAR, the world ranking of most dynamic countries in market research remain somewhat unchanged. Only China moved up to rank 6th among countries that invest the most in that sector. The United States still ranks number one and countries such as Canada and Australia have fallen back one rank. After the inflation of 2009-2010, emerging countries in Latin America are displaying growth rates of 14%. The industry is renewing itself and must not only contend with a new global economic environment, it must also deal with issues linked to the integration of new information technologies (IT) in data collection processes.

Web 2.0, mobile telephony and the explosion of tablet devices all contributed to changed collection methods. At the global level, “online” data collection today represents the main investment technology in the field of research. According to a study by AIMIA (The Digital Industry Association for Australia), Australia is no exception and steers most of its marketing research budgets (30% versus 24% worldwide) towards “online” data collection methods.

Some factors may explain this trend for online surveys. First, the high cost of CATI work, which the minimum wage is about $ 25.00 / hour for the Australian interviewers, has contributed greatly to the prevalence of online data collection. The Australian market has proven largely adverse to the off-shoring of call centre work which does contribute to the growth of alternative data collection methodologies.

However, more robust sampling methodologies cannot always be credibly serviced by online panels which are typically not representative of the Australian population. Therefore, government and social research firms remain major drivers in the perpetuation of CATI in Australia, with many large CATI facilities still servicing this need. Commercial research however can and will opt for the online option where possible.

Secondly, Smartphone capability is increasingly becoming the sole point of contact for an important section of the population. The scarcity of accurate and productive traditional telephone databases is making cell phone contact a more popular option than previously. As a result, we may see more growth in this data collection mode.

A recent study comparing 43 countries shows that the penetration of smartphones is among the most significant in the case of Australian adults, with an ownership rate of about 66%. Furthermore, one out of three households owns a tablet device. Australian professionals state that over 50% of smartphone owners have developed a real addiction to social networks. These new behaviours will fundamentally alter the current research methods used in Australia. Contrary to global practices favouring quantitative surveys (17% versus 76%), Australian research companies use qualitative data collection methods more frequently (more than 30% versus 60% for quantitative surveys). When you know that online data collection only represents 1% of the tools used to research information within the framework of qualitative studies, you can easily imagine that the Australian market is likely to turn to more quantitative studies in the coming years.

Marketing research will need to deal with two fundamental factors in order to define the methodologies of tomorrow: adaptation to the new rules of global consumption[i] and the permanent revolution of IT.

[i] Middle class development in emerging countries.

Other sources of relevant information for that market:

Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

Demystifying the Governance of Survey Results

Information behaves just like water. It can be captured, stocked and, if left unused, it can evaporate without anyone really noticing…

Information that is collected through research studies on customer behaviour follows the same logic. Once a program measuring client satisfaction and loyalty is implemented, the results are observed but rarely analyzed and even less transformed into concrete action plans (less than 10% of companies conduct sophisticated analyzes based on the results of their surveys – source Marketing Science Institute). As a consequence, the results evaporate instead of circulating effectively throughout the company.

Since 2010, the biggest research suppliers are aware of this situation. “Marketing research firms had practically all reached the same level in their service offers and their clients started to doubt the utility of these studies…” explains Michel Saulnier, researcher and president of the MRIA. As a reaction, integrated information management models have started to emerge. The principle is quite simple. It consists of transforming the satisfaction or loyalty results into action plans. “These action plans, supported by the implementation of rigorous governance, will allow companies to significantly improve the experience and loyalty of their clients”, Saulnier believes.

As we have seen in a previous article (How to Make Survey Results Come Alive in the Company?), it is important to deploy a governance model. This deployment rests on a few essential steps:

  • First, the involvement and support of a senior-level manager in charge of customer loyalty. That strategic involvement from a company’s upper management is critical to allow the establishment of the steps that will lead to effective governance.
  • Second, client-oriented action committees made up of employees are integrated throughout every segment of the company. These committees act as relays, disseminating information, and as sensors focused on clients’ reactions.
  • Once this structure is established, research studies results are disseminated quickly and regularly (monthly is ideal), throughout the company via the above-mentioned structure.

Demystifying the Governance of Survey Results The client-oriented action committees can thus interact immediately based on the received information and rapidly set up action plans to improve client loyalty. “Of course, a rigorous follow-up and updates of the action plans are critical in obtaining results. There is no one right answer.” Michel Saulnier continues, “only rigorous data analysis, and its transformation into action plans, allows us to measure the results obtained after surveying the clients”. This permanent attention, along with the adjustments implemented by the action committees, allows the identification of “winning solutions”. Once an action is deemed effective in reinforcing clients’ satisfaction and loyalty, it is communicated to the entire personnel of the company and implemented. “For a governance structure to really be operational, it is important to involve the company’s front-line employees, through the recognition of their work as well as a financial bonus in exchange for their involvement in the process.”

This new concept of governance of satisfaction or loyalty survey results is a fundamental step in the strategic management of companies. Once it is set up, not only does it allow you to involve all the personnel with the improvement of the company’s quality, it also allows you to be in sync with clients’ demands.

A permanent guarantee of your ability to compete!

Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

How to Make Survey Results Come Alive in the Company?

Mastery of information management has become an essential ingredient in the creation of corporate value. Market research firms and their customers have fully understood the strategic implications ; they are increasingly exploiting survey results, and this will eventually transform business organization and operations.

For example; “In 2010, only 8% of firms regularly using customer satisfaction and loyalty measurement programs actually analyze the data with sophisticated statistical tools…and practically none of them convert the data into action plans, hence the need for follow-up initiatives,” states Michel Saulnier, researcher and president of the Quebec chapter of  the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA). In fact these business managers risk missing out on strategic pointers with all the consequences that this might have for their markets.

Yves Masson, Senior Partner of the research firm Saine Marketing considers that “consumers today are much more critical in their shopping choices, consequently satisfaction indicators no longer enable firms to have a clear vision of the loyalty and engagement of their customers.”

Aware of this phenomenon, market research firms are looking to develop new approaches to managing survey results. The aim is to initiate implementation of continuous improvement processes at all operational levels of the firm, and to convert the results of satisfaction surveys into action plans. “Today, organizations are exposed to multichannel communications offering multiple points of contact with their customers; such as retail outlets, call centers, online purchasing sites, social media etc. They must develop a 360 degree vision of the client and incorporate the findings of these studies into their management systems,” believes Yves Masson.

Inclusion of an explicit process within the organization structure to effectively exploit the results of satisfaction surveys should be fundamental; not something left to chance or improvisation. “Awareness of the need for a certain management policy often only arises in a crisis, at a time when management realizes that it does not have the tools to deal with the situation,” Michel Saulnier points out. In this area, the National Bank is a pioneer. In 2007, the new president of the bank, Louis Vachon, introduced a new vision “One client, one bank” that was to transform the customer relationship approach to banking. “Customer expectations are constantly evolving and we must be able to adapt to their needs in real time,”says Dominik Giasson, Senior Director of Research at the National Bank. Four years ago, the National Bank implemented a measure of customer loyalty which is currently evolving. This includes an improved governance process and ensures that customer satisfaction is a priority throughout the entire organization.

To uphold promises made to customers, is governance the ultimate corporate tool?

Large organizations such as Hydro-Quebec are moving in the same direction, and are creating new management models which in the near future will be adopted by most companies. This is a trend which will be interesting to follow closely.

Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

Polls and the U.S. Elections

                                                      “Polls are for strippers and cross-country skiers”

–      Sarah Palin, speaking at a Tea Party rally one year ago

Despite this assertion from the defeated Republican vice-presidential candidate, polls continue to be omnipresent in the coverage of electoral seasons. We are witnessing this in the United States, even more than we did recently in Quebec’s elections. The fact is, even if dismissively downplayed by some, political and opinion polls are here to stay because, in addition to being an important gauge of public opinion, they are heavily relied upon and commented on by the media to feed their news cycles. With such a strong demand for polls, their supply will continue. The market (for them) has spoken.

The United States is as fascinating a case as it gets in assessing the significance, or not, of polls in today’s electoral process. Some argue that polls influence election results. Let’s just say that with close to 500 national and state-level polls regularly cited at any time (the Huffington Post Pollster tracking model charts their average daily), hardly a day goes by without a voter hearing or reading about a new poll. This may or may not scare them into volunteering for their candidate or convincing friends and family of the importance of their vote, but it could secure their feeling of being in the lead, maybe to the point of not bothering to vote. Most likely, however, people realize that a poll is not a prediction and that it should not change their vote or electoral behaviour. “The web site is called Pollster, not Forecaster” Stanford University political science professor Simon Jackman reminds us about HuffPost’s tool.

One thing to keep in mind when reading U.S. polls is that national ones often matter less than those in, say, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio or Virginia, a few of the infamous “swing states”, those that could swing either way in the November election and where Obama and Romney will focus their campaigns. That is due to the American political system which, in all its heightened polarization, reduces the significance of polls in most states, even the giants California, Texas or New York because they rarely switch allegiance despite their huge populations. The most sought-after votes are those of independent voters, and most especially in those swing states.

So if you want anything that looks like a prediction, the polls reflecting these battleground states’ intentions are the ones you should pay most attention to.

Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

For a customer satisfaction survey to be useful, listen to your employees as well!

Several studies make the point: customer experience and employee commitment are strongly correlated. To put it another way, employees who are happy in their work will go that extra distance to make the customer happy. The diagram presented in this study is revealing: 75% of the employees of customer experience leaders are moderately or strongly motivated in contrast to 30% in less performing companies.

The benefits of a strongly motivated team go beyond impressive scores in satisfaction surveys. As shown in this article, revenue per employee in an Apple Store is  $473,000 compared to an average of only $206,000 for retailers in the same sector. However, as it points out, even if Apple’s formula is fairly classic (sufficiently high salary, selective recruitment, careful training), this is not a domain for sleeping on your laurels since difficulties can quickly ruin the party.

Under these conditions, it is crucial to frequently check up on troop morale. Many companies conduct an employee satisfaction survey every year or two. The term ‘Voice of the Employee’ is increasingly used to designate this type of survey, Xerox Corporation certainly uses it.

While all types of surveys present their own challenges, employee opinion surveys bring particularly delicate ones. The fact is that the employer-employee relationship can easily produce conditioned responses “to please management” rendering the results valueless. To counteract this tendency, the company must be transparent with regard to its intentions and methodology. Respondent anonymity is a key success factor, and must be clearly established. This is one of the principal reasons why many companies choose to entrust the exercise to an external research agency.

On the other hand, it should not be assumed that a satisfaction survey is sufficient to keep an ear on employee relations. As can be seen in the Xerox report quoted above, what is needed is a global view of the situation together with initiatives to start discussions about those issues which require changes or improvements. Experts in organizational performance underline that it is the employees, who experience these problems every day, who are able to propose solutions that will effectively contribute to organizational success.

To successfully undertake such a dialogue, it is suggested that one should start by establishing with employees the points that they consider the most important. This enables the motivational study to be focused in the right direction. Equally important is to conduct small surveys on chosen groups with a view to improving specific processes, for example installing new software. For this type of interaction some organizations favour direct discussions, but as pointed out by a human resources management expert one must not be afraid of new technology.

In this regard, an organization can easily use our Acuity4 Survey online survey software to quickly build the targeted surveys mentioned above. Software for monitoring the social media such as Acuity4 Social can also be useful for analyzing employee discussions and to better understand their concerns. Once deployed for your internal needs, these solutions can also be used to check up on the satisfaction of your customers – killing two birds with one stone.

Finally, as we discussed in a previous article, customer satisfaction surveys can produce useful results only if the right questions are asked: questions which match the real preoccupations of your customers. Your customer support staff are on the front line facing your customers. They are the ones to know what pleases and bothers them.

Why not put the questions to them?

Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud

Are mobile users in a demographic class of their own?

A survey conducted at the end of June 2012 by Harris Interactive revealed a significant difference of opinions according to whether collected from smartphone users or by traditional surveying methods. Specifically, 49% of mobile users opted for President Obama compared to 31% for his adversary Mitt Romney. Other surveys conducted over the same periods declare a much closer race.

In our article published last May Trends in mobile devices: not just new technology, but behavioural changes as well, we pointed out that in the US the proportion of smartphones is about the same as regular mobile phones. Adding to this, the firm comScore has just announced that the population of smartphone users in the US grew to over 110 million in July 2012. The sample is statistically significant. On the other hand, the spread of voting intentions clearly shows a difference in behaviour between ‘mobile devotees’ and the rest of the population.

One clue towards explaining the difference is to be found by looking at age categories.  The 18-44 age category figures highly among mobile devotees, while the most significant group is in the 25-34 category. Notable also, in the survey mentioned at the beginning of this article, is that respondents aged 18-34 were clearly in favour of the outgoing president while retirees showed the opposite.

Another clue is to be found in the demographic analysis conducted by the company Nielsen last May. While male/female proportions are well balanced, racial minorities are over-represented to a high degree among smartphone users: nearly two thirds of Asiatic Americans (67.3%) are skilled users of them, as are 57% of Hispanophones and 54.4% of Afro-Americans. What is more, this difference corresponds with Ethnographic analyses of president Obama’s electoral base.

Going beyond these demographic considerations, it is important to reflect on behaviours which are specific to mobile Internet users. For example, they make up the majority of people who are active in the social media. According to figures quoted in this article: 91% of mobile internet access is related to social media, and Americans spend more than 2 1/2 hours a day doing it. To say that social media play a major role in their life is certainly no exaggeration.

Once again, analyses such as Obama vs. Romney: Who’s winning the Facebook presidential race? show a clear superiority of President Obama in the social media. Whether it be in terms of the number of discussions, viral impact or the number of fans, the outgoing president overpowers his adversary. One figure says it all: in the course of a single month (May), 620,00 likes were posted on the president’s Facebook page! It stands to reason that this advantage will be reflected in the score for voting intentions when it comes to mobile users.

On the other hand, one must not lose sight of the dynamics of mobile users, not just those on the social web. They function in real-time, hence are likely to react and get excited whenever they feel confronted. This may be a developing trend in society, but it certainly has an extremely volatile effect. An unfortunate incident with a strong viral tendency can change everything.

As you can see, it is important to make the time and effort to fully understand the population of ‘mobile devotees’, they have a lot to teach us, and not only during the electoral season.

Have a great summer!

Psst… And have a look at our Mobile Survey Video!

Posted by Marie-Eve St-Arnaud