February 17, 2017

Survey Success Begins with Sample Management

Whatever the type of survey research you’re doing, your success is entirely dependent on your sample. Whether you purchase sample or work with a client-provided list, the more productive your sample, the more profitable your project will be. To do this, you need efficient processes and systems in place to ensure proactive sample management.

Let’s say you need to survey a representative sample of 25 men and women in four specific age brackets, from 5 geographic markets, with 500 completes in 5 days.

For this study, time-to-completion is a significant constraint. Given the time constraints, reaching each quota using only an online survey could be challenging. The most effective approach for both cost management and quota productivity is likely going to be a multiple mode approach that includes both an online survey and phone interviews.

Multi-Mode Management

Success starts with pre-processing your sample to confirm geographic regions, demographics, opt-in, and DNC before activating. This will reduce overall cost and maximize productivity. Most sample providers in the research industries have a rigorous set of standards that assure good quality sample for your needs.

Next, you’ll need to establish rules for sampling design that will allow you to complete your daily quota requirements. Tracking responses daily, by quota, will give a good indication of if, or when you will need to initiate phone surveying–some researchers begin with the assumption that phone calls will need to be made to reach certain hard to reach segments.

For phone-based surveying, your sampling design will also need to include calling rules that govern how each phone number will be dialed over the project fielding period. For instance:

  • Assign numbers to “day parts” to call at different times on subsequent attempts—if they don’t answer at 7 pm Monday, they’re less likely to answer at 7 pm Tuesday.
    • Assign a set number of call attempts before retiring the number.
    • Set a threshold limit to turn off the rules so you can escalate calling if needed to fill quota rapidly.

You’ll want to be able to adjust quotas and add new sample-on-the-fly. Better yet, use software that does it for you automatically. Once quota has been achieved for a given demographic set, potential participants matching that demographic profile should be removed from the sample pool allowing your efforts to focus on the hard-to-reach. Again, software can do it automatically, assuming you’ve included indicators in your sample that identify quota targets (like location, area code, age).

Predictive Dialing

With carefully selected and pre-processed sample, you should be able to leverage predictive dialing. Using an auto-dialer is a productivity booster. In predictive mode, the dialer can anticipate interviewer availability and transfer a call when the respondent answers. This significantly increases interviewer productivity by reducing interviewer wait time.

You can also use IVR to do an initial screening of candidates so that only qualified respondents are passed to the interviewers. This technique optimizes interviewer time even more.

Taking Action

The best outcomes in terms of time and cost will result from having timely information. Real-time reports on quota completes across all modes and rules that automatically adjust the flow of sample will let you manage sample most effectively. Being able to set alerts so you’re automatically notified when quotas fill, or adjust sample or the study rules, also simplifies the manager’s job.

There’s a lot that goes into sample management, but with the right strategy and the tools that simply implement the strategy, you can create a very effective process to maximize efficiency.

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