Concerns About Respondent Experience – Seriously?

Mobile Graphic

Recent surveys of research providers and buyers by Greenbook (GRIT Q3-Q4 2016; GRIT Consumer Participation Report March 2017) raised a serious red flag for me. The most important factors in the design of a research investigation are trust between provider and buyer and the quality of the samples that we use. This makes sense right? Factors that are actually at the heart of MSI International’s core values.

However, what doesn’t make sense is that both providers and buyers of marketing research place low importance on the respondent experience. The three lowest factors were…

  • That participants speak positively of the experience, become evangelists for marketing research,
  • Participants are compensated based on their contribution, and
  • Participants have a positive impression of the industry after completing a survey

Now this finding is nothing new and the GRIT surveys have identified the low concern for the respondent experience previously. But seriously, can we really place importance on trust and data quality if we ignore the people who are providing the data? Sample quality is extremely important and MSI goes to great lengths to minimize the inherent skews in many of the sampling sources available to the industry. But research quality goes well beyond our sample sources.

At MSI’s 10th anniversary (we’re now pushing towards our 30th), we had a company celebration and launched a tagline – “In order to get a better answer you need to ask a better question.” That simple line is still relevant today. It really doesn’t matter how much attention you pay to sample design and sample source quality if your questions are broken.

Today this concept is even more important. Our experience has found over the past 4-5 years the percentage of respondents completing on a device other than a PC has increased dramatically. Recently we have found roughly 26% are completed on a smartphone and 7% are completed on a tablet. Have you tried to complete a survey designed to be executed on a PC on a Smartphone? We have and it’s not easy to do.

At MSI International we’re working to make all of our surveys Mobile Friendly if not Mobile First. All of these efforts will result in a higher respondent experience and better quality data.

But this challenge is not an easy one. In many cases, we need to reduce question wording and modify how the question is presented to make the survey friendly. While that in and of itself is an easy task, it becomes extremely difficult when there are norms or the study is part of an ongoing tracking study.

Within the next month MSI will field a study that executes a questionnaire across 3 formats…traditional, Mobile Friendly and Mobile first. We expect to get rigorous data on the impact of the changes on response rates, dropout rates and the results themselves. With this data in hand we can start having a fact based discussion about the respondent experience and its impact on data quality. More to come in future blogs – stay tuned – seriously!

Every Picture Tells a Story

Social_Media_ReportIn the words of Rod Stewart – every picture tells a story. At MSI we’re constantly bantering about social media, which sites will make it, which ones will die a slow death. So we decided to take a deeper look at a variety of social and technology trends in 2013. And we’re going to tell that story with pictures. Our first foray was a look at the social media sites with the largest followings. And in order to tell the story, we used a tried but true method of having consumers associate “faces” of consumers with the sites. A total of 10 pictures were used to get out the faces and personality of the major social media sites.

And what we found may surprise you…

Big Data Scientists – Fact or Fiction An Interview with Dr. Mark Hayward, University of Texas

Big_Data_MSIRecently I have read a number of articles about Big Data Scientists. Actually, they have been about Scientists, Analysts, Researchers, etc. Nobody knows what to call them, so I’ll use the term “Scientists.”

And similarly, no one seems to agree on where they come from (or where they should come from). The arguments range from IT, Business Analysts and Statisticians to Social Scientists. As I read these debates, my gut reaction was to believe the best data scientists will come from the social sciences.

25 Years (and Counting)

ImpressionThis September MSI International will celebrate our 25th anniversary. Hard to believe that we’ve been helping clients for that long. Or as we said at our 10 year anniversary – 10 years of asking better questions. When I started the company I had one goal in mind. That was to create a work environment where we could do great work for our clients and have fun doing it. I think we achieved our mission.

But seriously, 25 years is really a long time. Just to put this in perspective I looked into what else was going on when I founded the company.  Some of this you may find amusing, but it definitely puts the 25 years in perspective.

  • A first class stamp cost $.22.
  • Bobby McFerrin won song of the year with “Don’t worry be happy”.
  • Both the winter and summer Olympics were held in the same year.
  • Popular films included Rain Man, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Die Hard (the first) and my favorite – A Fish Called Wanda.
  • Median price of a new home : $91,600.
  • The democratic convention nominated Michael Dukakis as the presidential candidate. George Bush and Dan Quayle were the winning candidates from the Republican Party (spelling aside).
  • The (first) Iraq war ended.
  • Pan AM flight explodes over Lockerbie Scotland (our first real experience with terrorism).

I don’t know about you, but these events feel like they occurred decades ago, and I guess they did.

I’ve included an article that was in the Philadelphia Daily News just prior to me starting the company.  Look at how young I was (and check out the doo – my hair wasn’t even gray let alone the white it is today). That’s 25 years staring you down right there.


In those 25 years MSI as a company has grown and we’ve grown with each other.  We’ve laughed together and cried together. And we’ve also worked many a late night and weekend together – far too many bad pizzas to count.

And as I reflect on the past 25 years, probably the best testament to what we’ve accomplished is the longevity of our staff. Currently on staff we have:

  • Seven co-workers with over 20 years tenure.
  • And another nine with more than 10 years’ experience.

So as we approach this milestone I thought this would be the perfect time to say thanks. Thanks to our staff who worked so hard for our success, thanks to our families who tolerated our late nights and weekends and thanks to our many clients and friends who have supported us through these 25 years. You don’t achieve 25 years on your own, we did it together.

Corporate Responsibility Continued

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about mid-size corporate citizenship and MSI’s yearlong program go to give back to the community. Since then we completed Movember. MSI raised over $9000 dollars for Prostate and Testicular Cancer. Also our employees adopted a local family and provided a complete holiday experience for them – gifts, clothes and holiday meal. I should add that they did this entirely on their own – sometimes these efforts are far more gratifying than our planned corporate efforts.

This holiday season MSI will again support global children charities. However, we need your input into which charities we should support. You may be receiving a card from us with a QR code and web address where our clients and friends can vote on which charities we should support. Please take a moment to vote on your favorite charity. Or, you can go to and vote now.

And on behalf of MSI, MSI-ACI and all of our employees I wish the very best to you and your families this holiday season and look forward to working with you in the coming year.


How Big is “Big Data”

Right now Big Data is REALLY big – HUGE even (don’t you hate that word). Not a day goes by without someone posting a blog or writing an article on the value of Big Data.  And why shouldn’t they? The reality is that all of our clients are sitting on huge amounts of information about their customers and prospects – yes, terabytes and terabytes as most are fond of saying. The value of this information is immeasurable. And when we can derive actionable insights from this data the return is immense. The data itself is free (although sometimes integration of multiple databases can be a challenge) therefore insights gleaned from this data can have a major  impact on our product development and customer experience initiatives without requiring significant financial resources (OK, I realize that the advanced analytics aren’t cheap, but they are relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things).

But is Big Data really big enough to drive truly actionable market insights by itself? 

Being a Good Mid-Size Corporate Citizen











We frequently get asked to evaluate the “good corporate citizen” aspect of our clients’ brand image. This has ranged from degree of “greenness” to employee satisfaction and morale. And in some cases our clients have asked us to look at multiple indicators of corporate responsibility, such as greenness, commitment to community, a good place to work, responsible products, etc.

When thinking about this the other day for a client, I asked myself – are we a good corporate citizen? 

Feel, Think and Act: Decomposing Brand Affinity

We’ve all struggled with defining brand affinity.  For example, the car industry itself can be confusing. Do we really drive a Mercedes because of its high-caliber engineering? Do we drive a Volvo because of its safety?

The answer to these questions is never really that clear.

Welcome to the MSI Blog: Key Insights Impacting Marketing Research Industry

How things have changed through the years. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, when I first became a market researcher, much of our information was gathered from yearly conferences that were well attended by the thought leaders of our industry.  Although these still exist, blogging has become a primary method to start a dialogue on key trends in today’s environment.