Respondent Respect

We’re now the elders. We’ve been in the field so long we raise the average age of attendees around a conference room table. Our experience dates back to when Marketing Research required actual maps for sampling. Marketing Research has evolved considerably so is what we learned so very long ago still meaningful? Unquestionably, yes. Despite radical changes in available methodologies, techniques, analysis, etc., basic principles of marketing research have not changed.

There are many tenets that endure but one I feel sometimes needs to be rescued from our complex study objectives, requirements and sophisticated approaches is respect for the respondent. The importance of this respect was taught to me early in my career and it still applies. Back in the day, all of our questionnaires had to pass muster with our Director of Field Operations. Since this was decades ago, ‘Field’ was the link to the respondent outside since interviews were exclusively conducted in person or over the telephone. While we junior researchers shuddered as she read our questions aloud to us for her critique, we learned to hear what we were asking from respondents. Not just in interpretation of our question but in the flow, the length of the survey, the complexity, etc.

Arguably, the respondent is at the top of the list of what is important in any given piece of research: the ultimate source of all the information we’re squeezing into our models and presentations. I think it’s a good discipline to take a step back and think about what we’re asking our respondent to do for us, often for very little compensation. If we put ourselves in the respondent seat that alone would create a better research instrument. It’s easy enough to do too. Participate in some research now and again. Read your questions aloud. Test and pretest your own questionnaires. Join a panel. Who knows? With enough points you could earn yourself a new rice cooker…

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