The Importance of Meeting Survey Respondents In Their Natural Habitat


It's so easy to hide behind screens these days. As market researchers, we can buy sample or tap into a list of respondents and email blast them to take a survey without really knowing who these people are. What do we lose when we are unable to connect with real people? As a market researcher who has run many field projects in my time, I can tell you:


  • You lose the humanization of their responses. Facial expressions, voice, tone, and body language. That is all lost. Unless you are recording the person as they take the survey, you miss many queues that can potentially answer why they responded in that fashion.
  • You are missing out on immediate and in-the-moment reactions. Companies who send feedback surveys even hours after the experience may miss out on capturing a true response. Depending on respondent recollection is risky and can skew the data to be vaguer the longer the time between survey and experience.
  • You are not where your respondents are, so how can you claim to truly know them? The craving for authentic experiences is higher than ever before. If you want to really know how people feel about your tools or services, meeting them in their natural habitat works well. Authenticity breed authenticity. This applies to market research as well.

What now - How can we connect with our respondents in real life?

  • Find where they physically are and make your presence known. Train a team of friendly data collectors who love engaging with the prospective respondents to gather responses while they are in the middle of an experience. If you are looking to target folks who frequently travel for work, the best place is to be at the airport. Offer them a free cup of coffee in exchange for their feedback on how to make their flying experience better. 
  • Use better technology to gather data and analyze data quicker. Ditch the pen and paper and use offline survey tools that only require an iPad to run and collect surveys. The best part of ditching the paper and pen - not having to input the data afterward! You just have to sync it where reliable wifi is available. As someone who used to spend late evenings or early mornings putting results into a spreadsheet by hand, it can take HOURS of work. Who wants to spend time looking at responses and trying to figure out different handwriting? Not me! Cutting this time out and being able to deliver results faster and more accurately is the greatest benefit of going tech in the field.
  • Make it simple and fun for respondents and the field team. Nobody in the field wants to struggle with forcing respondents to take a long and complicated surveys. Keep it simple and quick by boiling done the key objectives that survey must answer. Making it fun for the respondent and field team is all about the point of engagement. Switch up the locations, allow field teams to walk around in certain areas, and get them to share feedback on what works, what doesn't, and how to change things up the next day. You can also think about adding incentives to attract respondents. If you are at a music festival, you can offer free bottled water in exchange for taking a quick survey. 



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