A Message From The Board: Director-At-Large, Tim Taylor of Authentic Response

Improved Response Rates Starts At Home

As a young man starting out in this industry, I took a business trip to Nielsen Media headquarters in Florida and witnessed the processing of millions of paper diaries used to capture TV viewership information.  If you never have seen an original Nielsen paper diary,  I highly recommend you seek one out.  The diaries, in my opinion, were a confusing complex grid of monotonous questions that required a tremendous commitment from the Nielsen panelists.   As I stood in the data processing facility, I could not image why anyone would complete this book of questions disguised as a questionnaire. Needless to say panelists did complete the diaries and response rates were good for incentives amounting to just cents on the dollar.  So it is a bit puzzling that with all the strides made in market research, increasing survey response rates remains an industry challenge today.

One can point to the very limited time consumers have nowadays as a contributing factor to declining response rates.  Adults are working longer hours, and are in some cases, working several jobs in this troubled economy.   Our youth who have traditionally been difficult to recruit, are also more pressed for time. I suspect their interest in survey-taking is more heavily taxed from a multiple of available entertainment options rather than from increased school-related workloads.  Let us also not forget that we are surveying consumers more now than perhaps ever before. The increased frequency at which consumers are asked to take surveys certainly contributes to declining response rates.

We as an industry have responded to the challenge of improving response rates by writing more appealing survey invitations, using reminders responsibly and offering an array of incentive options.  Whereas participants in the original Nielsen paper diary were rewarded with just cents on the dollar, survey respondents today have many choices of cashing out.  Incentives have become more personalized, and thus more relevant. Survey respondents can choose to receive gift cards from their favorite retailer or even use incentives points to make a charitable donation.

While we have made tremendous strides towards protecting survey response rates, there is more to do, including work in our very own backyard.  They say doctors make the worst patients.  The response rates for the last several waves of the Chapter Membership Survey did not meet expectation. Our Membership Survey helps sets the strategic direction for the Chapter. Let us lead by example and make a commitment to complete the Member Survey.

Tim Taylor, PRC
Authentic Response, Inc.
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