Better Survey Panel Management

The concept of “Nudge” is not new in academic circles. Since the last Coalition Government in the UK set up a team based on behavioural science principles to influence policy effectiveness, you could argue it is no longer cutting edge. After all, Government is often the last to adopt trends and ideas which have already gained traction in business and among social entrepreneurs. Yet, the idea of “Nudging” still feels new to me. It feels like it is a source of untapped potential. Within the market research profession we often talk about initiatives to improve data quality, or ideas to “gamify” surveys and engage respondents in a better survey experience.

But an area I feel is neglected is the experience of how we engage and motivate survey panelists even before they take part in surveys. Engagement is not just about the survey experience but also the process of how panelists receive surveys. Yes, there have been efforts to match survey panelists to survey opportunities, or to ensure new panel members have a chance to take surveys soon after joining a panel, or to offer survey invites immediately after failing to qualify for an earlier survey. But as a general practice, do we do enough to reduce, for example, the frustration of being repeatedly screened out of surveys, or being served too many low incidence surveys. Treating panel respondents like Humans, seems to me to be a firm basis for respondent engagement which should lead to better outcomes in data quality as well as reducing panel churn and the constant effort (as well as cost) of recruiting new panelists.

Small Steps, Small Costs, Big Effort

According to David Halpern, author of the excellent book, “Inside the Nudge Unit”, a Nudge is “a means of encouraging or guiding behaviour, but without mandating or instructing, and ideally without the need for heavy financial incentives or sanctions”. Taking small steps which in aggregate, have an impact in positively influencing an audience’s behaviour. The Bahaviourial Insight Group in Government experimented with all kinds of mechanisms to change behaviour. For example, experimenting with small wording changes for reminding people to submit their tax returns, were found to have real impact.

Surveygoo Panel Management

At Surveygoo, we have started a journey on how we can deliver better panelist experiences, with the idea of securing better response rates, better data quality and reduced panelist churn. Not a new idea of course, but nonetheless, an aim which is as relevant today as when survey panels became the default means of survey research within the last decade.

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With this aim, we have built a new panel management platform to manage our new UK survey panel. We have already introduced incremental rewards for being screened out, loyalty rewards, and matching survey invitations against panelist preferences. Over time we will add to the mix of small measures to improve panelist experiences, from the wording of messages, to how and what incentives we offer, with a broader aim of nudging panelist behaviour.

To draw on the underlying idea from another excellent book, “More Human” by Steve Hilton, perhaps it is time we look at how we can make panels more human. Much of what we think and do around automation of survey panels has a practical value, but it can also have a downside of alienating the people we want to keep on side. So we need to balance some of the initiatives in automation in survey panel management, with ideas and mechanisms which draw on the essence of what panels are: a collection of humans. We need to treat them that way. No easy task, but nonetheless, something we are aiming to achieve as we develop our own tools of panel management.