Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Recruiting Participants for IHUTs:  Control is Critical and Cheap is Dear

Sensory scientists are those in the research and development(R&D) department who operate as liaison between R&D initiatives and the consumer. Through testing, they determine what the consumer wants. As such, these professionals take great care in designing field experiments that eliminate, or control for, a wide variety of confounding variables that can otherwise invalidate the findings of the studies they conduct.
Recruiting participants for in-home-usage tests (IHUTs), on behalf of these sensory scientists, can be done in a variety of ways, but really boils to just two different approaches: (1) electronic (email) only, and (2) live recruiter.

The Email Way to Recruit Participants

The email way to recruit IHUT participants is to treat the recruitment process as one would for a quantitative study in which a survey is administered online, and a sample provider’s panel is used to source the study with respondents. While this method, at first glance, may seem less expensive and easier, there are several things wrong with this approach.
First, panels from sample providers are strewn with “professional survey takers” whose key motivation is to complete surveys as fast as they can and redeem their rewards for doing so. Their mindset is not necessarily focused on the subject of study, nor are they inclined to be thoughtful in their responses and aid in the discovery process for which the research has been sponsored. As such, about three (3) times as many participants need to be recruited in order for the target amount to actually participate. Moreover, those that do participate usually do only the bare minimum required in order to receive the promised incentive. If part of their involvement warrants keeping daily logs, you can count on them to do nothing until the very end of the test period, at which time, many will fake their way through and provide false data. The main reason for this low quality result is that these email-driven participants were recruited in a manner that does not lend itself to inspiring them by detailing how important their opinion is, or what purpose the research serves in the business of the sponsor. Even those that may want to fulfill on their study-related responsibilities may be left in the dark about questions they may have, or instructions that may not be clear to them. Simply, there is no live person with whom they can follow-up and obtain clarification and any issues about which they may be unsure.

The Live Recruiter Way to Recruit Participants

Instead, more care can be applied to the recruiting of IHUT participants by using telephone calls from professionally trained qualitative research recruiters that will fulfill on several key objectives of this aspect of the study, namely:
  • Qualify each individual by going through the screener in real-time to ensure their qualifications
  • Weed out anyone who seems to be falsifying their information, unable to understand instructions, or unable to comply with the study requirements
  • Explain the very nature of the study, why it is important, and why their efforts are considered so valuable
  • Inspire them to do the best they can and fulfill on their responsibilities dutifully and with great care
In light of the importance, time, resources and expense of these IHUT studies, and the great effort expended by sensory scientists to design carefully controlled field experiments, it makes sense to do things the right way. When the recruitment process for IHUTs is treated the same way as when recruiting for qualitative studies, that is through live calls from professional recruiters, the quality of the data collected is far greater. Moreover, instead of emailing 300 people to obtain an otherwise disengaged group of 100 participants, recruiters need only enlist about 120 people to ensure 100 committed participants that do what they are incented to do, with a purpose.
So many colleagues have come to Accelerant Research for just this purpose, and have shared their war stories of how they learned the hard way with email recruiting. Although their stories vary, they all center on the age old lesson that cheap is dear. We invite you to request a cost estimate from us as a first step. Simply give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (info@accelerantresearch.com). If we are granted the opportunity to work with you, we are confident that the quality of recruiting service you receive will be a marked improvement over the email method of recruiting for IHUTs.