Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 16 The Universe: Available

  Bj Kirschner      16 June 2022     

The month of June marks my 30th Anniversary in market research. Since 30 days hath June and I love a good countdown, I have decided to do a Market Research Thought of the Day each day in June. Enjoy! Bj bj@just-worldwide.com

Bj’s 30 Years in 30 Days—June 16 The Universe: Available

Welcome back to this week’s multi-post discussion of feasibility in recruiting.  If it seems a little basic at the onset, that’s by design.  Sometimes we need to revisit the parts we think we know just to re-establish the baseline.

Here is the statement for the week:

The universe is not the population of a country, the number of HCPs in a given specialty, the number of patients with a condition, all drinkers of wine, etc.  The universe is people who are reachable, qualified, available and interested.

What does it mean for someone to be available?  Let’s stick with qual patient studies for consistency.  It means that a potential respondent and moderator can do an interview at the same time.  Just that, only that two people match each other in a time slot. 

And yet this can be the the most difficult element of setting up a respondent interview.

Back in ancient times, scheduling was fairly easy because most research was done in person.  The schedule was the schedule, people who could get to a central location for an interviews could do it, those who couldn’t were used the next time.  As the industry started drilling down to studies where so few people could qualify made virtual interviews ideal (anything but the moderator and respondent or respondents in the same room). 

How many others remember video conferencing?  That was a big deal for many years.  For people born in this century, video conferencing was a process of connecting two offices pre-Internet.  It required a lot of equipment and dedicated physical phone lines.  However, it was destined to a fairly short life because it only helped clients who had a unit in one of their offices.  The respondents and moderator still had to be in specific locations where a corresponding set-up was possible, and that meant research was still centered in big cities.

Video conferencing morphed into video steaming, which then turned into web-assisted interviews, and that is when availability became an equal player in this equation to reachability, qualification and interest. 

Moderators are busy people and research time has shrunk.  That means clients want to listen to as many interviews live as possible.  For most studies, a schedule is provided based on the moderator’s availability, but with input from the clients.

That is an ideal.  Some clients opt for a “ask the respondents what they want and we’ll let you know.”  Personally, I push back on that, not everyone does.  I would rather have a schedule where respondents can pick from what is there and we can schedule them at the same time as screening them.  In today’s world, speed is paramount and, let’s face it, if you get someone on the phone, don’t press your luck and assume he or she will answer it every time.  If you let a respondent go without full information, you might not get another chance.

There are a few reasons I do my best to get everyone to look at it from a respondent’s point of view, at least at first:

  • As I have said before, each respondent is an expert.  If that were not the case, why would anyone want to speak to with him or her?  KOL or consumer, everyone is an expert during an interview.  Let’s treat them all as such.
  • People have busy schedules.  The more flexibiity we show to respondents, the more flexibility they show us.
  • Time of day and day of the week matter.  You want to talk to late-stage cancer patients?  We need to work around their treatment schedules, at times they are neither in treatment nor recovering.  You want to speak to a hospital-based physician?  In many countries, there are days of the week best for that.
  • Technology helps.  When doing global studies, technology can help make things faster.  Simultaneous translation, notetakers, report templates, all of these can speed up a study with only a few hours lost from what it would be live.

So, you are a moderator and the clients are giving you free reign in setting the schedule.  They will listen live when possible.  How do we look at the schedule from your point of view?  You matter too!

  • If each respondent is an expert, so are you.  Moderation is a special set of skills, let’s respect that.
  • You have a busy schedule.  There is only of you.  To be fair, the job of moderation comes with an expectation that there may be some uncomfortable spots, but there are ways to get through that, I promise!
  • The time of day and day of the week matter to you also.  The more information you can provide about your availability, the better.  If you are not available in the evenings on a specific night because you have family function, say so.  Everyone will be told that is sacred time. 

A word about cancellations and missed appointments.  They happen.  It’s awful, especially when it’s the first interview or the last interview.  Some respondents can get 15 reminders and still manager to miss something.  Technology can get in the way, so can a million other things.  In very few instances do respondents intentionally play with schedules and in even fewer instances do moderators do it, so most last-minute cancellations or no shows are a result of people’s lives getting in the way unintentionally.

The switch from primarily in-person research to virtual helps in many ways.  We can all be less rigid with our schedules.  We can try for increasingly difficult respondents.  Even product testing can be done virtually.  That was the case before COVID-19, but it’s even more common now.  It does not, however, make every study possible.  Having a flexible schedule that does not revolve around travel does not change the other elements of this larger discussion.

And thus we have one element yet to discuss.


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