I have a number of friends who live in states that have already had their 2012 presidential primary. One complaint that several of them have been posting on social media is that in the weeks leading up to the primaries, they got bombarded by “robocalls” sponsored by the candidates. Chances are, you’ve probably received a robocall before, but if you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a mass phone call campaign in which the recipients get a canned, recorded message. Many people hate robocalls and a pretty common response is to hang up as soon as one realizes that it’s a computer on the other end. Who wants to be talked at by a robot?
With that in mind, it surprises me how many organizations that use call centers tend to approach real live callers as essentially no more than a robot. There’s a tendency in a lot of call centers, whether the focus is market research, telemarketing, or even customer service, to value quantity over quality. There will be some level of pre-employment screening and training, but ultimately there seems to be an assumption that callers are a commodity. Interchangeable parts. Just like with robocalls, the strategy is one of mass telephone volume, hoping that a relatively small percentage of those contacts will ultimately have the desired effect.
That approach may be appropriate in some industries, but in our experience as market researchers, we find that the quality of telesurveyors matters. In fact, it matters a great deal. When we do a phone survey project, our two top concerns are data quality and completion rate. We want thorough, accurate information and we want the highest possible percentage of people we contact to ultimately become respondents. At first glance, one might assume that’s a tradeoff situation – that we necessarily have to sacrifice a little bit of quality to hit the quotas, or vice versa. The truth is, though, that having a good calling staff helps us with both goals. The reason for that is simple: We strive to staff our QualiSight call center in Upstate NY with people who have a good phone manner and who are capable of engaging a person on the phone in the first few seconds of contact. We have found that when a caller makes that personal connection with the person on the other end of the line, not only does that make the person much more likely to agree to take the survey, it also helps them lower their guard and be freer about sharing information and opinions. On the other hand, an unenthusiastic and robotic caller usually struggles to get completes and the respondents they do get tend to want to rush through the surveys and provide less depth in their open-ended responses.
So, it’s fair to say that we in the Bunker are not fans of robocalls – neither ones that are made by actual robots nor the ones made by robotic employees in call centers that don’t understand the value of personal engagement. We know that the latter makes all the difference in the world.
Interested in commissioning a telephone survey to answer critical question with your customers? Give RMS a call at 315-635-9802 to chat about our call center in Upstate, NY and our market research services. You can also email SandyB@RMSresults.com.
[…] 5) If you use phone surveys, make sure your callers are professional and personable – This is another one that sounds obvious in theory, but isn’t exercised enough in practice. When the public feels over-surveyed, they certainly aren’t going to make time for a rude or robotic voice on the phone, nor should they. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: call center reps are not a commodity. […]
[…] It just served as a reminder of something I learned a long time ago in the research business – survey interviewers are not a commodity and having good ones makes all the difference in data […]