Qualitative Research: Over-Recruitment for In-Depth-Interviews or User Experience Tests

February 21, 2012 by  Filed under: Marketing 

Whenever we recruit participants for group sessions in qualitative market research, such as focus groups or creative workshops, it is standard practice to over-recruit.

However methodically and accurately respondent recruitment is conducted, the very nature of qualitative research is that human beings and their behaviour are inherently hard to predict. And however important that research session is to the researcher or their client, it is never going to be anything like as important to the participant, whose interaction with the research objectives and process is limited to that brief face to face session. If something comes up at work, or at home, or socially, that holds greater priority for them – chances are you will get a late cancellation, or worse still, a no-show… and that’s before we factor in circumstances beyond anyone’s control such as a transport problem or domestic emergency.

Of course if you are running a focus group of eight people, it’s fairly easy to recruit ten to the same spec, and then if they all show up discreetly pay off the final two to arrive, or the two whose profiles make them least likely to contribute interestingly and effectively to the session (your recruiter can identify those for you easily, and a sensitive and attentive viewing facility host can take care of the process on the night – then let the recruiter know who was paid off the following day). This is simple insurance and makes certain you have a full quota seated in the room with no room for doubt.

But what if you are running individual sessions, how can you and your recruiter work together to ensure you don’t have any empty seats? Because, a single no-show for one-to-one interview is a hundred-percent empty session. Depending on the nature of the project and the fieldwork process, this could potentially be a disaster – so how can you plan to avoid this?

Firstly, your recruiter needs to know if some sessions are more significant than others. They are the ones speaking to the respondents directly, and whilst they will endeavour to ensure that every single appointment is booked in a rock-solid fashion with reminders to within the limits of the local legislative framework with regard to stalking, some will always come across as more reliable than others. The critical slots, the ones being live-streamed to the CEO and her team in another continent or whatever, we’ll make sure you get the very best of the respondents booked in for those. Of course, every session is important, and every session deserves the best recruitment – but humans are so qualitatively different (otherwise you wouldn’t find researching them so fascinating), we can use this difference in the scheduling to get you the best results.

Incidentally if you do have one or two of the sessions that are utterly critical, then we can always over-recruit those. It’s rarely practicable from a budget perspective to double-book 8 sessions, but the two that the board are going to be viewing live, let’s get those covered, for relatively little extra cost – compared to the opportunity cost of an empty seat.

Sometimes of course all the sessions are equally important, and the trouble is we never know for sure where the weak link is, which one of the eight might no-show for whatever reason. The best way to tackle this depends on your deadlines. If you absolutely must have those eight completed tests, let us schedule two extras for the following day/tagged on to the end of the session – we can always cancel those people and pay them off remotely, the second you confirm to us that the final scheduled respondent is seated in the test room. Even if it means you may have to stay a bit later in the day, it’s a good way of guaranteeing your full quota of tests by close of play.

Of course if it’s not your lab to work late in or you have a tighter deadline this may not work, so a final option is to engage an extra respondent or two on a ‘floater’ basis. This also works great when every test is viewed live, and you have to make every second count… we’ll simply recruit a spare who is offered a fixed incentive to be available and sat in the waiting room, along with a good book, from just before the first session starts until the last scheduled person arrives. If anyone then no-shows or otherwise blows out on the day, they can swap in seamlessly to fill the gap.

This approach is obviously most successful when you have a consistent group quota – for example, all 6 test subjects are identically specified. If you have a split test going on where you are comparing results from 2 different operating systems for example, you may best cover all bases by recruiting and retaining a floater for each quota.

Your specialist qualitative or UX recruiter can work with you to achieve the best results for both your underlying research objectives, and the equally important objectives of best use of lab/studio time and satisfaction of internal stakeholders during the fieldwork sessions themselves. Trust your recruiter, share your concerns and priorities, and watch them do the best possible job for you.

If you require intelligent, professional and reliable participant recruitment for any qualitative, online or UX research projects in the UK, contact Saros Research Ltd for a quote or informal discussion today

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