Asking by Name Can Boost Response Rates

First impressions really can make a difference, and oftentimes determines whether a potential telephone survey respondent is willing to stay on the line and participate in the respective survey.�While a well-written introduction helps increase response rates, the first sentence alone can form an impression that makes or breaks a respondent�s decision to participate.

Factors impacting this impression, moreover, may be the perceived legitimacy of the call, the professionalism displayed by the interviewer, and/or the personalization of the introduction.�Since addressing the respondent by name can result in positive perceptions regarding these three factors, the project manager should carefully consider the decision to do so.

No set rules exist to define when you should or should not address a respondent by their name. Several guidelines, however, can help in the decision-making process. Specifically, addressing respondents by name may be beneficial in the following circumstances:

  • The goal is to maximize the number of completes from a small sample (e.g., a customer list from a small homebuilder).

  • There is a personal relationship between the respondent and the client (e.g., a customer list from a high-end financial institution).

  • The sample list is generated based on high-dollar transactions/purchases (e.g., a customer list from a car dealership).

  • The survey addresses sensitive information (e.g., medical, compensation).

  • There is a need to verify that the correct person is on the telephone (e.g., a customer list from an insurance company).

Keep in mind that if a third party, such as a marketing research firm, is collecting the data, it is possible to ask for the respondent by name and still have the data be anonymous.�In this case, the research firm simply delivers to the client the data without any identifying information. The key is to assure anonymity and confidentiality, so that the respondent understands that their name will not be associated with their responses.�

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While asking for respondents by name can indeed have a very positive impact on response rates, if not handled properly, the downside can not only negate the benefits, but potentially decrease response rates.�Specifically, the following items should be managed:

  • Respondents� names should be provided by the client to the research firm in a consistent and clean data format.

  • The script programmers must account for every scenario (e.g., what to say if there are missing first or last names, how to handle honorifics, and how to handle calls where there is more than one respondent name in the sample file).

  • Instructions regarding the handling of alternate contacts (e.g., can someone other than the person(s) identified in the sample file complete the survey).

  • The interviewers must try their hardest to pronounce the name(s) correctly.

It is often said that you only have one chance to make a good first impression.�This could not be truer than when a telephone interviewer is trying to persuade a respondent to participate in a research study.�With care and good planning, asking for a respondent by name can contribute to stronger response rates.

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