Intros Are Crucial To Survey Design

One of the hardest parts of a survey to write is often the first thing the respondent hears and the last thing the questionnaire designer ner actually writes � the introduction. The intro is critical to the cost of the research project because it correlates to the completion rates on which most project contracts are based. The intro plays a huge role in helping the interviewer persuade the respondent to actually take the survey, so the last thing the project manager wants to do is slap on a boiler plate intro without careful thought.

A good introduction includes information about the company conducting the survey, to distinguish this call from all the telemarketing calls that many people continue to receive despite the DO NOT CALL registry. It also includes a statement of what the survey is about, how long it will take and some assurance of anonymity if it is being offered.

Most introductions begin with the interviewer stating their name and the name of the marketing research company they work for. If the client�s name is to be disclosed, that will come in the opening sentence, as in �Hello. My name is Ann and I�m calling from Acme Marketing Research Co. on behalf of Company X.�

The most common way of avoiding hang-ups during the introduction is to follow that statement quickly with the disclaimer. �This is not a sales call.� This is particularly crucial since Company X sometimes makes sales call via telephone. Sometimes the concern that �marketing research� is another term for �telemarketing� can be avoided by saying, �I�m calling from Acme, an opinion research company.� Then the introduction does not have to include the �not a sales call� statement, but the project manager would want to provide the interviewers with a scripted answer should the intro be followed by a question of �OK, what are you selling?� The interviewer could then read a script that says, �We�re not selling anything. Company X is just looking for the opinions of consumers like you so they can use this valuable feedback to improve their products and services.�

The next thing respondents need to know is the topic of the survey. This should be short and sweet � they�ll get the details soon enough if they continue with the survey. If they don�t, then they don�t really need to know much more than the bare basics -- �This is a survey about Company X�s new Product Y,� or the more generic, �This is a survey about Internet service providers.�

They�ll also want to know how long it�s going to take them to do the survey. You can give them a range, an average or the mode. If 90 percent of the respondents are going to complete the survey within five minutes, but the other 10 percent are going to trigger open-ended questions that may take 15 minutes to complete, you wouldn�t want to use this range (5-15 minutes) because most people would assume the longest completion time in the range for themselves. For this survey, you�d probably want to use the mode, using a phrase like: �Most people complete the survey in under five minutes.��You�d want to use the range if it�s fairly narrow and small, and the average if it�s smaller than the mode.

Finally, you�d end the introduction with whatever screener questions you need to qualify the respondent to take the rest of the survey, such as �Are you the person in your household who makes decisions on which Internet service provider to use?�

Once you have all the key elements to the survey assembled, you should look carefully at the wording of each phrase. Writing for the spoken word is very different from report writing. For instance, the sentences should be declarative in structure and very short. The verbs should be active and preferably in the present tense. Avoid compound sentences. Avoid alliteration and tongue twisters. Say it out loud before you give it to your interviewers and then listen to the interviewers during actual calls to hear if they�re rewriting it themselves to make it simpler, clearer or just easier to say.

A successful introduction is one that is read verbatim by your interviewers and gathers in the most respondents to complete the survey. Since the cost of most research projects is based on the completion rate, the better the introduction, the better the completion rate and the more cost-efficient the research project.

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