The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. Vol 1 Issue 4   December 2005


You’d never accept a gift without saying “Thank you,” and yet researchers often neglect to thank study participants for the “gift” of their time and attention. Read on for more on why thanking is such an important part of the research process.

As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Julie Brown

Mark Palmerino
Executive Vice President

Have You Hugged A Survey Participant Lately?

Several years ago, I attended the wedding of a close friend. Because my friend was what is euphemistically called “a mature bride,” the right wedding gift was not easily found. After all, what do you buy two successful executives who have all the appliances, crystal, flatware, and accoutrements that money can buy?

So, knowing my friend’s unusual tastes, I set out for Provincetown, MA for the perfect, unique gift, which I found after visiting several funky gift shops (and, I admit, one or two funky bars).

I brought it home, wrapped it up and sent it off, satisfied that I had found the ideal gift for my friend and her husband.

Six years later, I have yet to receive a thank-you note.

Now, understand, I am not trying to be Emily Post here. My questions, though, remain unanswered to this day: Did she like the gift? Does she use the gift? Did it arrive safely and in the number of pieces it was supposed to?

What does this have to do with research? Well, this tale comes to mind at this season of giving, because I humbly request that all of us in the professional research community keep one thing in mind: Let’s remember to thank everyone who gives us the “gift” of his or her opinion and advice in surveys.

In saying this, I am not proposing large monetary gifts to all those who participate in research. But, I do hope that we all make a more concerted effort to:

  1. Thank respondents for participating. Not just orally at the end of the interview, but with a follow-up letter. While the letter may come from the sponsor (often especially effective) or the research firm (especially if the sponsor wants to remain anonymous), it’s a great way to encourage participants to continue to engage in research when they have the opportunity.
  2. Share information. For some participants (for example, B2B), a short précis of a few key findings from a study is often as valuable as monetary compensation. For consumers, it is engaging to share two or three key learnings in an innocuous way (e.g. “We are now more aware of how many of you enjoy using our investor centers.”). Tying findings to an action step, such as, “We are currently exploring ways to expand this important way of maintaining contact with you,” is a nice touch as well.

    No matter what the outcomes, sending a letter that thanks respondents and gives some idea what the survey sponsor is doing with the results is always a good way to let someone know that their input was valuable.

  3. Keep participants engaged in providing feedback and responding positively to survey opportunities. At the end of our surveys, we frequently ask if a respondent would be willing to participate in a follow-up. Our clients occasionally decide they would like to form a “panel” of respondents to a particular study and re-visit them at some later time. This follow-up request at the end of the survey keeps the door open for circling back if the need arises.

As the Mixology section (below) explains, obtaining as much participation from the same respondent time and again may be particularly helpful. And so with that in mind, not only is thanking people for their participation a good idea because we may want to talk to them again “someday,” we also may want to talk with them again as quickly as within six months.

Since we often don’t know where our research results may lead, every action we can take to continue to keep participants interested in survey participation will have short- and long-term benefits. That means thanking them, keeping them in the information loop and engaging them on an ongoing basis.

After all, without the continued good will, commitment and enthusiasm of survey participants, where would the field of research be?

— Julie

Click here to share this newsletter with a colleague.

Mixology (Putting research into practice)

At the end of our surveys, we frequently ask if a respondent would be willing to participate in a follow-up survey. We are delighted to report that over 90%, on average, say yes. This level of interest is extremely helpful when it comes to designing research panels.

A research “panel” is simply a group of people who have agreed to take part in multiple research efforts.

We often propose this approach because of the increased depth of information that can be attained from each individual respondent involved in the study. This in turn leads to a deeper understanding of the issues under study and the causes of the respondent’s behavior relative to these issues.

Panel designs also allow us to understand how certain events which unfold over time impact reaction and behavior. Learning how specific communications affect perceptions of a service, product, or institution, for example, can consequently lead to understanding about behavior, satisfaction, and buying patterns.

Finally, a panel design is statistically more “powerful” in the sense that it is easier to detect significant differences with smaller sample sizes. This statistical power comes when we can compare the answers of the same person at time 1 to the answers of that person at time 2 (commonly referred to as a “within subjects design”) — something that is only possible if the respondent will agree to talk to us twice.

— Mark


Have You Hugged A Survey Participant Lately?

Mixology (Putting research into practice)

Twist and Shout

About Us

Happy Holidays from all of us at CSR and best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

Enter your email here to subscribe to “Research with a Twist

Problems? Click here to send us an email with your request.
About Us
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data.


(617) 451-9500
Understanding What People Really Think

WordPress Lightbox Plugin