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15 underrated essentials your survey interviewers should be trained in – but usually aren’t (29 May 08)

They’re the foot soldiers of the research world; most people ignore them –what a mistake! And I speak from experience

When you think about it survey results can have an incredible influence.

Decisions about new services, policies and initiatives are often developed as a result of them. They can even influence the direction of whole organisations.

Yet surprisingly for something so important two parts of the survey process get almost no attention from anyone.

  1. Where the information is collected by the interviewer
  2. Where that information is inputted into survey software

We’ll look at the former here, but do be aware that these are both highly underrated areas.

When people commission research they are rightly concerned about the quality of the researchers.

Quite right - because it’s well known that you should always ask to meet the researchers who will actually do the work, then you are less likely to be smooth-talked by a Research Executive.

But how about the people who really do the work, the humble interviewers? These foot solders of the research world are vastly underrated.

What I discovered

I was a survey interviewer for several years and it always struck me how everything completely and utterly depends on the interviewer’s honesty, integrity and skills.

Quite simply, the information they collect makes up the much-lauded survey results. If junk goes in, junk will as sure as hell come out the other end.

You can pay all the attention you want to sampling, designing the questionnaire and interpreting the results. But if it is all based on erroneous information in the first place it’s a waste of time.

Remember, interviewers aren’t always paid that well, the job can be dangerous and sometimes it can be mind-blowingly tedious. A bit like war in fact, 95% complete boredom and 5% sheer terror.

So how do you make sure interviewers are doing their job and fully committed to your project? You have to encourage, train and support them – and you keep a close eye on them.

These are some reasons why I am reproducing some tips on the subject from Effective Research by Rod Laird and Kathleen Greaves. Why not pass these on or use them as a starting point if you are training your known interviewers?

And if you are commissioning research don’t forget to quiz the research companies on the quality of their interviewers, because very few people do.

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