Six Things to Consider When Putting Your Trust in Data Collection Suppliers

Bar ChartJohn Wright and Darrell Bricker, a Senior Vice President and CEO of Public Affairs at Ipsos, respectively, recently wrote a great piece about polling results in the media.

In reading, “Evaluating the Polls: an Open Letter to Ontario’s Journalists,” I actually became empathetic to the plight of the journalists.  At the end of the day, they put their trust in someone (a pollster) and believed that pollster did their due diligence by providing all of the relevant information. How are the journalists to know any different?  By creating awareness, like John and Darrell have done in this article, hopefully many journalists will be aware of the right questions to ask the next time around.

I also can’t help but feel that this lack of awareness is widely experienced by buyers of online data every single day.  Buyers expect that data collection companies, like AskingCanadians™, are doing their due diligence (in terms of panel quality, data checks, programming accurateness, etc.) to ensure the validity of their data. After all, we are the specialists.

The mentality that smaller companies have more focus or bigger companies are safer is, in my opinion, false. I remember, my mom always saying to me, “If all your friends jumped off a building, would you?”  I always had a smart-ass answer. But the point is, reliability is not based on numbers, but in the skills, competencies and experiences of the individual(s) you are working with.

In the spirit of John and Darrell’s informative article, I would like to provide six tips that may assist in determining if you are working with the right data collection supplier:

Is the supplier you are working with certified with the Market Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA)? The MRIA is an independent body dedicated to the development and delivery of professional standards in the research industry. It is critical that all data collection providers are certified by MRIA to ensure the sound collection of data.

How serious does your supplier take data quality? It’s one thing to ensure panel quality, which most all suppliers should be doing naturally (never take this for granted), but what about data quality? Panel companies should be reviewing your questionnaire and identifying any areas where a respondent may get confused with the wording. At Asking Canadians™, using racers and straight-liners is only a starting point when it comes to data quality

Is your supplier an expert? Project execution is not limited to:  programming, testing and sampling. There is so much complexity in even the simplest of studies that only experts in the field are typically aware of. More times than not, I will provide guidance to my clients about the pitfalls or opportunities I see with their project or suggested execution. Sometimes the suggestions are shot down (which is fine), but sometimes the suggestions are instrumental in avoiding a disastrous situation for a client

What expertise does your supplier carry in their operations department? If you’ve worked with programmers, project managers or even sales reps who are more incompetent than a raisin (yes, you know what I’m talking about), you should ask to work with other individuals.  Hopefully, you’ll find the right people to partner with on your research. But, if you’ve gone through a number of different ‘raisins,’ you should start wondering if you’ll ever hit the grapes! Also, if you ever feel like your supplier expects you to drive all the conversations around data collection execution, you may be in trouble. I’ve heard countless horror stories from suppliers saying, “Well the client didn’t tell me that.” I laugh to myself thinking, “Well the client is not an expert in the field.  That’s why they come to us!”

Does your supplier have a vested interest in your business? Your primary point of contact is typically someone in account management or sales. Does your sales rep know everything about your business or is their sole interest in meeting their targets? Are they bringing you up-to-date on the latest trends or developments in the industry? What are they doing to help move your business forward? What has your supplier done to accommodate their organization to meet your needs? I strive to meet with my clients at least once each quarter to better understand new opportunities for their firm and what I can do to help them win future business.

Do you trust your supplier? Trust has very little space in business, where fact is preferred. However, most of the clients I work with do not have the time to validate everything I present to them or tell them we do. For some suppliers, knowing this fact allows them to lay claims to untrue processes and procedures with little potential of being caught. I believe transparency should be the standard in all relationships. If you think your supplier is purposely keeping you in the dark about specific practices, question them about it. If you’re not getting straight answers, question yourself. One of my previous employers positioned this perfectly:  It may be hard to do the right thing, but people are relying on you to do the right thing.

At the end of the day, as a client, your supplier’s business should be built around your business. Building a relationship based on understanding and cohesion is critical for long-term success. Should this be your goal, I hope this article provides you with a sliver of knowledge about how to build stronger partnerships with your suppliers.