When the success of a project depends on reaching exact quotas, accurate respondent targeting is critical to ensuring that the right constituents, customers and employees are being interviewed. While respondent targeting can be used with any data collection approach, it is most effectively used in tandem with phone-based data collection methods to deliver respondents with the specific demographics your research requires. Good respondent targeting goes well beyond the who you’re going to call. It enables both sample managers to do just-in-time procurement and call center supervisors to determine the where and when to call, ensuring that study quotas are achieved, costs are minimized and the right respondents are recruited to reduce the need to weight the results.

The Benefits of Phone for Respondent Targeting

For groups with limited access to the Internet, online surveys may not be sufficient to recruit the right profile of respondents for the data to accurately reflect reality. Particularly for survey projects that require a broad demographic range, phone is critical to reach certain demographic groups such as seniors and rural or lower socioeconomic consumers.

At the same time, the number of people owning cell phones continues to grow, and many are increasingly abandoning landlines for mobile devices. In fact, calling cell phones has the added benefit of reaching the target respondent versus the household. Experience now indicates that cell phone users answer their phones at higher rates than they do landlines, speeding project delivery. It’s clear that phone should not be overlooked as a prime way to target respondents.

Multi-Mode Surveys With Phone and Online Components

Multi-mode projects can be created to take advantage of phone for harder-to-reach groups while offering an online survey component for demographics who are more likely to complete the survey online. With a true multi-mode system, all respondent data, regardless of source, will be compiled seamlessly into one final data file so that researchers will never have to manually stitch the results together.

Screening Qualified Respondents

Workflows can be designed to pre-screen qualified respondents (like registered voters or women under 35) via interactive voice response (IVR) prior to the call being passed over to a live interviewer. This will improve interviewer efficiency and help reduce the time each interviewer is require to spend on a call.

Handling Incoming Cell Phone Calls

People using cell phones are up to 10 times more likely to call back than people with landlines so, when qualified respondents call back, someone has to be available to take their call. With call blending capabilities, incoming calls from mobile devices can be answered quickly, reducing abandonment rates and helping to hit quotas faster. Workflows can be designed to take the caller through IVR to screen or to answer the first set of questions or to simply route inbound calls to the next available interviewer.

There are several metrics that can be used for evaluating sample productivity, including four key measures:

  • Accuracy – the percentage of working phone numbers or deliverable emails.
  • Contact Rate – the percentage of calls made that reach a potential respondent.
  • Incidence – the percentage of screened respondents who qualified (passed all screener questions).
  • Cooperation – the percentage of qualified respondents who agree to take the survey to completion.

he methods below can affect these metrics to improve respondent targeting and general productivity. This can save you time and money, as well as improve overall respondent reach, thus providing higher quality data results. By accelerating your data collection, you can reduce the need for excessive weighting of the data on the back end and obtain accurate insights more rapidly.

1. Avoid losing respondents through call blending

When conducting an outbound phone study, a good practice is broadcasting a caller id number that, when dialed, reaches the call center. Having a caller id will significantly improve connect rates and help to get through some blocking technologies. We also know that cell phone respondents are 10 times more likely to return a phone call than landline respondents are. As the world moves toward greater cell phone dominance, managing these returned calls can be an important source of completes for capturing key targeted groups. With the right technology in place, returned calls can be answered by an IVR system which can then conduct the survey, play a message or (ideally) route to a live interviewer to conduct the survey.

Sample Control

Sample management capabilities give project managers and supervisors complete control over the whole survey process. From building the sample to making changes on-the-fly, advanced sample management capabilities should include:\Global time zone management capabilities.

  • Capability of weighting / prioritizing sample in grouped calling areas.
  • Replicating or grouping and treating segments differently based on predetermined rules.
  • Sample assignments by hour to improve hit rates in each time.
  • Ability to use elaborate dialing algorithms.

Call center success comes down to how well calls are managed. Workflows built using a combination of automated screening or IVR interviewing and live phone interviews give call center managers unprecedented control over optimizing respondent workflows.

2. Keep your targeting on track: universally manage your quotas

With the uncertainty surrounding TCPA regulations,1 more call centers are choosing to split jobs between landline and cell phone sample to treat the calling differently. Essential in keeping your targeting on track and maintaining random sampling is to have your quotas universally managed. Trying to split quotas may lead to skewed targeting of specific demographic groups. However, if you can share quotas in real-time across the studies, then you can more precisely target your quota groups.

3. Make best use of resources – develop quota filling strategies

With survey-driven quotas, you may have situations in which respondents could potentially fill multiple cells. If you do not want them to fill all they can, then think about putting them in the quota group with the least completes. This is especially important with cells that have very different incidence rates. Looking at all of your “to go” counts and picking the quota with the highest need will help insure that you target those cells most effectively.

4. Omnibus surveys help maximize your productivity

Got a respondent on the phone? Keep ‘em going! Omnibus surveys that allow you to screen and collect data for multiple projects can be a way to maximize productivity and get the most out of targeted groups. The technology and study design can facilitate these projects by segregating the data and quotas between the surveys in your omnibus study.

5. Use referrals to build samples on the fly

Get referrals from respondents. Whether you have reached a respondent who does not qualify or one who did, if they can provide contact information for other possible participants (co-workers, family or friends), take advantage of what is likely to be a highly accurate sample with a great incidence and cooperation rate. Let your respondents help you target and find respondents. If you collect referral sample, having good workflows in your project design and leveraging your technology to achieve these goals will save you time and help you to remain compliant with regulations like the TCPA. Ideally, the referrals can be added to your sample on the fly, but that also means that you should check against your do-not-call lists as you add the sample.

6. Weighting by time zone can help focus your interviewing resources

In a phone study, one of the most critical variables in reaching respondents is their time zone. Not only does time of day impact response rates, it can also impact your targeting and the accuracy of your data depending on your demographics and other quota groups. Weighting by time zone in your dialing process can help focus your interviewing resources on the “right” parts of the country during the shift. The United States population distribution by time zone is roughly 50 percent Eastern, 33 percent Central, 5 percent Mountain and 15 percent Pacific/Hawaii/Alaska. During prime time calling for the east coast, you might want to weight up the east and weight down the west to concentrate interviewing hours. By the time the east shuts down for the night, you would then have plenty of resources to handle the west. In another scenario, you might want to weight up the Mountain time zone so those numbers do not get overwhelmed by the Eastern or Central time zone calling.

7. Target your efforts through weighting by markets/sample variables

Similar to time zone weighting, you might want to view your sample based on markets and weight them accordingly. Markets could be DMA, states, area codes or really any sample variable that can be categorized. Weighting can help you drive your dialing on a phone methodology study to better target key groups and markets. Again, the better your demographic and quota representation through targeting, the faster you can get to analysis and the less weighting you may need.

Implementing these strategies and tactics can dramatically enhance respondent targeting. Good targeting can help you contact and interact with respondents in ways that fit their realities. More focused targeting can lead to faster results with greater confidence in the data. By optimizing how you reach and communicate with every contact, you can use your resources in more productive ways, all of which saves you time, money and ultimately contributes to the project’s success.


1 “New U.S. Restrictions on Telephone Research Prompt Risk Management Debate: Do the new TCPA rules mean you should junk your autodialer?” www.insightsassociation.org/article/new-us-restrictions-telephone-resear...