In an earlier post, we talked about how to choose the right field data collection vendor for your specific market research project. As we mentioned at the time, the selection itself is only one side of the equation. The other side is how you actually prepare them for the task at hand.
There's good news and bad news here. The bad news is that, no matter how carefully you vetted your primary research firm, the learning curve is always very steep and you're going to have to spend a lot of time and energy just on preparation and planning. The good news, however, is that if you invest the time at the beginning of the relationship to do this right, you'll set yourself up for consistent long-term success.
4 Ways to Start Your Field Data Collection Partnership Off on the Right Track
1. Hold a project launch call as soon as possible. Nearly everyone probably does project launch calls with their customers, but they let it go by the wayside when it comes to working with a vendor. The scope of services being provided may mean the call only lasts 5-15 minutes, but an actual conversation wins out over e-mail every time. Also, make sure the call is with the person who takes over once primary research services are purchased. It's all well and good to have discussed this with your sales rep when you were evaluating the firm, but don't assume this means all the nuance was adequately transferred to the person actually managing your research project. It's possible this could be the same person--particularly at smaller research firms--but this is the time to confirm.
2. Create a common language quickly. You know what you mean and they know what they mean, but do either of you know what the other means? More to the point, are you confident enough in that knowledge to bet a large portion of your income on it? Especially in a highly technical field like primary research and data collection, there are acronyms, jargon, and other critical terms that everyone needs to be clear on. Oftentimes, people are uncomfortable expressing any confusion at the beginning of a new business relationship, so it's incumbent on you as the market research consultant and representative of the client to ensure everyone's on the same page.
3. Set and communicate clear goals and expectations. As we noted in the previous post about selecting your vendor, your ability to deliver to the client depends in large part on the ability of the field services vendor to get the job done. As the research consultant you have the big picture of what the client wants and is expecting, so the data collection team is relying on you to clearly establish goals and expectations for the project. Once you set those goals, don't disappear though. Provide guidance, feedback, and coaching to the field services team throughout the process and hold them accountable for their performance.
4. Respect people's time. This advice goes for pretty much all relationships everywhere, but bears repeating anyway. There will always be unforeseen events that wreck havoc on a schedule, but these should be rare occurrences and not standard operating procedure. As important as the data may be to your client, there are situations where the collection simply can't be sped up. Give your field services vendor the benefit of the doubt and respect their time and you'll find that the respect goes both ways.
You'll notice that none of this advice is rocket science. What it is, however, is the distillation of the practices we ourselves have most appreciated from market research consultants and teams with whom we've worked over the past decade.
As we've said before, we think the relationship between the market researcher and the field data collection vendor really sets the stage for the success and quality of the research itself. To help your own research projects be as successful as possible, we've created a checklist you can use to get the most from your own field data collection vendors. Download the checklist and let us know what you think!