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When things get challenging 

Recruiting for market and social research and getting the right participants involves a lot of interacting variables. Add to this tight time schedules and high client expectations and it is inevitable that sometimes things won’t go as smoothly as you and your clients expect.

If there is a problem during a research session clients will usually contact you afterwards. Sometimes your clients may refuse to pay for certain participants. It is worth taking the time to look at your processes and reflect on whether there is anything you could have done differently. Also ask yourself is there anything that your client could have done to help your recruitment process? Below are some common problems and things to consider for future recruitment. Once you have investigated any problems reply to your clients with the facts. Most clients will be grateful for your honesty and a compromise over payment can usually be reached.

Low turnout rate:

  • Was the incentive sufficient for the session/pre-task?
  • Was the time of the group correct for the demographic? For example a 10.30pm finish time in a city centre for older participants would not be ideal.
  • Were reminder calls done in sufficient time to re-recruit?
  • Were there problems with public transport, traffic, weather etc?

The participant didn’t fit the criteria:

  • Did you understand exactly the type of participants, behaviour or lifestyle that your client was looking for?
  • Did your client do an in depth briefing with you?
  • Was your client’s brief and screener adequate for what they wanted?

A participant was over dominant in the session and took over:

  • If you have recorded your recruitment listen back to the recording and assess for any clues that you could have picked up on.
  • Usually you will have no indication during a recruitment call about a participant’s likely behaviour in a research session but if you do experience such problems you may want to exclude such participants from future research.

One or more participants were late:

  • Were the directions to the venue clear and was there a contact number?
  • Did you advise the participants to arrive ten to fifteen minutes before the session was due to start?
  • Did you advise participants that if they were late they may not be allowed in to the session?

Participant Complaints

Participants usually enjoy market and social research sessions. However, there are times when you will get a complaint and this is usually when the participant feels they have been misled, they have had a bad experience either before or during a group and/or feel they have been treated unfairly. They may think that you have not been transparent with them at the recruitment stage. Some common issues are:

  • A client or moderator using audio or visual recording equipment without prior notice to the participant at the recruitment stage. This is not allowed either under the Data Protection Act 2018 or the MRS Code of Conduct. If this comes to your attention you must tell the client that they cannot use the recording equipment, unless all of the participants present agree to the recording. It is not acceptable to retrospectively obtain permission from participants to use the recordings after any audio or visual recording has taken place.
  • Changing the pre-task, or adding a pre-task during recruitment. If a participant no longer wants to take part because of these changes you should charge for the recruitment of the participant and also the replacement.
  • Being kept longer at a session than stated during recruitment. Participants should get an extra incentive if they are kept significantly longer than they expected. Participants should also be reimbursed if delays have resulted in financial harm e.g. parking tickets, extra childcare costs.