A Training Tool for Interviewers Produced by MRA

Why was I contacted by a research company?
Research allows you to share your opinions on goods and services and public policy issues. Each year, hundreds of thousands of consumers like you are interviewed on a variety of topics. The product or service that you use most often probably came to you with the aid of research. Public opinion research determines the best mass transportation system, what social service programs are needed, what special service school children and senior citizens need, and the list goes on. Typically, clients are large national companies, government agencies, or other institutions that know that listening carefully to consumers is important to their success.

How was my phone number obtained?
In order for studies to be accurate, every household must be given the chance to participate, including people with unlisted phone numbers. For many studies, a computer randomly generates the phone numbers that are called, or telephone numbers are obtained from public records. In other studies, researchers call customers of companies who want you to evaluate their product or service. In these cases, the client company provides your name and number. No matter how your number was selected, it will remain confidential to the researcher.

Why should I participate in a research project?
People like you are the lifeblood of the research industry. Researchers are truly concerned about maintaining goodwill with the public. Our priority includes maintaining respondent confidentiality, accurately reporting your opinions, and respecting your privacy, your time, and your right to decline.

How do I know that the information will be kept confidential?
Information obtained through research is provided to clients without being individually identifiable. Researchers should never divulge your identity or individual answers unless you specifically give the researcher permission to do so.

How do I know that the information I provide will be recorded accurately?
Most research companies are members of one or more professional associations established for the research industry. These associations have developed Codes of Ethics, Standards and Best Practices to insure that the data collected is accurate and representative. Very specific scientific procedures and processes are used to collect the highest quality data with the least amount of intrusion on the consumer. Researcher's clients also depend on accurate data to make the best possible decisions on the products, services and policies that affect you.

How do I know that my privacy will be protected?
The goal of the research industry is to strike a balance between the need for information to improve people's lives and protecting the privacy of the people who participate in research. Hence, interviewers should always identify themselves and state the reason for their call at the beginning of each survey. Research interviewers should be courteous and respect your time by calling back at a more convenient time if necessary. They should answer your questions as completely as possible and politely honor your decision not to participate in a particular research study if you so choose.

Who sponsors research studies?
Research clients are typically large national companies, government agencies, and institutions who know that listening carefully to consumers is important to their success. In many instances, interviewers cannot divulge the client sponsoring these studies for several reasons. For example, researchers often help clients with new products that must remain confidential until these new brands are commercially introduced to the public. Also, knowing who sponsored the survey might bias your answers to our questions. Interviewers only reveal the sponsors of studies when they are instructed to do so or are given permission to reveal the sponsor at the end of the survey.

How can I tell the difference between research and telemarketing?
While both the survey research industry and telemarketing industry use the phone to conduct their business, there are some important differences. Telemarketers want to sell you something, while a researcher simply wants to ask your opinion. According to various federal and state laws, telemarketing is defined as the use of the telephone to sell goods or services, to raise funds, or to attempt collection on retail credit accounts. In comparison, research companies simply use the telephone to measure public opinions of products and services or social and political issues. The interviewer should never ask you for money or attempt to sell you anything. In fact, if a research company attempts to sell you anything while conducting a telephone interview, they would be in violation of federal law.

Take me off your call list.
I understand how the law might be confusing, but research calls are not included in the regulations that apply to telemarketing calls. We are not selling you anything; we are conducting research and would like your opinion.

How can I get more information about research?
You may contact The Marketing Research Association (MRA). One of MRA's key efforts is to provide information about the legitimacy of research and how to recognize and separate the "authentic" from the "counterfeit."