Can You Keep A Secret?

“Trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  – Steven Covey

Can people trust you to keep a secret?  Let’s face it, it’s not always easy, but being trusted to keep certain information confidential is a relationship building-block and a sign of true character.  In the world of marketing research, the act of gathering and reporting consumer feedback requires a commitment to protecting survey participants’ privacy and anonymity. Here are three ways market research must earn the trust of both their research participants and their client partners.

Win Participants’ Trust

Market researchers have a short window of time to gain a respondent’s trust and willingness to participate in a survey.  A question we sometimes hear from phone survey participants is, “Who are you and how did you get my number?”  People are rightfully cautious about who they share their personal information with, whether on the phone or online.  Therefore, we need to put them at ease from the get-go.  Your research partner should craft a survey introduction that conveys the following key points clearly and concisely:

  • Who Are You? The research firm should clearly identify themselves up front and provide direct contact information.  If appropriate, a firm can also share the research sponsor’s identity to gain further credibility.
  • How Did You Get Their Name? Phone interviewers should be able to clearly explain how participants’ contact information was obtained, whether from a purchased list, a customer list, or a referral. Online and mail survey participants should be provided with an easy way to get answers to any questions they may have about the survey.
  • Will Responses Remain Anonymous? Participants should be reassured that their feedback will remain strictly anonymous and confidential.  Your research partners should be able to back that up with strict sample management and data processing procedures that ensure confidentiality.

Protect Their Trust

There are times when a study uncovers negative customer experiences and it’s not unusual for brand marketers to want to reach out to these survey participants to correct the situation.  However, unless a participant has given express permission to be re-contacted, it’s our responsibility, and to your benefit, to protect their identity.

  • Willingness to Be Candid. Survey participants must feel comfortable sharing their honest opinions, whether positive or negative.  If not, they may hesitate to provide candid feedback, resulting in less meaningful research findings.
  • Reluctance to Participate. If a potential research participant questions whether their feedback will result in a sales call or other follow-up communication they will be less likely to take part in a study. Lower response rates make the research more time-consuming and costly to complete. 

Preserve Your Brand Integrity

Research studies are often conducted using an organization’s customer list.  These types of studies require strict protocols to be followed, including protecting the customer’s contact information, properly using customer data, and potentially deleting the list upon completion of the study.  By protecting your customer’s information, your research partner is also protecting your brand’s integrity.  Furthermore, there are a number of laws that must be adhered to when it comes to protecting consumers’ personally identifiable information, whether obtained from a customer list or other source including:

  • Healthcare Industry Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Research that involves patient health care information is governed by the federal HIPAA regulation which prescribes rigid access to and protection of patient information.
  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Enacted in 1991, the TCPA was enacted to safeguard consumer privacy from unwanted telemarketing communication practices.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC outlines guidelines for businesses to follow in order to protect PII, particularly in regards to financial services, utilities, government, and technology, which each have privacy issues specific to their areas of business. 

Doing the Right Thing

Maintaining confidentiality and privacy, as part of the research participant’s experience, is critical in order to maintain their trust. When participants trust that their feedback will be kept confidential, anonymous, and will not lead to future marketing communications, they are more likely to provide honest and constructive feedback.

Upholding respondent confidentiality is a core foundation of ethical, sound market research and is essential to the productivity and longevity of our industry.  Here at The DRG, we take this responsibility extremely seriously by working hard to win, protect, and preserve the trust of all our research participants.

Click here to learn more about how The DRG handles privacy issues.

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