A focus group facility recruited eight respondents for its client. But after the focus group was completed, the client complained that of the six respondents who showed, two had language barriers and two were “unable to contribute to the group.” That left the client with only two viable respondents. And since two respondents weren’t enough to conduct their research, they said they shouldn’t have to pay for that group. Not the recruiting, not the incentives, not the facility. Nothing.The focus group facility disagreed, for following reasons:
The client used all six respondents for the full two hours.
The client’s claim that two respondents were unintelligible was invalid. The respondents had participated in previous research without complaint.
Respondents being “unable to contribute to the group” wasn’t a recruiting issue. Screening for respondents who will articulate their thoughts and feelings is nearly impossible.
All six respondents qualified at initial screening and again on the rescreener prior to the groups.
So what should you do when respondents are “unusable?”If you’re so unimpressed with the quality of your respondents that you don’t want to pay for them, remove them from your research without delay. If that leaves you with insufficient respondents to conduct your focus group, then cancel the group. If you’re planning to ask for credit on your invoice, you cannot keep and use the “unusable” respondents. Doing so doesn’t leave you with much of a leg to stand on.That the client kept all six respondents in the room for the full two hours hurt the client’s position. The policy at most recruiting shops is this: “If you use the respondents, you pay for the respondents.”There are risks when conducting qualitative research. Among them are unresponsive respondents and respondents who are difficult for researchers to “make a connection with.” And unless you specify that “no accents of any kind” should be recruited (what about drawls, twangs, New Yorkers?), you will likely get accents of varying degrees. They are part of the landscape, too.Some things are outside of the control of researchers and recruiters. Strange things happen. Although most respondents are genuine and want to contribute to the research, remember that you’re dealing with human nature. As with recruiters, some respondents are better than others.But if you feel strongly that you cannot work with one or more of your respondents, pull them from the group. Doing so, and adhering to the following best practices, will give you ammunition to make a solid case for non-payment of recruiting, incentives and facility rental.
Follow these best practices to get the respondents you need:
Clearly define what you want from your respondents on your screener and field instructions. You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting recruiters to “read between the lines.”
Eliminate gray areas and close loopholes on your screener that could result in unexpected respondents. Seek assistance from respondent recruiters you trust. They know what works, and what doesn’t.
Keep psychographic and articulation screening questions in perspective. Most recruiters simply don’t understand the big picture behind these lines of questioning, which leads researchers to believe they’re getting higher caliber respondents than they’re getting.
Work with reputable vendors. Good recruiters not only schedule good respondents, they stand behind their work.