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OPINION24 September 2013

Field of dreams?

Opinion

Face Facts’ Luke Taylor says fieldwork agencies must share the burden of innovation in the industry, and help make quality research top of mind for end-clients.

I’ve only been in the research industry for just over a year. In that time, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with, met and listened to some of the finest in the business – and I’ve spoken to and negotiated with plenty of clients too. The most fascinating learning curve for me has been in getting to grips with the challenges the industry is facing. To me, the problem is best characterised like this: We’re increasingly becoming a number – a statistic – to our clients.

Every time I speak to a potential new client – an agency field director or senior research exec – I hear mostly the same thing. What drives their decision making? Cost. Speed. Reliability. These are all admirable hallmarks, but I believe that quality is all too often left out of the equation, or is simply an afterthought. I understand why – because, having spoken with numerous end-client research teams, it’s clear that this obsession with cost is being driven from the top. For those of us at the bottom of the ladder, working for a fieldwork agency, this pain is passed on and magnified.

To me, it’s clear that to effect change at the top of the research chain – to sculpt and educate our client’s attitude to make them consider quality – a new approach has to be taken, one that delivers quality first and foremost. Our feeling is that, as the foundation of the research industry, fieldwork agencies can play an essential part in driving quality from the bottom up.

“The question fieldwork agencies must ask themselves is: What can we do from the bottom of the ladder, to help the middle impress the top?”

Sharing the burden of innovation
Innovation is the accepted path forward for the industry: the idea being that by introducing tech-based services, we can help bridge the gap between our clients’ expectations and our capabilities, versus those of tech firms from outside the industry.

But who should be doing the innovating? It isn’t just the domain of the big players and insight agencies. Often their size and proximity to the client seems to be their weakness; disrupting their current model seems too cumbersome and challenging a process.

I believe there is great opportunity here for fieldwork agencies to pick up the torch. Change can still come from the biggest agencies, but it should be met from the bottom. And innovation can be remarkably easy, and at less risk to those of us with smaller, more nimble agency setups. There exists a banquet of tech providers from inside and outside of the industry; simple partnerships with these companies can see fieldwork providers extend their toolkit, injecting quality in their work with a relatively low risk. But this sort of innovation is only the simplest and smallest step we could take. It is only the start.

Sharing the burden of the client
For tech innovation to really take hold, another sort of innovation is required: a fundamental shift in the working understanding between insight agency and fieldwork provider, one that will enhance the way we service clients forever.

In the interaction between end-client, insight agency and fieldwork agency, someone has to take responsibility for the end-client relationship. However, now and in the future, what must change is the way insight agencies and fieldwork agencies consider their individual responsibilities.

Agencies have clients to satisfy, and will search for every opportunity and means to do so. But why should the agency handling the fieldwork be any different? As field providers, our first thought shouldn’t be about the agency, our client. It should be about the end-client, and how we can help you please them. The question fieldwork agencies must ask themselves is: What can we do from the bottom of the ladder, to help the middle impress the top?

Luke Taylor is head of marketing and growth for Face Facts Research

1 Comment

6 years ago

Hi Luke This is need of an hour. I have worked with field people many years back. They used to be very active and concerned about quality of data. They used to interact lot with researchers , suppliers like us to meet the goal. But now recently, its disappointing to see the field work. Many of the startups are by the people who have spent just 6 month as field investigator and starts own by looking at cost per interview. Genuine and big players in industry must come together and start up no profit , multi location institute which teaches field work, its principals. The trained candidates will be Certified Data collector, moderator . The clients should be made aware to work with agencies having certified trainers. This may take time but will definitely produce must better and strong research. Hope I am able to explain this.

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