Going from Monologue to Dialogue

Well-designed and representative online research can produce rich, reliable results. And, unlike traditional techniques such as telephone surveys and live focus groups, online research enables follow-up conversations and engagement with respondents, says CFM Partner Tom Eiland.

“Online research allows companies to have a dialogue rather than a monologue with customers,” Eiland explains. “You collect actionable information through research. You share the results with customers, stakeholders and internal audiences. The information and sharing stimulates ideas, generates conversations and develops loyalty.”

Eiland, who leads CFM's research practice, made the case for online research using databases to the spring membership meeting of Pinnacle Worldwide, an international network of independently owned and operated public relations agencies. CFM is the Pinnacle partner in Oregon.

The exodus from landline telephones to mobile smartphones has made phone surveys more difficult, time-consuming and expensive, Eiland says. Live focus groups, he adds, are limited by geography and the ability to get the right group of people to the same place on the same night.

"Online research overcomes those weaknesses," Eiland says.

Harnessing the power of customer databases, third-party databases or voter registration lists can yield broader participation in research projects, as well as more in-depth and extensive interviews.

"People don't like being interrupted at dinner or while watching their favorite TV show to answer a telephone on a subject they don't care about," Eiland explains. "But many people will respond to invitations to participate in online research on topics of interest or concern to them."

Organizations collect email addresses of customers or stakeholders, but don't think of them as an entryway to an ongoing conversation. "In today's world, people want to be involved, they want to be involved in decision-making. Online research gives them an easy, convenient way to engage,"

Online panel research typically involves a larger sample size than telephone surveys and live focus groups and that larger sample provides the assurance you get a reflective, representative response. "We have benchmarked panel research findings by conducting parallel telephone surveys and the results are comparable," Eiland says. "The difference is we can follow up with online respondents and continue the conversation."

For example, Eiland says you can invite respondents to participate in an online focus group based on their answers to specific questions in a quantitative survey. "That allows you to drill down and get more context on an issue."

Online panel research also is scalable, quick to field, and comparable or cheaper in price than traditional techniques.

"Times have changed. Technology has changed. Now it is time for research to change," Eiland say.

You can out more about online panel research by clicking on /research/ or contacting Eiland directly at 503.294.9120.