If we conclude that the journey for a participant looks something like this;
- People find out about opportunities to take part in research through newsletters, social media, friends telling them about it or being contacted directly.
- These people then get in contact with someone (researcher or recruiter) to organise taking part in the research, finding out what will happen, what they’ll have to do and when it will be.
- At this point these people (or participants at this stage?) then go to the research to take part, collect their incentive (if they’re having one) and then finish the journey.
What happens to support this journey? This is the question we asked ourselves. We wanted to know how are the needs of participants being met today when they are taking part in research.
The stages of this journey which were more of a mystery to us were that of ‘find out’ and ‘organise’;
- Who manages these stages and how??
- How are participants recruited to take part in research?
- What methods are used to recruit participants?
- What challenges occur when recruiting participants?
To discover the answers to these questions we needed to research with participant recruiters, in addition to our research interviews with participants.
To really learn how participants are recruited and to understand how participant needs are met, we conducted a contextual inquiry of a participant recruitment specialist, People for Research.
What we did
We spent the day in the offices of People for Research and observed:
- how they contact participants on the day of the research, to ensure the participant hasn’t forgotten and is still able to attend
- a range of methods being used to contact potential participants to invite them to take part in a various research opportunities
- how recruiters screen participants, to confirm and organise the research session ensuring the research participant is suitable
After spending the day observing all these facets of recruitment we conducted a workshop with a group of participant recruiters to understand what they knew about their participants and to reflect on the observations we had through the day.
What we found
Unfortunately there are serial participants, people who want to, and are willing to take part in many research opportunities even if they don’t fit the criteria for taking part.
“They’ll use different accents”
Serial participants will use many means to take part in research. Recruiters work to find out who these people are, and share information about them, to reduce the chances of them getting through to the research. Which could have a detrimental impact on that round of research.
No one likes a “no show” and there are many tactics employed in which to increase the personal nature of the relationship between the participant and recruiter which aim to decrease the chances of drop outs.
“Certain audience types are more likely to drop out’
To prevent these drop outs recruiters use:
- Phone as a channel which is seen as more personal and friendly
- Direct contact details to the recruiter which mean the participant has a person to speak to
- Photos of the recruiters at the end of their emails, again providing a personable communication
- For some user types, communications are lessened “if it is a business owner I won’t pester them with lots of confirmations”
“I bonded with a participant over a football team from Latvia, very niche, but because of that I knew he would turn up”
Through these communications with participants further topics can be approached which help reduce the anxiety of participants:
- Participants can be told how important their participation is, giving them a stake in turning up
- Questions, that without answer provide lots of anxiety, such as ‘what do I wear?’ are answered confidently
- Relationships can be built between participant and recruiter, building a brand of trust and loyalty.
Research starts during recruitment
“The research starts on the screener… we give ask open-ended questions in the screener to see how they will feel when they’re in the session”
Research participants’ needs start much earlier than when the video camera in the lab gets switched on. Needs start when the participant chooses chooses to respond to an opportunity for a piece of research.
We’ll be sharing more of what we’ve discovered during our UX Bristol 2017 workshop and in further blog posts.