Conjoint Online

Online Feedback from Conjoint Interviews
Satisfies Respondents' Intrinsic Motivation

Sam Kingsley, Action Research NY

Case Study
Motivating to Many
Cooperation Improved

Some readers may be old enough to remember a time when consumers were flattered to be stopped in a shopping mall and asked their opinions. Or to be called on the phone -- completion rates of 60% or more were attainable. No more. Why not?

Consider the following intrinsic motivations for participating in a survey:

  • Self-understanding—Respondents can get feedback about themselves, individually and in how they stand compared to others.
  • Influence and control—Respondents' views of the world are understood and, their opinions valued.
  • Innovation—Sometimes, respondents have a chance to learn about new products or services being developed.

With two exceptions, current practice in market research doesn't meet these needs of respondents. One exception is well-designed customer satisfaction research, which can provide respondents a sense of influence and control and generate high levels of cooperation.

The second exception is online research, particularly conjoint, which provides a special opportunity to meet respondents' intrinsic needs.

  • In conjoint, respondents are asked to make thought-provoking tradeoffs based on what they value. The answers are sometimes surprising to respondents, and the final results aren't always obvious.
  • Because individual level conjoint results can be revealing, there isn't a need to provide normative data, which may be difficult in some competitive situations.
  • In Adaptive Conjoint Analysis, respondents' answers are processed as they are given, so that individual-level results are automatically available at the end of the interview.

Case Study
The potential power of giving feedback to respondents can be seen in a recent application of conjoint to matching candidates with job openings. Futurestep, a subsidiary of Korn/Ferry International, is an online matching service that uses direct questions and adaptive conjoint to profile potential job candidates. Candidates, including those who may not be actively looking for career changes, register with Futurestep because of the personal information and feedback they receive.

Futurestep was the first company to use ConjointOnline, a Web adaptation of the DOS interviewing module of Adaptive Conjoint Analysis (ACA), which was developed by Sawtooth Software, Inc. Over 70,000 ConjointOnline interviews have been completed to date.

To recruit a base of candidates, Futurestep launched a nation-wide radio and print advertising campaign. The Wall Street Journal is an important partner with Futurestep because of its recognition among potential candidates and clients. Within a month there were over 50,000 registrants. These individuals are generally mid-career managers and higher.

In addition to the conjoint data, Futurestep uses a battery of validated self-assessment instruments to better match personal preferences in decision-making and managerial styles. This data is matched with information provided by hiring managers and potential peers of the candidate who fill out a set of mirror instruments prior to the search.

Candidates come to Futurestep because they receive: complimentary career and market value feedback; guaranteed confidentiality of candidate's information; the credibility of Korn/Ferry International and the Wall Street Journal, non-advertised positions from blue chip organizations as well as smaller, high-growth firms.

Some of the feedback from candidates illustrates their level of involvement with the process.

"This whole process ... provides an opportunity to establish a personal relationship in a high-tech world. The business world rarely sees technology as an enabler and technology rarely sees beyond its owns bits & bytes."

"Thank you! What a great way to get to know your business style. The more I know, the better I can communicate my needs in a job interview."

"The characteristics described above are the person I am. I did not believe the questions asked could reveal so much. This indeed is very interesting and exciting. Thank you."

"I really enjoyed the exercise - I think the results are right on and consistent with other profiling techniques I have experienced. In this case, I think the attributes in the "job characteristics" report were well chosen - had to be via focus groups." [Editor: No focus groups.]

"Absolutely amazing! You have drawn a very accurate picture of my personality, characteristics and personal goals."

Motivating to many
Surveys that educate and inform respondents about themselves or their world can be motivating to many people, as the comments above illustrate. Our firm's experience in online research with doctors shows that once respondents agree to participate, 85% are willing to complete short surveys with little notice. Many of the doctors comment about learning of developments in their field via the surveys.

Comments made by respondents indicate many are highly motivated to give honest, complete self-portraits -- if only the questions and answer choices would let them! This is particularly true in conjoint, because the questions require some thoughtful reflection by respondents on what they really value. Respondents hold Web surveys to high standards -- this is no place for sloppy thinking, inaccurate wording or erroneous analysis.

In ConjointOnline, respondents are given the opportunity to review their final profile, and to comment on whether it matches their self-perceptions. The addition of real-time checking for inconsistent responses (i.e., where a response might vary significantly from what was predicted) further strengthens the bond between the respondent and the survey process. There actually is an intelligence in the machine!

Being able to start and complete a task at one time is a positive factor in motivation. From the respondent's perspective, the task isn't complete until the answers have been correctly registered and implications drawn.

Cooperation improved
To return to the original question, well-executed online research indicates that cooperation levels can be improved. In many surveys there is little indication that the research recognizes that true communication is a two-way street.

As long as our profession tries to pump more data out of people, those being pumped will increasingly view surveys as an economic transaction, for which they should be compensated. When there is true two-way communication, respondents' intrinsic needs are met. The implicit contract with survey respondents is reaffirmed, leading to a more satisfactory relationship for both researchers and respondents.



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