Best practices

What Researchers and Participants Want (And How to Give it To Them)

Researchers and participants have more in common than you might expect. Discover how meeting these shared needs delivers better insights.

When you’re in the trenches as a researcher, it can sometimes feel like participants want the impossible. Or at least, what seems so divergent from what you want, that it may as well be impossible. You want high quality data from real, qualified participants; they want to do as little paperwork as possible and to receive instant payments; and the juggling can be exhausting.

But when you’re removed from the thick of the action, you start to see that researchers and participants are surprisingly well-aligned. And in many ways, you’re almost allies when it comes to designing an effective participant experience.

So what do both researchers and participants want – and how can you give it to them?


1. To make taking part as easy as possible 😀

Both parties want to spend their time on the actual research – giving and getting juicy answers to well-thought-out questions.

No one wants to spend any more time than is strictly necessary on the associated paperwork, even though moving from physical to digital has been a time-saver.

Participants are looking for an experience that’s as quick and seamless as possible – and ideally, one that they can conveniently manage from their phone. Sending digital documents is too much work – they want to use online forms to register or provide information.

Researchers also feel the pain when the digital paperwork isn’t streamlined. Having to create and save documents, and transfer data from place to place, is all much less efficient than using a central participant CRM (or what we call a Participant Management System/ PRM), for example.

And with GDPR a very real concern, it's understandable that there’s significant appetite to avoid any activity that causes risk of exposure.

TLDR: The fewer steps, the better – even if it’s a top-notch digital experience.

How everyone can get what they want

  1. Streamline research operations processes ensuring that all of it – including payments – can all be completed by participants on a mobile phone. Accessibility is central to this challenge, to ensure that you’re getting insights from a diverse set of participants.

  2. Wherever possible, avoid sending or receiving documents that require you to transfer information, or need to be saved somewhere that’s potentially insecure

  3. Consider investing in a participant CRM as a secure, centralised way to handle participant data.


2. To be well rewarded 💸

We all want to be well paid, so it’s hardly surprising to read that research participants want to be paid fairly. Why do they – and we – want this? They want to feel that the payment was a fair exchange for their time and effort.

When participants feel dissatisfied with payment, it’s often related to either miscommunication or misunderstanding about the amount of effort and time required. For example, if they think they’ve just committed to a 20-minute interview, they may feel misled if the paperwork takes just as long.

Clearly no one wants fraudulent participants to be paid at all, but as a general rule, researchers want genuine participants to be well-paid. Why? Because it makes it so much easier to do their jobs. It’s easier to recruit participants if the incentive is at an adequate level.

Participants who have had a positive experience and feel well compensated will be easier to deal with. And retention is much easier when a participant feels appreciated.

TLDR: It’s in everyone’s best interest to pay participants appropriately.


How to give everyone what they want

    1. Be very clear about the full scope of the time and effort involved, so that the participant understands their real “hourly rate”

    2. Consider how you can streamline non-insights-gathering tasks to keep that “hourly rate” as high as possible.

    3. To avoid paying fraudulent participants, investigate options around participant verification.


3. To want to repeat the experience 👍

All parties are invested in genuine participants continuing to engage in research studies.

If the experience is positive, participants will want to do it again. This is great news for researchers, who often have to work harder than they should to retain new, high-quality, genuine participants.

One emerging theme from industry is to treat participants like valued community members, building a deeper sense of connection and trust that results in almost a sense of loyalty between researcher and participant.

TLDR: Participants want to repeat good experiences, and it’s less expensive and time-consuming to retain them than to recruit new ones.

How to give everyone what they want

    1. Consider the participant experience at every step - where can it be improved?

    2. Consider whether building an ongoing connection between your business and participants might improve retention rates.

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