To secure participation and to elicit candid answers, it’s important for market researchers to assure respondents upfront that both their anonymity and confidentiality will be protected in the survey analysis and reporting. And, if respondents aren’t clear on the difference between anonymity and confidentiality, researchers should clearly explain it. Furthermore, when professional researchers conduct online surveys, many use software packages with features that protect anonymity as responses are downloaded for the analysis phase. This too should be communicated upfront when recruiting participants.
Even when anonymity and confidentiality are conveyed upfront, some people may still decline participation altogether, or refuse to answer certain questions. For example, employees may fear that their identities can be determined by the way they answer certain demographic questions, such as the department in which they work. Unquestionably, using a third-party professional research firm to administer the survey provides stronger assurance that anonymity and confidentiality will be respected and protected.
In some cases, such as certain satisfaction surveys, it may be necessary for respondents’ identities to be linked to their responses. For example, when a federal systems integrator conducts a contract satisfaction survey, senior management will likely want to know specific customer identities in order to more effectively implement needed corrective actions. In these cases, it’s critical that researchers state this upfront and give respondents the opportunity to opt out of participation.
Following these practices helps to build the trust and respect of research respondents, resulting in higher completion rates, better data quality, and the increased likelihood that they’ll participate in future surveys.