Best PracticesMarket Research

Market Research Quality: Transparency is Key

bigstockphoto_Five_Businesspeople_In_Boardro_4132494There has been a lot of debate lately about the use of outsourcing, and more precisely offshoring, by market research agencies. The real issue is, of course, transparency.

If you hire a market research agency, they should readily disclose:

  • What parts of your project, if any, will be done by subcontractors, outsourcers, or any other flavor of 3rd party.
  • How the agency will enforce quality, confidentiality and data security policies with their 3rd party partners.

If your company has specific policies about offshoring in particular, that’s simply something to state in your RFPs. I find that with most clients, the requirement is that use of any outside suppliers is disclosed. That said, there are some exceptions: I know of companies with management teams that feel strongly about “subsidizing” companies that export jobs. Fine. That’s their policy. They get to select business partners accordingly.

Does Offshoring = Low Quality?

No. Quality is a concern no matter what country an outsourcing provider is based in—the US, India, France, Canada…anywhere.  If you work with an agency and they outsource, you need to have some evidence that the outsourcing partner provides great work—and was not selected simply because they had the lowest price or a well-connected brother-in-law.

Are outsourcing providers in some countries getting a bad reputation? Yes.  But as someone who has personally completed 100s of primary research projects, I know from experience that poor work quality comes from all over. A company that only works with in-country partners cannot be assumed to have great quality. And one that does use offshore providers should not be assumed to have poor quality.

Looking to mitigate risks when working with an agency that does use offshore subcontractors? Then simply ask them how they manage the relationship. You should be given a clear, credible answer. Some agencies even have on-site managers at offshore locations—such that work quality is being monitored in-person. And yes, that costs more.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

If you are sending out an RFP for a big project and you tell the bidding market research agencies that you want the lowest possible price, guess what? Some will come back with very low prices…because they are outsourcing to suppliers with low labor costs and are not budgeting money to manage those providers adequately.

Additional resources:

Article by Brian Tarran: LINK

From The Future Place blog: LINK

Some lengthy discussions on LinkedIn as well, here is one: LinkedIn

So what do you think? I welcome all comments & questions! Please add your comment here or call me at 508.691.6004 ext 705


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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