10 things to consider when outsourcing market research

Most companies outsource market research services (such as computer-assisted web interviewing, or CAWI, and panel surveys); we list the benefits of doing so below:

Benefits of outsourcing analytics and market intelligence:

Economist Adam Smith says in his treatise The Wealth of Nations, “If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity/service cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them.” Outsourcing as we know it today is, therefore, merely a progression of an idea that has existed since the early days of trade.

Potential for survey outsourcing: Survey outsourcing is a critical source of gaining a competitive edge. The main driver of survey outsourcing has, therefore, now shifted from cost to enhancing strategic issues such as core competence and flexibility.

Survey processing is evolving into new dimension: Cost optimisation is no longer a top priority; it has been overtaken by disruptive outsourcing brought about by technological advancements. This transformation has given organisations a competitive edge (such as by making them more agile and efficient). Many are now considering and adopting disruptive outsourcing technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA; 72%), as the following charts show.

Industry participants are, however, concerned about whether it is right to outsource surveys. We list below questions that would help them decide and design survey outsourcing.

Ten questions to ask yourself before you outsource:

  1. Discuss with the project’s decision makers. To avoid misunderstanding and infringing on anyone’s, the extent of control the employees of the outsourcing company can exert over the project should be communicated clearly.
  2. Do you have a proven record of accomplishment? The ideal way to assess a probable service provider is to examine their service track record from multiple viewpoints. You should connect with existing customers of vendor and check their overall service experience.
  3. How will the account be managed and processed? Ask the vendor which dedicated resource will handle day-to-day operations and what quality measures will be taken/protocol followed to ensure quality and timely delivery. It is best to clearly communicate the desired quality and timelines. Visiting the vendor’s premises can also give you confidence in their management expertise and physical infrastructure.
  4. What are the data security procedures? Ask for a detailed description of how confidential information will be input and output, and of the firewalls in place to protect data from unauthorised access. Above all, service providers should comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if they will be dealing with data relating to EU citizens.
  5. How cost-efficient would this option be? Compare pricing in the market (including hidden costs) before finalising the vendor. Ramp-down and ramp-up models are the most cost-efficient strategies (i.e., paying only for productive days/weeks/months). Additionally, include a clause in the agreement relating to penalties in the event of errors or delays in service. Weigh the final pricing structure against your total cost of ownership (TCO) to get the total pricing picture
  6. What is the value added? What does the vendor offer besides the standard, requisite function, and how will this give you a competitive edge? Assess whether the vendor is genuinely able to adapt to meeting your current and future requirements. Ask the vendor to share recent examples of success related to the services you will soon be availing yourself of.
  7. Analyse the vendor’s financial stability. A vendor with a strong market presence and no debt is most appropriate. Review the vendor’s cash flow and other financial information to mitigate the risk of losing a business partner due to sudden financial death.
  8. Assess how you would ensure a management/policy change at the vendor’s end does not impact your business. It is important that you and the vendor hold substantial one-on-one discussions, together with all key leaders, during the pre-contract stage and during implementation. It is also important to track progress and understand that getting buy-in and governance right is not a one-time event, but a continuous process. Conduct experiential workshops to understand the experience of all the people, processes, assets and technology involved.
  9. How to handle loss of key talent/poor knowledge transfer. The vendor should have retention policies. After a period of outsourcing, key talent at the vendor’s end who have become a key element for your business deliveries could look for a change in work and, very often, it is difficult to hire new talent with the same or a better approach and skill set. The flow of business may, therefore, be disturbed in the absence of the right talent. Thus, it is vital to ask the vendor whether they have a retention policy in place, as well as a continuous training programme for all key executives/leaders handling your account.
  10. How to control culture clashes or communication gaps in the case of offshore outsourcing. Global offshoring may be difficult if a good understanding is not built between the vendor and your key players. Specific training in multicultural awareness and communication would improve the team’s understanding of norms and customs in other cultures. The challenges could be overcome by using instant messaging tools (Slack/Skype), video calling, and conducting regular training sessions on matters such as email writing

The market changes daily, so it is vital to keep abreast of changes in terms of end-client need and technological reform. In such a scenario, a technological partner that is capable and reliable can augur well for success.

How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help:

We have a wide range of tailored solutions and capabilities including primary research, data collection from a large number of respondents and focus groups through CAWI/panel surveys. Our clients have also benefited from our survey programming (such as ConfimIT and Qualtrics) and data analysis (using R, Python, Tableau, SAS, and Excel Automation and Dimension).

The following are key value-add services of survey outsourcing:

Originally published at https://www.acuitykp.com.

About the Author

Amandeep Singh Rekhi, Delivery Manager, joined Acuity Knowledge Partners in Feb 2013. During his tenure with Acuity, he has supported and managed several research engagement for diversified clients across varied geographies. He is part of the data analytics, survey programming and end-to-end project management for past 6 years, supporting an industry dedicated employer branding client. Previously, he has supported various market research activities like data collection, quality checking, resource management and cost efficiency for numerous clients.

Prior to Acuity, he has worked with a broking firm, where he was involved in global product arbitrage and identifying the potential opportunity of spread in currencies and metals. Amandeep holds an MBA degree in Finance and Marketing from New Delhi, India and a Bachelor’s degree from Ramjas College, Delhi University, India.

We write about financial industry trends, the impact of regulatory changes and opinions on industry inflection points. https://www.acuitykp.com/