Hit by the auto-bot

A blocked number call came through a while back and an efficient recorded female voice asked me if I’d be willing to complete a five minute survey on behalf of H&R Block. I’d been into the new Marrickville branch to get (ahem) a few years worth of tax returns sorted out. As a researcher, I was quite curious to complete one of these surveys and see how they “felt” as a respondent. Maybe because I used to be a telephone interviewer at uni, but the idea of these surveys made me a bit nostalgic for the funny days of phone-room hijinx. It was the start of my career in market research. I started out working part time in the evenings on CATI, and just, well…stayed. It was fun – it suited my curiosity about finding out what makes people tick. And when I found qual – well, there was no looking back.

But back to the auto-bot survey!

I can see lots of pros for surveys such as this, cost being a huge one and the other being about the ease of sampling especially if they have no email address. But to be honest it left me feeling a bit cold. As an HR Block customer it felt like the survey was just part of someone’s KPI’s, not to genuinely find out about my experience. I don’t get this cold feeling from an on-line survey.

It’s also made me wonder what uni students do now for part time work (and part-time fun). And what about the “training ground” it provided for young researchers? Two or three years on the phones certainly taught me how to write a good survey. I know on-line research is slowly quickly chipping away at telephone and face to face quant studies, but for the next little while it felt there was still a role for the telephone survey.  Now the auto-bot survey may take that role away.

And I sort of feel sad.

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