Monday, September 21, 2009

A good news communication story

Have you ever been called by a polling organization to answer a survey?

My typical experience is that some well-meaning but semi-literate work-at-home type promises the survey will take “just a few minutes” (invariably when I’m trying to listen to This American Life). Twenty minutes of page turning and “let’s see; oh, okay, here’s the next question” later, the call mercifully ends.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I received a robocall from Rasmussen (an organization whose name is only vaguely familiar), asking me to press 1 if I was willing to answer a few questions. Despite my general antipathy toward voice systems—because of the execrable scripting and condescending tone of voice most of them embody—I gamely pressed 1.

This was polling as it should be done.

A pleasant, professional voice read carefully written questions (not leading at all, so far as I could tell); gave predictable prompts (so I knew before I was told that 1 was Yes and 2 was No and was therefore able to speed the process along); followed the predetermined branching logic of the poll without hesitation or page turning (obviously); and asked no questions I couldn’t answer quickly and without qualification.

I imagine this system was expensive to implement and requires some skill to set up for each new poll. On the other hand, the operating costs have to be less than the cost of halfway training unskilled drones. The results have to be more reliable too.

Maybe other polling organizations have switched over to this system, but if so I’m unaware of it. In any case, kudos to Rasmussen.

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