List recruitment: pros and cons

Rhodri Coleman reviews the pros and cons of list recruitment.

There are many different ways of recruiting respondents for research, one approach is to use a list of customers provided by the client.

This is opposed to a ‘free find’ where alternative methods are used to recruit respondents: our own database; street recruitment, paper/digital advertising. The great thing about a list recruit is that, as existing customers, the individuals on the list are more likely to have an interest in the product/service being researched and are potentially more receptive to taking part.

A list recruit is clearly only appropriate when the research requires existing customers and can be an extremely effective as long as you remember the following key points:

Work from a quality list:

You must emphasise to the client the importance of receiving a quality list. Lists missing key customer information such as contact details or are out of date severely inhibit effective recruitment. Likewise, lists that are too small will decrease the likelihood of the quota being achieved.

Most recruitment teams will work on a 1:10 recruitment ratio. i.e. they typically contact 10 customers for every 1 they recruit. This means that for a standard 12 user depth study, the list should ideally contain, at the very minimum, 120 individuals. Clients should be reminded that the customers on their list should all have agreed to be contacted for research purposes. This ratio worsens the more specific the recruitment criteria becomes e.g. for specialist forms of financial services research the list rate can be as low as 1:50.

Request a warm list

A warm list is one where customers have already been contacted by the client to give them prior warning that they may be contacted for research purposes. Recruiting from a ‘warmed up’ list is typically more successful than from a ‘cold list’ (where the customers have not already been contacted). Ideally a phone call or an email is the best way of contacting customers and the following key points should be covered:

Purpose of the research
Who is running the research?
What will happen next?
Offer an opt-out option
Provide contact details for any questions

If appropriate, suggest the client requests support from their customer Account Managers. They often have a more intimate relationship with the customers in question and can be particularly effective in warming them up ahead of the recruitment team getting in contact.

Increase length of recruitment window

Whilst the actual recruitment time is often shorter when working from a quality list, additional time must be factored in to allow for the client to compile and deliver the list. This can sometimes be quite substantial and should be discussed with the client at project kick-off. Extra time should also be planned in and the client warned of the associated risk should they be unable to deliver a list that achieves the 1:10 ratio or is cold.

Warm client lists can be a good way of recruiting for research but many clients don’t consider this option because they wrongly think that it’s an inappropriate use of customer data under the Data Protection Act. In fact using customer data for research purposes is specifically allowed for within the Act. As long as suitable rules around courtesy and communication to customers are followed client lists are an excellent source of data for user research.

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