To all our valued Clients, Associates and Suppliers:
Our Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
With the COVID-19 pandemic gaining momentum, and unlikely to be resolved until at least this time next year, we have assessed the risks and opportunities involved in our business and would like to share our thoughts and responses with you, our valued clients, associates and suppliers.
Continuity of Service:
Some years ago, due to the emerging desires and needs of a number of our staff and associates in Sydney, Canberra and elsewhere to work from home (eg, young children, mobility issues, carer responsibilities, moved interstate, etc) we decided to close our rented offices and work from our home offices.
This required rethinking such things as home office equipment, communications and IT configurations to enable extensive interaction and collaboration across several or many home offices, and the implementation of double-back-up of data, facilities, files and processes.
The rethinking also devised a system for providing duplication (ie, always at least two people ‘in the know’ and capable of filling in or taking over) on every stage of every project.
We also try where practicable to make regular use of several suppliers of various key services, so that if for any reason one supplier might be temporarily unavailable, another supplier who is already familiar with our needs and expectations can step into the breach.
These plans have served us very well for over a decade already, and with some minor tweaking, will continue to serve us well through the current turbulent times.
Adapting to a rapidly changing environment:
It could well be that the practice of ‘social-distancing’ and the growing calls for avoiding crowds, public transport and confined spaces will result in the rapid decline in people wanting to take part in research physically (eg, in focus groups or community consultations); and also in such situations as telephone interviewers not wishing to work in CATI centres, etc (eg, a problem for conducting telephone surveys).
Of course, with advances in inter-connectivity, many of us already also have experienced and trustworthy interviewers working from their home offices rather than in call centres, and will extend this option where applicable.
In addition to these traditional techniques, for some time we have been building on our experiences with face-to-face interviews and group discussions, by substituting telephone or skype in-depth interviews and online focus group discussions, along with various variations or extensions of these approaches that do not require travel or face-to-face contact.
Similarly, in order to keep up with rapid changes in people’s behaviour regarding market and social research surveys generally, we have been drawing melded samples of landlines and mobile phone numbers (better to include highly mobile and younger people), plus a small on-line sample component (better to include people who are unable or unwilling to be interviewed by telephone). When the need arises, it will therefore be relatively easy for us to change over to wholly online surveys as we already do where clients ask for them.
We are also increasingly conducting quite complex discussions, meetings and presentations with clients, associates and suppliers by phone or online conferencing wherever possible to avoid extensive travel and now also to avoid as much face-to-face contact as possible.
Leveraging Experienced External Resources:
As a member of the Independent Research Group (IRG) of the Australian Market and Social Research Society (AMSRS) we are also able to draw upon this excellent network of like-minded independent researchers for assistance, as we have already done from time to time on collaborative projects during exceptionally busy periods or when one or more of our key people has been laid low or on maternity or extended leave.
To indicate the success with which the above practices can work, I realised while writing this that I have never met in person several of my associates who have each worked successfully with me for long periods on many occasions on a variety of projects over more than forty years! Seamless co-ordination and co-operation in action!