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This is part three of our Blog Series, For the Love of Engagement: 4 Ways to Romance Your Respondents, where we share best practices for participant engagement. This post will focus on Respondent Fatigue. Read part one on User Interface Design, part two on Discussion Forums and part four on Mobile Research.

Also, watch for our on-demand webinar on participant engagement featuring Forrester Research, Inc.

In romantic relationships, people talk about the 7-year itch: that moment when boredom sets in and love starts to die. But boredom is just as dangerous to your relationship with community panel members, since boredom can quickly turn to break-up. In the case of your community panel, boredom means losing members who are very valuable to your business and your research.

Left unchecked, what is the result of boredom over time to the quality of your community panel?

  • Members will start to check out of the relationship and give less attention to their responses.
  • Members just won't respond at all and you will start seeing dropping response rates, leading to unreliable data.
  • Unhappy members pose a risk to your reputation if they decide not to support your business anymore, and tell their friends about their experience.
  • Departing members will leave you with gaps in your longitudinal data, which is one of the key benefits to running a community panel.
  • Losing valuable members means you're always starting over with new people, and having to invest time and energy into cultivating the relationship with new members.
  • Replacing lost members with new recruits is expensive, and the pool of ideal candidates is not infinite.

The good news is that you can avoid boredom and keep your relationship strong, simply by following a few simple practices:

1. Set expectations. Be up front about what you are trying to accomplish and how each member can help. Let your panel members know why their participation is important to you, and how you expect to use the input they provide. State your intentions up front and stick to them, like any good partner.

2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That's all anyone is asking for, including the members of your community panel. Think of your members as 5,000 people you're in an ongoing relationship with. 5,000 unique human beings with their own needs and expectations - busy people with work, families and personal activities. Each person is interacting with you individually and does not want to be taken for granted. If taken for granted and not respected, the relationship can lead to boredom (member fatigue) or a break-up (attrition) just like in any relationship. Show your respect by keeping your panel requests to a predictable and manageable number of invitations, rather than sending members too many activities without respecting their busy schedules.

3. Give back. There's nothing worse than a partner that takes and expects a lot only to give nothing back. Commit to closing the feedback loop and giving back to your members, and the relationship will strengthen. When you ask customers to join your community and take part in your research, clearly outline what you're going to give back. Create a calendar of activity to ensure you have time for feedback. Plan out your research so each member is included and feels valued. See our whitepaper: Why do they respond anyway?

4. Listen up. Show members you're listening, and don't ask them to repeat themselves - for example by asking the same question multiple times. The best way to make sure this doesn't happen is to remember that in a community panel, you have every response to every question stored in your data, so you don't need to re-ask questions like in an ad hoc project. Also, you can draw from those responses to send follow-up surveys or topic-specific activities. Regularly check member satisfaction to hear how things are going. Listen to your members, and they will love you for it.

5. Give thanks. Let your members know you appreciate them. Contact all your members regularly (not just certain groups) and thank them often.

Follow these five practices and instead of panel members who are bored and itchy, you can keep your panel members happy and engaged.

You can also read: Getting Creative with Member Engagement.

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