It's month 5(ish) of navigating this pandemic, and it still feels like things are changing daily. We’re told what's the right way to act in social situations and what's the wrong way. What was right yesterday is wrong today. Numbers go up. Numbers go down. And everything feels completely out of our control.
As I think about how much my life has changed, I can’t help but think how these realities have affected and will continue to affect, my role as a Project Manager (PM) for qualitative market research. As a SEEK PM, we’re responsible for all of the logistics on a project, including all duties necessary in identifying and finding the right consumer respondents for our studies. We’ve already had to adjust some of our screening methods and are continuing to pivot our approaches in order to meet consumers where they are. Here are a few of the changes I’ve already noticed:
Now that we’re a couple of weeks into re-introducing “normalcy” into our lives, I’ve noticed that my schedule changes daily. What I thought was happening on Tuesday gets rescheduled due to x,y,z. And that's okay. I have a feeling your life feels a little sporadic as well. As we approach research, we must acknowledge everyone’s life could feel in limbo, including our recruits. As a PM, I now over-over-recruit to account for life’s ever-increasing unexpectedness. At SEEK, we like to have plenty of additional consumers on studies to capture as many insights and stories as possible, which also safeguards for when a handful of our respondents cannot meet the deadlines of the research. We get it! Life happens, and a netnography or an in-depth interview isn’t always a respondents’ top priority. When times feel even more uncertain, we’re making sure to over-account for changing schedules by over-recruiting more than before.
We are an incredibly curious bunch of researchers that ask a lot of our respondents. As we enter an era of digital fatigue, the idea of spending an additional 30 minutes or an hour online can feel extra exhausting. In order to ensure we get the most out of our limited time with respondents, we compensate appropriately so they understand how much we value their time. When screening, we always ask employment status and have now added in the option of “unemployed due to COVID.” We’re all living through extraordinary circumstances, and that reality is not lost on us. We want to make sure the folks we speak to understand how much we appreciate them.
At the end of the day, I’ve learned to extend grace upon grace. Things are changing daily -- including comfort levels. It's likely that our clients and consumers are working from home, just as we continue to do so. In the past, we asked respondents with kids in the house to arrange for childcare during the scheduled interview to ensure we make the most of our time together. Now, that's impossible for many, thus no longer an instituted requirement. Of course we still want consumers’ undivided attention but also recognize they are doing their best to juggle parenting while working. And honestly, I think the little distractions like a kid running around or a dog peeking its head in the corner of the screen helps break the sterileness of a digital environment. It humanizes us and connects us to the consumers in a special way we would get if we were actually in their homes.
It’s my role to find the right consumers and ensure they feel cared for in our research process. I continue to remind myself that each one of us has been impacted in one way or another by the past 5 months, and we’re all dealing with its effects differently. I keep this in mind for every project so we can continue to uncover human stories and insights powerful enough to inspire innovation.