The Participant Crisis: a collective call to action for the research and CX industry

Customer Insights

The Participant Crisis: a collective call to action for the research and CX industry

Jem Wallis
Jem Wallis
August 25, 2022
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There seems to be a growing realization that our industry is facing a problem. Several different, high-profile individuals have recently commented on the so called ‘participant crisis’, or the declining numbers of people willing to answer research or CX surveys (see @Ray Poynter on LinkedIn).

In this month’s Omnibus* we decided to turn the spotlight on research participants, to find out a little more about what motivates, and demotivates, people who take surveys for the research industry.

The results are clear and thought-provoking.

Firstly, nearly half the people doing surveys at the moment would do more if they were ‘shorter and quicker to complete’.

Second, 1 in 5 would do more if they were ‘more relevant and interesting’.

Think about that for a second. Almost three quarters of people currently doing surveys would be open to doing more IF we as an industry targeted them better and made the experience less onerous.

That should be a wake-up call to all Market Research and CX practitioners. According to our results, the threat is greatest amongst 18-34s and 35-49s, where nearly 60% are effectively saying the surveys they are being asked to complete are too long and time-consuming.


And that is people who are actually doing surveys at the moment, in other words, people we need to retain and encourage.

In her upcoming paper @TRS Human Insights conference, Emma Clark comments that survey completion rates fall dramatically when surveys take longer than 5 mins. I can’t recall the last time I was asked for a CX review that was anywhere close to 5 mins in length. More like 10-15 mins in most cases.

Do we really expect people to complete surveys 15 mins in length? Have we even been listening to the mountain of information on ‘shorter attention spans’ and the call for ‘bite sized’ media coming from every behavioural scientist and consumer expert?

Is our industry head stuck in the sand?

As researchers, we are supposed to listen to people and have an empathy for their problems, issues and experiences. How can we claim that, when the very tools we use seem to ignore the basic principles of what people want?

As an industry, we need to act now to stop the numbers declining and solve the participant crisis. We are all in this together, so have a collective responsibility to take action and, at the very least, reduce the length of our surveys to 5 mins and target people better.

*courtesy of Ovation Research

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