Respondents - Do You Have a Bad Egg?

In a country where even eggs can be faked, it is no surprise that researchers outside China are skeptical about respondent authenticity. Respondents are the primary source of information upon which key consumer insights are based, and which ultimately impact a client’s marketing strategy.

Researchers should be aware of several possible methods by which respondent information is often falsified to attain eligibility in a China-based study...

  • For quantitative studies utilizing street-intercept recruitment, interceptors are often paid according to the number of qualified respondents successfully recruited. Motivated to increase earnings per hour, interceptors may manipulate the sample by skillfully coaching potential respondents on how to answer screening questions. Intercepted respondents are generally ignorant about research practices, with no obligation to uphold research ethics, hence often agree to cooperate with the interceptors upon their persistent begging, praising and pressuring.
  • When hard pressed for target respondents who may be difficult to find, recruiters are known to rope in their friends or relatives and train them to give answers that match screening criteria.
  • In some cases, respondents may be entirely fabricated. Dishonest recruiters or interviewers, who are not being audio or video recorded for quality control purposes, may take it upon themselves to fill out multiple paper or computer surveys in order to speed up the fieldwork process.
  • “Professional Respondents” do exist in China and have been emerging over the past several years following the increasing amount of research activities. These respondents usually falsify information on past research experience and/or personal information so that they qualify to participate in a study.
  • A Fake Identity Card is one of the tools “Professional Respondents” employ to get passed final screening. Some “retired” professional respondents revealed they may keep as many as 20 fake ID cards, allowing them to participate in one or two focus groups per week with a number of different research companies.

Researchers looking to gain insights within the China market would be well-advised to take the above warnings into account when considering quality control and recruitment methodologies. Additionally, the importance of having a trusted research partner on the ground in China that is not only aware of the above, but also experienced in combating these issues, is paramount. One bad egg can spoil the bunch; don’t allow your data or key insights to be compromised by insufficient quality control or inexperienced recruiters.