Panel management has become a commonly accepted term in the research industry. But what does it actually mean, and is it important? In a word – yes, panel management is critically important, as it improves both the experience of the respondent as well as the output of the research.
Understanding panels and communities
Before we go any further, it is important to note that the term ‘panel management’ refers to the management of both customer panels and communities.
At Crowdtech, we utilise technology to convert our clients’ customer databases into consensual customer panels: Bespoke, long-term panels comprising of a group of customers who, by definition, have a vested and ongoing interest in a particular brand. Our technology allows us to engage regularly with this group of people via digital surveys.
We also run communities, which are like panels, but take the relationship with customers a step further. Using more complex technology, communities are facilitated via a portal which enables in-depth discussions and forums. These platforms allow engagement between members and enable clients to probe questions at a more comprehensive - and often qualitative - level.
So what exactly is panel management?
Panel management, simply put, is the process of recruiting, retaining, incentivizing, and liaising with the members of research panels and communities.
Firstly, it requires a soft, humane touch to keep respondents feeling valued and engaged. Next, it involves detailed analysis to monitor the activity and participation of each respondent in the panel. Last, it entails stringent adherence to keeping respondents’ personal data secure, and using it responsibility.
At Crowdtech, we leverage our advanced technology to ensure that all of these processes happen efficiently. By having the panel management capabilities built into our technology, we are able to ensure a smooth flow from recruitment, though to sampling and retainment of respondents.
How does it impact on respondents?
The practice of panel management may appear to be somewhat extraneous to the collection of data itself. However, without effective panel management, research surveys and communities have a dramatically lower success rate.
As is true when dealing with any group of people in the world, active management increases participation levels. Consider a hypothetical work environment where employees were left alone with no guidance or acknowledgement... Levels of frustration and confusion would abound, resulting in disengagement and lack of co-operation.
Research panels and communities operate in the same way. Respondents are typically recruited due to their interest in a common topic: They are naturally more likely to engage deeply if they feel that their participation is valued, their preferences acknowledged and their responses recognized.
How does this affect the research outcome?
Happier respondents mean better research. Well-managed panels and communities naturally result in deeper, richer and more frequent insights from participants.
As noted, there is also an analytical side to panel management. (After all, this wouldn’t be the research game without some analytics!) Monitoring a panel enables a real-time gauge of which respondents are actively participating - and which are not. This massively reduces inefficiencies and redundancy, by eliminating respondents who are not adding value to the research.
Active sample selection is also an integral part of panel management, enabling the optimal respondents to be targeted for the questions that apply to them. This directly reduces wastage of time and cost.
Lastly, effective panel management enables a long-term and robust panel to be developed: One that allows for ongoing trackability, based on feedback from a consistent group of respondents over time.
Again, technology is the key to efficiency across all of these practices: Both in terms of time and output, Crowdtech’s panel management technology is what sets us apart. Technology is what enables us to conduct each of these processes with optimal efficiency, to ensure that both respondents and clients have a satisfactory experience.
Where does it fit into the overall research picture?
Panel management is a fundamental part of any research technology solution. Ideally a research solution should include three equally important and symbiotic elements, these being:
- Quantitative surveys
- Qualitative platforms
- Panel management
Although some agencies offer these independently of each other, at Crowdtech we believe that panel management is the indisputable backbone of the other two arms of research – supporting them through integrated technology, and enabling them to achieve maximum efficiency.
We are therefore proud to offer our clients an all-in-one solution which integrates these three elements seamlessly: Quantitative surveys as well as qualitative platforms, both maintained and powered by effective panel management.