Motivating the active-meter panelist
With active meter panels such as Arbitrons ScanAmerica® service, what contact with panelists is appropriate? Phenomenological psychology, which emphasizes understanding experience as well as behavior, suggests principles of panelist contact. Several Arbitron studies demonstrated the benefits of ongoing, personalized contact and helped elaborate a program of panel relations. A 1984 pilot study showed that contact with a panel relations representative helped the panelists remain motivated, even when there were problems with the early prototype equipment. These results were confirmed by a larger study, a full-panel debriefing of Denver panelists in 1986. In-home debriefing interviews confirmed that panelists experienced the panel relations contact as an important benefit. These contacts received the highest altitudinal ratings of any dimension of panel experience. In 1988 an analysis of panelist-initiated backouts showed that performance-feedback contacts were associated with significantly increased panel tenure. This panel-treatment variable explained more tenure variation than household demographics among the selected group of backouts. These results, along with the phenomenological framework, contribute to current ScanAmerica contact procedures. Examples of these include a toll-free, 24-hour panelist hotline, regular performance feedback (both positive and negative), panelist suggestion programs, and panel newsletters which include an activity-oriented children's comer. This paper also reviews procedures that help minimize bias in panel relations contacts (scripting telephone contacts, data and field audits, and organizational checks and balances). We conclude by mentioning remaining methodological issues such as the need to determine optimal contact schedules, and to assess the impact of contact by demographic.
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