team talkThere is a perception that the digital age has made face-to-face communication somehow old-fashioned.

But there is an interesting report in the sports pages this week. A Premiership football club has had to introduce special sessions, “Life Kinetics”, into its training regime to get players to talk to each other. They had realised that during matches they were not communicating with each other and their performance was suffering accordingly.

And recent experience of the failure in the quality of data collected by on-line surveys and also phone interviews has shifted focus towards face-to-face interviewing and the benefits of using well-trained interviewers.

Major concerns have arisen after the debacle of the Pollsters at the General Election. You cannot be 100% certain who the people are who are signed up to on line panels (or how many aliases they have registered under). On-line, someone can pose as a 25 year old Italian stallion, but in reality be a wasted 65 year old!

There is no substitute for an interviewer eyeballing a potential respondent.  A few brief verbal interactions between them will qualify the respondent.  The interviewer can gauge appearance, clothes, and accent while checking on occupation, family and all those little niceties you never get from on-line anonymity.

Phone interviewing is changing rapidly with the growth of mobile phones. Many younger people do not have a landline. No landline means no means of knowing where people are based. The challenges for sampling for market research are immense. The Pollsters have already admitted that their quota control was almost non-existent, and reliance on dialling mobiles was not going to help.

There is no denying the benefits of modern digital technology – phones or on-line surveys, with their rapidity, convenience and cost saving as well as the ease of sharing and analysing results.

But to throw out the basics of market research – sampling, quota control and verification of participants – is to let the baby go down the plug with the water. So, back to face-to-face, using some good old fashioned methods where people talk to each other? Interviewers know where they are standing geographically, and have a proven ability to talk to people, unlike some football players apparently.