In a series of Secret Confessions blogs, Nichola Martland, Telephone Research Team Leader at Competitive Advantage, reflects on her experience and her tips for successful interviews. Third in the series, in this blog, Nichola discloses how she manages to persuade respondents to participate in telephone interviews, there are always going to be challenging calls and Nichola talks about how to handle them.

Q – Getting the person on the other end of the telephone to participate must be the greatest challenge. How do you engage with your interviewee to convince them to take part and to complete the entire survey?

The first thing I do is to make the respondent feel important, that their opinion does matter and is needed. I do this by emphasising why the research is being undertaken, why their responses matter and how their responses will be used, for example, to help the Client improve customer service or a product offering.

The respondent must have some motivation to take part and give up their time. I regularly interview Architects and when I call them, I respect their job role and reiterate how their experience in that role is valued, which is why they are being chosen to give their esteemed opinion.

Once the interview is underway, I always listen to any feedback given, even if it goes slightly off topic. Sometimes I receive requests for literature or a visit from our Client, which I ensure are logged and forwarded to the Client straight away as an important sales lead.

Sometimes respondents just like a little moan! It could be about the Client, their competitors, the industry as a whole or even about the weekend’s football result!

Either way I listen and then steer the conversation back to the interview. Handling these instances in an appropriately understanding manner makes the respondent realise that they are dealing with another human being. It often improves our rapport and the quality of their responses.

Q – And for those times when the respondent just isn’t interested in participating for whatever reasons. What are your tips for dealing with resistant or reluctant participants?

It’s important to know when to ‘give up the ghost’ so to speak. You don’t want to upset or anger anyone. If they are not convinced by the importance of the research or the value of their individual opinion, then there is no point in continuing.

In my experience if the respondent is reluctantly answering questions, the responses will not be accurate or of good quality. And so you may as well just politely end the call and focus efforts on getting a respondent who is 100% happy to participate.


Treating the respondent with respect and being clear about the purpose of the research and the importance to the Client (even when anonymous) of their input, should help convince them to participate. And for those that it doesn’t convince, don’t force the issue: the quality of the responses should never be compromised for achieving the quota faster.


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