For a little over two months, I have been employed by a company that does telephone surveys. At the moment, we mainly do political surveys, but we also do market research and general polling. For example, on a couple of days, I was on a survey that asked new mothers about various aspects of the formula vs. breast-feeding issue.
I know that a lot of people are tired of the whole political thing. Sometimes it isn’t much better being on the other side of things. Most people are reasonably polite, but I’ve spoken to several people (polite or otherwise) who make it clear that they’re tired of being called. And of course my company is far from the only one calling people.
A lot of folks have a lot of misconceptions about telephone surveys in general. The biggest is the Do Not Call list. There’s an awful lot of people who have no idea of what the DNC list actually does. They think it applies to all unwanted calls, when in reality, it applies to only a relatively small subset of unwanted calls. I’ve had people threaten to report us (I always wonder just who they would report us to–the FBI? their state Attorney General?) even though legitimate surveys are explicitly exempted from the DNC list.
Another issue, somewhat related, is the people who think that they can get us to quit calling them simply by saying something like “Quit calling” or “Stop calling me.” That’s not how it works. My company (and apparently most such companies) is VERY persistent. We do maintain our own internal Do Not Call list, but the only way to get on it is to specifically request it. Saying anything other than “Take me off your list” or something equally explicit will simply result in you getting called back.
I’ve occasionally had people ask me “What do I have to do to get you to stop calling?” I usually say something along the lines of “Well, we’re trying very hard to get this survey completed.” It’s not considered good form to come right out and say, “If you had taken our survey the first time we called, we wouldn’t be bothering you now.”
My main pet peeve about this job is that some people simply don’t listen. A lot of our surveys have a section where we ask people to rate various people and organizations on a scale from 0 to 100. The script makes it very clear what the choices are and what the numbers mean. And yet, once I read the first name on the list, probably an eighth or so of the people have no idea what they’re supposed to say. They’ll say something like “I like him” or “I’m planning to vote for him.”
A secondary pet peeve is the people who declare up-front that they’re voting a straight party-line ticket. I don’t care how you’re planning to vote–I still have to read each question separately for President, Senate, etc. A lot of people seem to understand that, but a few people get really upset that I keep asking them about various offices when they’ve already said “Republican all the way” or something similar.
Then there’s the occasional person who insists on interrogating me before telling me that the person on my list isn’t available.
“My name is X. May I please speak to Y?”
“Who is this?” (or, alternately, “What is this about?”)
“I’m calling for [company]. Is Y available?”
“What do you want with him?”
“We’re doing a survey.”
“Issues facing residents in your community.” *
“He’s not here right now.”
“Ok, we’ll call back later.”
*Note–my precise wording varies somewhat, based partly on the specific script. A lot of times, I simply read or re-read (or re-re-read) from the script when I get questions like that.
On some surveys, we are allowed to talk ONLY to the person on the list; on other surveys, if that person isn’t available, we can talk to any resident who’s registered to vote. The restrictions sometimes slightly upset married people–I’ve spoken to people who feel that they can answer on behalf of their spouse. For a lot of things, I’m sure that it works quite well, but the survey rules are very specific. On the other hand, we have a few surveys where we don’t even ask for a name–anybody 18 or older will do.
We have some surveys that are restricted to landlines, and some that are restricted to cell phones. Most surveys (of either type) are restricted to residents of a specific state or city, but a few are nationwide.
So if you have any questions, fire away.