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I came across a really interesting exchange of comments on Flickr (not Facebook or My Space or Twitter) from an irate person who joined an online research panel. There are 3 great lessons here:
1—how lack of dialogue can lead to a tremendous level of misinterpretation then distrust about a business’ motives, leading to active animosity
2—how people want to be heard and how conversation can explain, and calm these feelings before they get toxic and go viral
3—how important a commitment to listening is, or this never would have been caught.
OK, here is the conversation (slightly shortened but not too much so I could preserve the flavor):
I am posting this to warn you about this company called XYZ Research. They are a market research firm that conducts polls and surveys for their clients.

I am taking the time to write about this and warn you about them.

…But the worst part is the feeling of being lied to, being deceived and cheated upon. I’d like to spare you this experience, so bear with me.

To make matters worse, I was getting many invites to surveys that were obviously not addressing me. Usually, when you begin a survey, there are a couple of questions to find out if you’re part of the target audience. If you’re not, the survey ends and you get no reward points.

Fair enough, but usually I had already answered quite a lot of questions, giving out personal information which is extremely valuable for market researchers, before being told that I didn’t “fit in”. To me, it seemed like a scam: grab my personal info off me, and then tell me to bugger off. We just took your data, but no, you’re not getting any reward.

Sometimes, they would just kick me out because “the number of participants had already been reached”. Fine, but why do they make me answer part of the survey and then suddenly find out they already have enough of them? Things were starting to smell rather fishy.

So what about those product tests they talked about when they enticed me to register with them? But now I’m thinking nobody who registered with XYZ Research probably ever received anything.

They took my data and sold it to a couple of big-money companies. I got no reward. I feel lied to and cheated upon.

Today, I deleted my account. I have no idea what they are going to do with my personal data.

I got this e-mail confirmation (screenshot above), and it says it will take them a couple of weeks to delete my account. They must be joking: deleting an account is a database operation that takes a fraction of a second.

To me, XYZ Research is a scam operation. Don’t fall for them. I’ve certainly learned my lesson.

Pass this on to your friends to warn them if you think they’d fall into XYZ Research’s clutches.


I work for XYZ

We have seen your post on Flickr and feel very concerned about what you have said and of course by how disappointed you have been by our services.

XYZ Research is a panel operator that works with the biggest market research agencies in the world and is a listed company that employs nearly xxx people worldwide

Data privacy is at the heart of our business so we would like to ensure you that when you answer a survey on XYZ Research, your data are transferred to our clients in a anonymous way for statistical purposes only. If you cannot finish a survey for any reason, your questionnaire is considered as incomplete and your data is not transferred. Even XYZ Research does not keep this data.

After a member unsubscribes from our panel, all your data are removed from our database after 6 months (this is in case there has been an error and the user wishes to reopen their account). You can also request from us that all your data be removed immediately.

Cancellation of an account is immediate but in the past due to technical problems, some members have received emails from us a couple days after they unsubscribe. In order to prevent frustration in this unfortunate case, we have decided to tell users that the complete unsubscription process can take up to two weeks to avoid any bad surprises, even if this is very unlikely

Surveys work with quotas for statistical reasons. For example if the study requests 100 men aged 25-35 years old, if you try to finish the survey as the 101st person, the survey will close. It is impossible to invite only the exact number of respondents required, as response to surveys from respondents can vary according to many criteria (day, time, target, weather,..)

We try to keep the surveys below 20 minutes and we strongly recommend that our clients do so too, we also oppose surveys that would take more than 45 min to answer.

The number of products to test is shown on the test product page together with the list of testers. You can also check the opinion sections where testers write reviews about the product they received from XYZ Research.

XYZ Research is not really a place to make money. Our reward schemes simply aim to thank our members for giving their opinion and helping brands to improve their product and services. Nevertheless we send thousands of gift vouchers every week to our members and this is a very significant cost of our activity.

Once again we are very sorry that you didn’t enjoy your memberships on XYZ Research as many members have done worldwide over the last 8 years now, and hope that this email has clarified some important issues regarding our service.

RESULT (PEOPLE WANT TO BE HEARD)Thanks, Laurent, for taking the time to reply to my post. It is much appreciated that there is a human being at your company who listens to users.

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