Successful survey projects rely on a wide range of specialized skills and technologies. Because very few organizations have the capabilities to handle the entire survey administration in-house, it is typically necessary to outsource the work to multiple vendors.
Depending on the complexity of your project, the number of vendors you may need to manage can range from a handful to dozens.
Your basic list of tasks to outsource can include:
- Graphic design
- Document tracking
- Fulfillment and mailing
- Data extraction
That’s just the beginning.
The more complex the project, the more vendors you’ll need to coordinate. For instance, if you are offering cash incentives, you’ll need to work with a bank. If your project requires special items such as containers for samples, selecting and managing your growing group of vendors becomes an even greater challenge.
How to Choose a Reliable Vendor
Regardless of the number of vendors you’ll be managing, you need a process for selecting a vendor that you can rely on to help you complete your project as efficiently as possible. Here are three important considerations when selecting vendors for your survey project.
Ask for References, and Call Them
Be sure to ask each vendor for at least two current references as well as a reference from a recent customer that is no longer working with them. Then call them.
When you call the current references, ask them about the vendor’s capabilities, customer service, responsiveness, and reputation for meeting deadlines. If there are any red flags, identify them before contracting with the vendor.
It’s likely that the vendor will put you in contact with current references that are satisfied with their service. But calling a vendor’s former customer gives you an even better perspective, particularly if that customer is less than two years old. When you speak with a former customer, you can dig deeper. They may still give a glowing reference, but it will be more objective.
Monitor Each Vendor’s Financials
You don’t want your survey project to fall apart because one of your vendors suddenly goes out of business. To help avoid a surprise like this, be sure to request a copy of each vendor’s audited financials and review them closely. If you work with the same vendor for many years, take the time to compare their financials year over year. Negative trends will alert you to future problems and give you time to discuss your concerns with the vendor or begin the process of searching for a more financially stable vendor.
After You Select a Vendor, Stick with Them
Selecting the right collection of vendors for your survey project requires an enormous amount of time and effort. Once you’ve found a vendor that meets all of your needs, it is important that you stick with them.
Ideally, you want to build a long-term relationship with your vendors so that they understand how your organization works and they can become a valuable and loyal resource. Whenever you change vendors, you lose that loyalty and have to start the relationship-building process all over again.
Choose One Partner Than Can Handle Your Entire Survey Project
As the number of required vendors rises, the time and effort necessary to orchestrate the activities of multiple vendors will increase outsourcing costs, and strain your resources. One of the key decisions you must make when planning your next survey project is whether to work with multiple vendors, or to select a partner that can handle all aspects of the survey administration process.
By selecting a partner that can act as your single point of contact throughout the project, you’ll save time and money. You’ll avoid having to go through an exhaustive selection process to narrow down the field of vendors for each component of your survey. You’ll also escape the headaches involved with coordinating interactions between each vendor.
Even though your partner may not be able to internally handle all of the tasks your survey research requires, you can rely on them to manage any necessary sub-vendors. Your partner will already have relationships with vendors they trust, and they will have worked out effective processes for coordinating the complex logistics involved with managing multiple vendors.
An effective survey administration partner is flexible enough to offer you the exact services you need. After consulting with you, they must be able to tailor their services and the administration process to the precise needs of your project.
When faced with the frustrations of managing multiple vendors, choosing a single, experienced survey administration partner is the solution to your vendor management