The Care and Feeding of Panelists
Jon Miller | Director of Programming Services
Every day in 48 markets around the country, Arbitron gathers ratings data from over 70,000 PPM panelists. Each one has to be recruited into our panel, installed with a meter, encouraged to develop the habit of carrying the meter every day, and then monitored over time to ensure proper compliance. It’s a very important behind-the-scenes job for the company, and today I’d like to introduce you the world of Panel Relations.
For this column I interviewed a manager in our Panel Services Department who oversees a group of Arbitron employees known as Panel Relations Specialists (PRS) that interact with panelists on a day-to-day basis. She shared a number of interesting insights:
Three Types of PRS: Habituation Specialists, Compliance Specialists, and Service Specialists.
- Habituation Specialists: Once a household agrees to participate, it spends the first 28 days under the watchful eye of a habituation specialist. Wearing the meter is easy to do once the habit of remembering it every day is established, and coaching during the first 28 days in the panel is critical to forming this habit. “These people teach the new panelists how to successfully participate.”
- Compliance Specialists: Folks who work specifically with panelists that lag below our standards for carrying the meter by focusing on helping them improve their performance. “They are essentially coaches, and their goal is to get these panelists to wear (the meter) really well.”
- Service Specialists: Nearly 85% of panelists do comply well and are handled by service specialists who deal with incoming questions and reach out when participants who are generally very compliant occasionally forget to wear their meters. “They are approached from a positive outlook, congratulating them on how well they’ve been doing before mentioning a change in their usual pattern.”
The PRS are divided into six regions, each overseeing a specific set of markets, and are highly focused on factors such as installation success rate, panelist retention, and compliance rates in key demos.
Other Contact: PRS also communicates with panelists using text messages, email, and chat. These are often used for reminders such as when a holiday might change a panelist’s routine or affect the equipment. “At Christmas, panelists may receive new gadgets that require an outlet so we ask them to let us know if they need a power strip so that our equipment won’t have to compete for a plug.”
Accessories: Arbitron also makes a number of accessories available to panelists including lanyards, armbands for working out, and carrying cases.
Part of the Family: After all of this contact from Arbitron, panelists often start to view the PRS like part of the family; sending letters, wanting to be Facebook friends, sharing recipes, and more as their way of saying thanks for the opportunity. “We’ve been invited over for dinner, even offered plane tickets or private jets to come get us to take us to parties and events. Of course we can’t accept any of those.”
Reach the Programming Services Team at email@example.com.