From the Desk of Dr. Mansour Fahimi

Sometimes you lose a relative, or even a friend, but then comes a time when you lose a buddy. Rumi says, “Set your life on fire and seek those who fan your flames.” There are those who douse your fire, but a buddy fans your fire to take your flames to new heights. The MSG family has lost a buddy.

I am sad out of my skull to think that Ashley is no longer with us, but then, I am delighted to have had her in my life as a buddy. She was always there to help me curb my ego to have empathy for others, yet she knew exactly how to rub me the right way so that I would go to the next step because she was good at fanning my fire.

With nearly three decades of impeccable service, Ashley Hyon was an irreplaceable pillar of MSG. She was the source staff would go to for seasoned counsel and solace, which are exactly the reasons why her clients would seek her out. You would go to her with a technical or personal problem, but then walk away forgetting the reason why you craved her companionship in the first place. People skills and the ability to see good in everything and everyone are innate qualities that are not acquirable by reading books or even getting older – you either have it, or you don’t.

I envy the time John and Sophie have had with Ashley all these years. She was not a drop in the ocean, she was the entire ocean in a drop. When I first met her almost 15 years ago, I told our late Dale Kulp that “she’s good.” Dale smiled back and replied, “I know.”

Verbosities aside, life must go on – though at the moment I’m just not sure why.

Welcome Back: Dr. Mansour Fahimi Rejoins MSG

Surely you know how it feels when someone close to you has to move on. That’s how we felt when our Vice President and leader of our statistical services group, Mansour Fahimi, Ph.D., assumed a new position as Senior Vice President & Chief Statistician position at GfK in 2013. Mansour was like family to us, but we were happy and proud for him and wished him Godspeed.   

Sometimes in life, after a long odyssey, paths will cross again, and there comes a coming home. We in the MSG family are excited that Mansour is rejoining the company. He will hold the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Data Scientist of MSG’s Advanced Analytics and Methods department. Mansour will play a lead role heading MSG’s Online solutions and new methodologies for survey sampling applications in the Digital Age.   

Dr. Fahimi is an internationally recognized research statistician and data scientist, with over three decades of hands-on experience in survey research methods and applications. Throughout his professional tenure Mansour has served as a senior statistician at leading research organizations, such as Westat and RTI, supporting survey projects for the government, commercial, social science, and nonprofit sectors.   

“Mansour is a respected leader and scholar in the field,” says Jeff Palish, Senior Vice President, MSG. “His stellar record of innovations in design and administration of complex surveys for both public and private sector clients speaks for itself. His research into online data collection improvements is nothing less than groundbreaking, particularly the refinements he has developed for selection of nonprobability samples and cutting-edge weighting and calibration methods for samples with coverage limitations.”  

Dr. Fahimi has a vast collection of publication and presentations to his credit. He has served on expert and technical advisory boards for reviewing government surveys.   

“We are thrilled to have him back on board at MSG,” says Jeff, “as our mission now includes providing high-integrity online options to our clients who for decades have been relying on MSG as the leading provider of sampling solutions. Mansour will be responsible for providing strategic vision for improving the inferential integrity of our online sampling product umbrella, with a focus on increasing online market presence, creating high-efficiency project solutions, transitioning survey projects from traditional to online protocols, strengthening MSG’s analytical services, and enhancing our sampling and weighting / calibration offerings.”  

To others in the profession, he is the esteemed Dr. Fahimi. To us, he is also Mansour, a trusted colleague, friend and member of the MSG family. Welcome back, Mansour!  

Friday Cool Downs: Coping with CoVid19 Stress

The people at Marketing Systems Group are data-driven. We crave the laser-focus on statistics, the wonky allure of sample frames and demographics, panel management and survey methodologies. So when the CoVid19 crisis fell upon us, we, like many others, were forced suddenly to work from home, and it hit us hard.  

When teleworking from home, you are faced with juggling work, running meetings, taking phone calls, responding to emails, helping clients, all while taking care of household matters: our kids, our cats, our dogs. It certainly isn’t business as usual. Distractions and anxieties are all too real.  

Still, the work gets done, and we find ways to manage. By the end of the week, though, everybody starts to feel just a little bit frazzled. Obviously, since we must maintain social distance, a traditional happy hour to blow off steam is out of the question. We have come up with the next best thing: “cool down Fridays.”  

Every Friday at 5 PM we meet by video over Microsoft Teams to decompress and boost one another’s spirits. Yes, indeed, “spirits” are involved, too. Each team member is encouraged to show their “beverage of choice”, and together (virtually) we knock down a few. We chat about our week, the challenges we are facing, how we are coping, even which grocery stores have toilet paper in stock!  

Though it sometimes can feel as if working from home means living as a face inside a box (think the opening credits to The Brady Bunch or The Hollywood Squares), “cool down Fridays” have given us a renewed appreciation for the value of each co-worker.  We have the opportunity to let the hair down, get to know each other better. We see one another as real people, with families, partners, spouses, kids, and cute pets.  

The Friday cool downs absolutely have been a big morale booster. With peer groups communicating in new and unexpected ways, we are forging new connections across departments, seeing new synergies emerge that translate into an even more productive work place.   

Ironically, the social distance has brought us a lot closer as a team. And this is just the kind of attitude that will get us through this crisis: together.  

If you haven’t tried a Friday virtual happy hour at your workplace, consider doing it. And don’t forget to BYOB! Stay safe, stay healthy.  

Helping People Through the Power of Data

In these trying times we are poised to deliver the data you need for the critical task at hand. Marketing Systems Group is always on call.

Never was timing more important than last weekend. As the COVID-19 virus was spreading through California, we received a call from the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. They had an urgent need to reach those most impacted by the virus: high risk people in need of critical services and food delivery.

Could we help? You bet.

We first mapped the city of Stockton by census block and using our listed landline and consumer cellular database, targeted records that had the presence of ages 65 and over. Each record had full address and phone number which allowed for phone and text messaging. We delivered the files to the client on the same day, enabling the mayor’s office and the Reinvent Stockton Foundation to begin their outreach over the weekend.

Time was of the essence to deliver these essential services. Kudos to the California mayor’s office and the Reinvent Stockton Foundation for their kind efforts during this pandemic.

Marketing Systems Group has the technology, know-how, and data to deliver lightning fast turnaround.

There is no time to waste. We’re all in this together. We are here to help.

New Census ACS Data now Available. How Can MSG Help You Easily Gain Access to the Data?

New 5 Year American Community Survey Estimates Now Available

In mid-December, 2019, the U.S. Census bureau announced the availability of their 2014-2018 5-Year estimates, giving researchers cause to rejoice.  American Community Survey (ACS) is a heavily-used, “go-to” source for current social, economic, housing, and demographic information in the United States. The new 5-Year estimates are available for all geographic areas, reaching down to block-group level and include comparison profiles, subject tables, and narrative profiles. Continue reading “New Census ACS Data now Available. How Can MSG Help You Easily Gain Access to the Data?”

First Impressions Matter: How visitor management is improving the sign-in experience.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Think of all the companies you have visited in your career. Visualize the kinds of experiences you have had when you walk into the building. Did you feel welcomed? Was there a receptionist there to greet you? How often were you in a position of waiting while the receptionist was multitasking? Now visualize yourself as a visitor to your own company. Imagine being a customer, client, panelist, delivery person, temporary worker, or consultant. You walk in the front door. What happens next? Is your company delivering the ideal check-in experience?

The reception area is the gateway where first impressions are made. It is the point of entry where access is controlled and traffic directed. In other words, a well-managed visitor experience should be of vital concern for a lot of reasons.

Visitor management is a technological solution that systematizes the tracking of every person coming into your company.  In the old days, visitor management would be managed by means of a receptionist and simple sign-in sheet at the front desk. Maybe those sign-ins would wind up being tracked in a manually edited spreadsheet. These old school methods aren’t very efficient, however. It is hard to search the back logs, and assigning a front desk receptionist to be there for any visitors who may show up could be inefficient in a couple of ways. The receptionist might not be busy enough (too much downtime), or too preoccupied with other tasks that pull them away from the frontline duty of reception. Visitor management presents a more robust, consistent, and professional process for greeting visitors.

Tablet computers such as the iPad were the enabling technology that allowed visitor management systems to take off around 2013. Every year has seen increasing functionality. A visitor management system goes way beyond traditional sign-in functions. It can log visitors, make photo ID badges, handle NDA signatures, accept deliveries from couriers, send notifications when an expected visitor arrives, and permit employees to communicate with visitors.

Key benefits and advantages of visitor management

  • Better point of entry experience. Visitors feel more welcomed, better oriented, and safer.
  • Less haphazard, more professional and consistent.
  • Easier to track visitors for auditing and reporting purposes.
  • Affords more flexibility and productivity for front desk personnel.
  • Gives a “better look” to your company’s brand image.

Analyzing the need for better visitor management

We can break down the visitor experience and see how your current processes measure up against a digital visitor management experience. Ask yourself these questions:

When a visitor arrives, how long does it take to greet them?

Is the credentialing process handled in a consistent way? How easy is it to create visitor badges? Are the credentials customizable and clear?

Could the handling of legal requirements such as NDA’s be better handled? Are NDA signatures maintained in a secure fashion?

When a courier arrives, how long does it take to accept and record receipt of deliveries?

How practical and efficient is it to audit and track visitor logs?

Are site safety requirements accessible for visitors, especially contractors?

How efficiently are company personnel notified of visitor arrivals?  Would visitors have a better experience if they had the opportunity to perform check-in at a self-serve kiosk?

For all of the questions above, visitor management systems usually offer better answers. They can save time, increase flexibility, and enhance security and privacy, not to mention giving your company a “better look”.

Safe and Secure. Visitor management systems can provide improved access control too. They help to secure the facility from unwelcome intrusions, protect visitor and company privacy, and ensure regulatory compliance. Visitors can be matched against watch lists to keep criminals and black listed persons from gaining access. The system can also keep visitors and employees notified about evacuation plans and emergency notifications.

The most popular features of visitor management systems

  • Customizable check-in
  • Automated notifications
  • Two-way digital communication between employees and visitors
  • Streamlined legal and NDA agreements
  • Searchable and trackable visitor logs
  • Badge printing to enhance security

Olà

Marketing Systems Group recognizes the importance of visitor management, and we are excited to introduce you to our latest enhancement to the ARCS platform. It is called Olà powered by ARCS.

Now you can get the key features companies seek in a visitor management solution without having to maintain a separate system. The visitor management piece is integrated with the ARCS platform.

Olà supports customized branding, self-serve kiosk sign-ins, visitor badging with personalized data, NDA signatures at point of sign-in, tracking of arrivals, cancellations, and no shows. Quotas can be monitored in real time. A dashboard feature allows you to view visitor activity and access evacuation lists in case of emergency. Visitor logging is of course built-in, and it can include visitor demographics, contact information, and activity charts. Visitor activity can be accessed remotely 24/7 from mobile devices and web browsers through a centralized web-based management system.

For more information about Olà, contact your MSG representative today.

The ABCs of ABS: Why the Address Based Sampling frame works so well

The past 10 to 15 years have been very good to Address Based Sampling (ABS). ABS has grown so much that it is now perceived as a substitute to random-digit-dial dual frame sample designs, and arguably, it has become the dominant sample survey design in the USA.

ABS is a special type of sampling frame, distinguishable from telephone surveys in its flexibility. The frame can support many methods and modalities: web, phone, and mail. In this article we will briefly explore the popularity of ABS and the problems it attempts to solve.

First, a quick historical lesson. Let’s look at what has happened to traditional telephone surveys. Response rates have tanked and many households have scrapped their land lines, forcing survey designers to sample both land lines and cell phone frames. To be fair, as recently as the late 2000’s telephone surveys were still doing rather well. They were still cost efficient and dual-frame survey designs (landline and cell phone) were gaining traction. While it is true that response rates were already in decline, data quality was not suffering.

The picture has changed in ten years. Telephone response rates have continued their precipitous decline (now down into the single digits) and associated risks of systematic bias have risen. Researchers have been forced to adapt by choosing alternative methods without sacrificing sampling integrity. ABS is a countermeasure for the trends we have witnessed with telephone response rates. The costs of telephone surveys have risen as well, compared to ABS. Not only has ABS solved some of those problems, it has opened the door to mixed modes of contact and data collection.

ABS from the ground up

The foundation of Address Based Sampling (ABS) is the United States Postal Service USPS Delivery Sequence File. Marketing Systems Group was one of the first companies to get approval for providing the Computerized Delivery Sequence (CDS) File, which contains just about every deliverable postal address. That’s more than 135 million residential addresses to date.

ABS merges the CDS with other data sources that contain geographic and demographic data. This is like cranking up the volume on your guitar amplifier to “11”. Data sources consist of both publicly available sources such as the Government’s American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and decennial Census data. Beyond that, ABS can mine commercial databases for additional data.  You can append demographics such as age, gender, income, education, and more. By meshing data sources together, the odds for positive matches are increased and the negative impact of coverage lapses are decreased.  By targeting the household instead of the telephone number, ABS avoids the under and over coverage downside risks of telephone samples.

The difference maker: Geocoding.

Geocoding is the key ingredient which effectively launched ABS as a valid alternative. Geocoding is the application of geographical coordinates to a corresponding postal address location. Why does this matter so much? It means researchers can reach the majority of U.S. households more inexpensively and faster than ever before.

The basic geocoding method works like this:  addresses are coded using linear interpolation, constructing geographical data points within each street segment based on the numeric addresses as end points.  The interpolation is accurate to the street level but not necessarily to the actual rooftop level due to factors such as property size and park spaces. Still, you can get very accurate correspondences with geocoding.

There is no better approach for standard mail surveys as ABS has also solved problems with respect to in-person household surveys. Because CDS does not include census geography, it was a problem to design samples for in-person households. In the old days this was solved through costly methods: multi-stage sampling of primary and secondary sampling units based on census blocks and field-testing every address in a segment. ABS removes those obstacles. Every address is geocoded to a census block, with some exceptions such as P.O. boxes, rural routes, and simplified addresses (rural routes, P.O. boxes with no physical address). While it is true that simplified addresses are a nagging problem –the good news is that the scope of the problem has diminished: the number of simplified addresses, once upwards of 10 million addresses, has been reduced to the hundreds of thousands. Not insignificant, but a vast improvement.

In the past, ABS was hampered by some systematic nonresponse factors. For instance, ABS respondents were more likely to be college grads and less likely to be non-White, as compared to RDD samples. Lately however, mitigation efforts have made real progress due to Census data appends that can be used to predict areas of high nonresponse. You can oversample areas that tend to respond less frequently to ABS surveys. Consumer data also can be appended based on trackable behaviors and predictive models. This too can be used for oversampling nonresponsive areas.  In short, there are fewer reservations attached to the use of ABS, hence its increasing popularity.

ABS isn’t just a “one-trick pony”

To appreciate the raw power of ABS, you need to think of it as much more than its source USPS CDS file. It is an enhancement of it: CDS plus demographics plus geocoding. The effect is empowering. Researchers can increase the range of analysis options for testing hypotheses and models. And the ease of use has fueled the use of multimode surveys to combat the telephone survey problems mentioned above. ABS is also useful for probability-based panel recruitment, non-response follow ups, and for reaching more inaccessible populations with stratified samples. ABS gives you that flexibility. Samples can be drawn to custom specifications without sacrificing representation.

Key Advantages of ABS

  • Single frame. Does away with dual-frame uncertainty.
  • Expansive coverage.
  • Straightforward weighting protocols.
  • Higher response rates, especially when multimodes are used.
  • More precise.

For all the reasons mentioned above, ABS is proving to be the best balance between coverage and cost for many researchers, but we can only outline the many factors involved in a short blog article.

Call MSG today to discuss how ABS can be a difference maker in your survey research.

 

Navigating the CCPA: Key Factors to Stay in Compliance

Coming soon, consumers in California will take back control over their personal data. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was signed into law in June 2018, and after a comment and public forum period, will take effect in January 2020. The law grants consumers new rights when it comes to the collection of personal information. How is CCPA going to impact the Market Research industry and where do we go from here? How will it affect the market research panel management software you use?

Continue reading “Navigating the CCPA: Key Factors to Stay in Compliance”

The Importance of Incentives in Recruiting Survey Participants

Market researchers find themselves constantly recruiting for their panels.  There are many factors for this, but probably the two most challenging are hard to reach targets and panel attrition.  Identifying the most efficient sampling frames for panel recruitment is the critical first step in a comprehensive panel management strategy.  Next, you need an effective methodology for panelist engagement and respondent rewards, because finding the right panel also means cultivating a loyal one, one that keeps coming back.  To this point incentives are a must!

Continue reading “The Importance of Incentives in Recruiting Survey Participants”