ARCS Update

At Marketing Systems Group, we believe that research is the key to any organization—product or service based—and we want to pursue creative solutions that help our customers to effectively and efficiently run their research projects. That is our core mission. As we pursue that mission, ARCS is evolving into something bigger and better. In this blog post, we want to give an update of the progress made and where we are heading.

Srinath Sankar, VP of Product Development puts it this way: “We’re looking to build a unified research operation platform that can help our customers to engage with their audience, collect insights, and manage the process as a whole. If you asked me ten years ago the definition of ARCS, I’d have said, it’s a panel management tool. Now we don’t see it that way. We want to cover as much of the research environment—the scope of recruitment, the administration of participants, the data collection piece, the management of people in the organization, governance and compliance, security tools, infrastructure, and more.”

We have designed ARCS to work within different contexts and multiple roles that our customers have to play. We are already known as a strong recruitment administration platform, and we help customers with their needs for compliance, security requirements, and consents. Now we are taking the platform into new regions to see how we can help you build research libraries, how to make process management better, and how to improve automation.

Communication framework

We have always felt that the communication framework is the core to the ARCS platform. We have taken strides towards improving audience engagement by partnering with Twilio. The result is a brand new product, ARCS Voice.

In the old ARCS, if you wanted to do a reminder call to participants, you would either do it manually or use our IVR system to make the call. Now you can accomplish the task with a simple web app; no infrastructure is required. Just log into the app, provide a script, and send the message across SMS.

Within ARCS Voice, you can create different projects and set up call flows and trigger different actions such as transfer call, play another message, and so on. You can also create and pull from call lists, control callbacks, and run reports.

Formerly, ARCS could send only outbound text messages to participants. Now we have a two-way street. You can receive inbound messages, and thanks to improved email queue handling, our smart priority queue feature can flag higher priority tasks and execute those critical actions in a timely manner.

We have also created an inbound message center within ARCS that permits various customizations. The message center can look for keywords present in the message and reply with a text or trigger a workflow. We are currently working on the ability to do text-based surveys in a more automated way using a bot or manual intervention, too.

You will see other improvements on the platform as well, including updated targeting tools, user experience improvements, new filtering and multi-value import features.

On the questionnaire side, we’ve made it even easier and faster to build questionnaires. We’ve added new command types such as ranking, and improved accessibility compliance.

In the security space, we have added native SAML support not just for the participant portal (which was already there) but on the administrative side.

As for recruitment, we’ve added support for time zone settings at the study level and location level.

On the participant side, we have added a feature where participants can now receive and iCAL or Calendar invite to add to their Google calendar, for instance.

The ARCS ecosystem

ARCS is maturing, evolving into a solution for research operations. At the core is the platform our customers have been using all along. Orbiting it is an ecosystem of products that take you beyond panel management, recruitment, and questionnaire building. Let us introduce you to these new products.

Atom

Atom is our insights engine product, our attempt to take insights and drive them into better understandings of how operations work. Access to more data, more reports, more dashboards—all of this is well and good—but you really want these insights to fuel better decision making and growth. Under the Atom umbrella we are introducing three tools. First, a friendly built-in bot to answer questions about ARCS, a self-service analytical module to give better control of data inside ARCS, and multiple partnership agreements to provide enriched data about your panelists: demographic, psychographic, behavioral, updated on a monthly basis.

ARCS Pay

ARCS Pay is our incentive distribution product. It handles rewards management and incentive management and distribution. It offers an improvement over legacy incentive management procedures. With ARCS Pay, you can incentivize any activity in monetary currencies or points—you decide on the right mix. The system can track both. On the distribution side, it lets you select a list of rewards vendors and allows your participants to redeem their own rewards. We have partnered with Tango to provide this piece, all integrated within the ARCS ecosystem in real time. Incentive management becomes an engagement tool now, because you can see what rewards are working and which are not. The setup is configurable, permitting you to try different scenarios. 

Olà a Visitor Management

Olà is our visitor management product, released a few months ago. Our goal was to help customers with in-flow traffic, compliance, quota tracking, and reporting. It includes a receptionist module to ease the check-in and no-show process. Kiosk check-in is available. Text-based check-in is there too. On the compliance side, it supports visitor badge printing, an NDA option, emergency evacuation lists, and audit reporting. On the administrative side there are dashboards and reports to track who is signing up, which quotas are filling and not, whether there are no shows, cancelations, etc.

Coming soon: ARCS cloud and ARCS Survey

ARCS Cloud is a portal for cloud customers.  On the horizon, you’ll be seeing an infrastructure upgrade for our cloud customers. Everything is getting updated: servers, hardware, software. There will be more endpoints across the country that will improve cloud-based performance across our customer base. We are looking to a third-party provider of a more flexible service on the delivery portal, which should improve user experience. Finally, we are working up a new version of ARCS Survey, which should be available by spring 2021. As you can see, we’ve been quite busy! Many of these improvements seen in ARCS stem directly from customer feedback. You have shared real world experiences and needs, and we have responded with more multi-faceted and powerful tools. If you’d like to see the newest enhancements in action, you can view a recorded webinar presented by Srinath Sankar.  And for more information, contact your Marketing Systems Group representative.

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.

MSG’s Geo-Demographic Services are Critical Resources in Natural Disaster Preparation

Marketing Systems Group’s deep understanding of surveying and market research, coupled with our innovative products and services, have proven to be an invaluable resource to the survey research industry since 1987. 

MSG’s team, particularly our GeoDemographers, offer an array of services such as: Demographic Data, Reports, Maps, Geocoding, Spatial Analytics, Custom Geographic Frame Designs, and Census Information. Our GEO-DEM clients range from market researchers, public safety and emergency management, utilities and communications companies, health and human services, and transportation providers.   Continue reading “MSG’s Geo-Demographic Services are Critical Resources in Natural Disaster Preparation”

The Arrival of Social Media Analytics: What Took So Long?

Social media has been one of the hottest trends in technology over the last decade. It has changed the way we talk to one another. We meet online. We converse online. We share online. And we complain together, online. Market researchers were quick to seize upon the opportunities provided by mass adoption of social media. Social media and “listening in” on the social chatter helps us better understand how brands are perceived, which points the way forward towards better campaigns and better targeting. Continue reading “The Arrival of Social Media Analytics: What Took So Long?”