New “Robocalls” Rule Threaten Entire Market Research and Polling Industry

by | Jul 8, 2015 | Marketing Research, Politics

Gathering data can prove time consuming and costly, especially when marketing surveys employ one-on-one survey phone calls.

For years researchers have conducted surveys with the help of autodial technology as well as Interactive Voice Response technology, balancing the time and cost-effectiveness of gathering vital feedback with lower labor costs. Even a well-designed IVR project using “robocalls” can help provide real, marketable intelligence for companies, people, and campaigns on a tight budget.

But the future of IVR and autodial technology, used for decades, is now in question.

And that’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks to statistically reliable market research. Call it the cell phone dilemma. By law, the Federal Communications Commission requires that robocalls and autodialed calls require a consumer’s permission to be made to a wireless phone.  

There’s a big difference between IVR calls from professional, ethical, reliable researchers, and telemarketers trying to make a fast buck. Earlier this year, the Marketing Research Association, one of the top such professional groups in the U.S., called on the FCC to change their rules so marketers could contact people via cell phone. They released a study that backed up their reasoning.

The question will loom larger over the coming year as the 2016 national election ramps up. For decades, polling data used by major media corporations as well as campaigns, which has also influenced public perception, reaction and voting in elections, has relied on practices that include IVR and autodial technology. With at least 40 percent of American households not owning a landline anymore, the strict regulations about who can call or text cell phones will significantly impact the statistical reliability of ANY survey.

And it looks like the federal government is tightening things up, according to new rules adopted just a few weeks ago. (Note the recent judgment against Time Warner Cable for making over 150 calls to the same woman with the incorrect telephone number.) Phone carriers will be able to stop calls, which makes it easier for people to opt-out of all mass calls — even those polling calls they may not mind.

On the other hand, Politico article reported that “[a] few pollsters predicted that if the new regulations are wide-ranging enough to complicate existing campaign practices like robocalls and polling, politicians will find a way to scuttle them before they are adopted.”

The recent polls that proved so inaccurate in the recent U.K. elections that we recently wrote about may not be an aberration. They could be a harbinger — or at least, a warning — for the U.S. in 2016.