How a Market Research Co. Tackled Fake Data Issue with Mobile App
1 year, 4 month ago by Timothy Cox
When the data is crucial today – making a decision without data is shooting in the dark, and hoping desperately to hit the target.
All decisions in any business should be backed by numbers no matter how small they are. Period.
“In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
Edwards Deming, a noted American engineer and statistician once famously made this statement.
But strangely, he too did miss out on something.
He should have said for God’s sake, don’t bring fake data.
Because if you are making serious decisions based on fake data, you are doomed.
Fake data is injurious to the health of the company – especially if the bread and butter of a company were dependent on that.
Did you know that around 32 % B2B customers and 23 % of consumers provide fake information? (According to Global Marketing Alliance)
No wonder you have names like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, etc. in your databases with fake contact information.
But what if your teams are making up and submitting fake data?
The problem of fake data is rampant with research and marketing firms, although every industry has been affected by this at some stage.
One such market research firm, Eagle Market Research (EMR) based in Delaware – USA, faced a similar problem.
With a team size of around 100 field executives, Eagle Market Research (EMR) uses paper forms (also referred to as questionnaires) to collect data on the field for all the projects.
Teams are on the field to meet respondents – they ask questions and record the responses on the paper forms.
The average length of the paper form is 12 pages. Sometimes when the surveys are very critical and deep, the questionnaire can get as long as 50 pages.
Interestingly, the problem is not the length of pages – it’s about the authenticity of the responses.
Here’s what Vince Esper, Head Operations at EMR, has got to say, “We usually get data collection projects with low turnaround time. Our field agents are always on their toes and are under pressure to complete their daily survey targets. And of late, we bagged more projects which have increased the pressure to complete projects faster.”
“However, as more projects came in, we encountered a strange problem of fake data being collected out on forms recently. We have got an in-house quality team whose responsibility is to verify the data being collected. The occurrence of fake data reported by the quality team has shot up ever since the targets of the field agents were revised, rather increased. We needed a strong solution to tackle this problem. And this is when we started looking for solutions.”
On further analysis, something unexpected came up:
The fake data was being filled out by the agents themselves.
One thing became very evident: since the daily survey targets grew for the field team, they started filling up the questionnaires on their own by manipulating the data.
To put an end to this problem, EMR either could have fired employees, but hiring new ones and training them was out of scope. They didn’t have that kind of time.
Had they lowered the daily targets of agents, it would have been at the cost of letting new projects go.
The management didn’t want to grow costs by increasing the team size, especially when the similar flow of projects in the future was uncertain.
Vince says, “We started thinking about digitizing our process but were quite sceptical about it. Plus, we weren’t confident if our teams would accept any new change. We started looking for options that were easy to deploy, and then we chanced upon Axonator. That was our blessing in disguise.”
EMR got introduced to Axonator mobile forms app for data collection. The trial period kicked in with Axonator for the first month – everything went down smooth. And six months down the line, they are still using it.
Here’s what happened:
EMR converted paper forms into mobile forms through Axonator apps. When the field agents started using mobile devices instead of paper forms, they could capture data faster.
This is primarily because long forms were divided into shorter subforms. Jumping from one form to another required just one click.
Even further, survey forms on mobile were easy to fill – most of them required just clicks, irrelevant questions could be skipped, etc.
The productivity shot up – as teams could finish more surveys in a day.
But their problem was not productivity in the first place, it was fake data, so how did they tackle fake data issue?
Axonator’s multiple features solved this challenge.
With paper forms, you can’t attach photos. But with mobile forms app, you can.
For example, when EMR teams were on the field for a vehicle survey project, the mobile form required agents to click a photograph of the vehicle.
Axonator mobile allows the user to capture images when collecting data.
So, if a field agent did 10 surveys a day through the mobile app, his forms would have 10 different vehicle photos.
When a survey needed customer feedback, field agents could record the audio/video directly.
Earlier, the agents just wrote testimonials on paper forms. There was no way to establish that who wrote the feedback.
But now, audio/video capture in the mobile forms can help establish it better – if the feedback is authentic or not.
While collecting data, the team captured their current location with a click.
Earlier, there were instances when paper forms were filled by the agents from the same place but they mentioned different places.
But this was taken care by mobile apps – if you visited 10 different places to collect data, there must be 10 different locations.
One had no way to manipulate location here.
Paper forms did have ‘time’ field. But it could be easily manipulated by the agent by filling out different time for every survey.
With mobile forms, the agent has to tap the ‘timestamp’ option, which fetches the exact time when the survey is taking place.
There is no way this can be manipulated by the field agent.
No Repeat of Mobile Number
The issue of duplicate mobile numbers was put to rest completely because the system did not accept the same number twice.
No phone number could be used twice. In paper forms, there was no way to avoid the repetition of same mobile number. Therefore, the same number was repeated a multiple number of times.
But with mobile forms, the system simply did not accept the same number twice.
What if different random numbers were entered just to dodge the above function?
EMR wanted something more which made sure that data submitted was authentic, right at the first time.
Axonator proposed OTP feature to eliminate this problem completely.
When a field agent would enter a mobile number of the respondent while filling up the form, an OTP would be generated and sent to the respondent’s mobile number immediately.
That OTP number would be required to fill the rest of the form – therefore, the agent couldn’t enter a fake mobile number or even leave the field blank.
These robust features bundled together tackled the fake data problem completely on various fronts for EMR.
The job of the quality team was made easier too. As soon the form was submitted on the mobile app, the quality team got a data report for each form.
Red flags raised from the quality teams regarding fake data fell.
EMR field agents started submitting the data through clicks which were accessed by the managers almost instantaneously. Even quality teams could access the data at the same time for verification.
Being updated at all times helped the company to keep its clients informed – this closed the communication gap by a larger degree.
Reports were generated automatically as soon as the forms were filled out. These reports are directed to managers and quality teams automatically.
EMR used Axonator dashboard to gain some actionable insights from the data collected.They began making decisions based on the insights obtained from the data.
Data Entry Saved
Time earlier spent on entering the data into different systems was eliminated. The data submitted through mobile apps was stored automatically in the cloud – which could be accessed at any point in time.The integration feature allows the data import/export to different platforms like excel sheets, CRM, drive, Salesforce, etc.
Reduced Costs on Paper & Print
EMR spent a huge budget on buying paper and printing the paper. Since paper forms were no longer required – office expenses dropped sharply. The overall office expenses came down by 14%.
On using Axonator, Vince Esper commented, “It’s been 6 months we are using Axonator – and we are glad about how productivity has shot up and importantly, the instances of fake data were reduced dramatically.”
He continued, “What we loved was how Axonator built some custom features just for us. In the beginning, they helped us in building the forms, but now we do that on our own – it’s easy. Our revenue has got a major lift – thanks to a simple mobile app that helped us find our Holy Grail. Our team’s love for Axonator is rock-solid.”
- Decrease in Paper Usage – 87% (Now mostly used for documents and not for questionnaires).
- Increase in Productivity – an average of 12 surveys a day as (now) against 9 surveys a day (earlier).
- Decrease in Quality Instances – 3% quality problem (now) vs 24% quality problem (earlier).
- Overall Increase in Revenue: 29% in 6 months
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