Kerry Hecht on participant quality, engagement and AI

Kerry Hecht, CEO and founder of 10K Humans and 10K Ecosystem recently joined the Now That’s Significant podcast. 10K Humans is a qualitative and quantitative market research agency offering support services and full-service consulting. The 10K Ecosystem is a collective of companies and offerings that complement each other to provide a custom experience to its clients. On this episode, we discuss participant quality, the participant experience and the way AI might change the way we have to think about it. 

Kerry emphasizes the importance of participant quality and the need to adapt to the changing dynamics of the industry, particularly regarding data quality in both qualitative and quantitative databases. She discusses the contradictory value propositions in participant databases, where participants are encouraged to join for financial incentives while clients seek fast and cheap research solutions. This has led to a decline in participant quality and a need for solutions to improve it.  

The conversation delves into various stakeholders' roles in addressing the issue, including participants, research buyers (agencies and corporate researchers), and panel companies. Kerry highlights the need for transparency, fair compensation for participants, and better practices among all stakeholders to enhance participant experiences. She says, “Agencies really need to need to push back on clients when they have unrealistic expectations. Panel companies need to. Hold firm lines about best practices. Panel companies need to insist that people are paid appropriately and fairly. They also need to stand behind the product that they are selling. Corporate researchers need to understand that when they're continuing to drive the price down, it is not benefiting anybody. Fast and cheap is not necessarily the best way forward.”

She continues to say that these dynamics in the marketplace are driving us to the point where we’re going “see AI and synthetic data and modeling” taking a huge piece of that business of finding respondents. Kerry acknowledges the benefits of AI in improving question design and enhancing data analysis but also warns about the ethical implications and challenges related to data ownership and homogenization. 

Kerry also flags other risks that threaten human-focused research practices. “The evolution that we're going to see next with generative AI - and it's not just large language models at this point, it's small language models too - which are going to make answering questions that much easier for those people that are asking them… You can ask a question and then free frame the question to do it from the perspective of, for example, a middle-aged lady that owns dogs in Los Angeles and it will change the answer. So I think that that that is where I see kind of the danger zone for our industry.” 
Kerry emphasizes the importance of storytelling and human connection in market research, underscoring the need to prioritize participants' experiences to drive meaningful insights. “Ultimately, it comes down to us - either as vendors, agencies or in-house corporate insights professionals – to maintain that place and insist on humans coming first. So humans are always there. That’s why we do our jobs: to understand them. And we're there to make their lives better as well.”

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