A case of Schanz and Associates

Schanz and Associates was a medium sized marketing research firm located in a large Midwest city. William Schanz was founder and president of the company which had been in existence for 12 years and had grown steadily. The firm was able to offer clients a variety of marketing research services, but it specialized in field surveys involving personal and telephone interviews.

Over the years, Schanz and Associates had established good relationships with a number of clients, most of whom were manufacturers of consumer packaged goods. Mr. Schanz believed that the company’s success resulted, to a large extent, from its growing reputation for good study designs and to its personal interviewing capabilities. He felt the latter was especially important to the company’s packaged goods clients, who frequently requested research on new products, on new forms or flavors of established products, on new uses for established products on reformulated products and on new packages. Almost all research of this type required that information be obtained through personal interviews with consumers in their homes. For these reasons, Schanz and Associates had developed a lengthy roster of field interviewing personnel located in most of the larger cities throughout the country. Schanz and Associates called on these people whenever the company received a job which required interviewing in their communities.

One day Mr Schanz came across an article describing some of the problems encountered by field interviewers. He found it especially interesting because it caused him to think about some things which had been bothering him for some time. The article implied that many of the problems associated with field interviewing were caused by the marketing research firm hiring the field interviewers, and that they could be minimized or eliminated of the firm hiring the field workers made a serious attempt to do so. Mr Schanz sent the article to the company’s manager of field operations. John Vukovich, and asked him to schedule a meeting after he had a chance to read study the article.

The following day Mr Vukovich met Mr Schanz and indicated to him that the article was probably quite realistic in most respects. He also indicated that some of the problems described in the article applied to the field interviewers used by Schanz and associates. His revelation disturbed Mr Schnaz, who felt that the continued success of the firm was dependent upon its ability to obtain high quality information from its field interviewing operations.

Is it not true, Mr Schanz asked, that in some 8 or 10 cities we regularly run one, and sometimes two, field studies each month, and in another dozen or so cities we run a study every month or two? Mr Vukovich indicated that was the case. Mr Schanz went on to inquire of Mr Vukvich if quality was suffering as a result of the kinds of things discussed in the article. When Mr Vukovich replied that there probably was some loss in quality. Mr Scahnz asked if it might be appropriate in some cities to hire a small interviewing force with a guarantee of some regular employment each month say, to average out to 10-15 hours per week. These interviewers could be paid monthly, even if they did not work 10 or 15 hours each week during the month. Excess wage payments could be credited to other months when the interviewers worked more than 10-15 hours week. Such a field force would not be expected to cover 100 percent of the firm’s filed interviewing needs. Rather, they would form a core of field interviewers in those cities, and additional temporary interviewers could be hired as needed, as was currently the practice.

Mr Schanz indicated that another possibility might be to have field supervisors select the 5 or 10 best and most experienced interviewers and to guarantee them a certain minimum amount of work for each three or six month period. Those interviewers would be paid even if they did not work that much during the stated period. There may be times, Mr Schanz thought, when interviewers would not work the minimum stated hours, but if such a plan were to keep the best interviewers in the employ of Schanz and Associates, the small added expenses might be more than offset by the higher quality of information obtained.

Mr Schanz also wondered if they could find a way to improve the scheduling of their field studies, or if it would be possible to involve the more experienced supervisors in planning projects and in providing feedback on completed projects. By doing so, it might be possible to improve further the quality of information obtained from field studies. Mr. Schanz closed the meeting by asking Mr Vukovich to study carefully how the firm’s field operations might be improved and to prepare a report on the various courses of action which might be taken, including the advantages of each.