Replacement Moderators? A Lesson from the NFL

Replacement Moderators? A Lesson from the NFL


Oct 01, 2012

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All the scrutiny and missed calls by the replacement referees during the first three weeks of the NFL season made me think; what would it be like to replace any professionals that are vital to an organization?  Would you replace truck drivers with student drivers?  Would you ride on an airplane with replacement pilots?  Could substitute teachers take over the finest school and give its children the same quality education?

Sometimes having the right system and the most advanced technology is simply not enough to produce a quality product or service. Even though NFL replacement refs had access to the best HD camera replays, they would still frequently miss calls, disagree and turn the first quarter into an hour long nightmare. It just goes to show, you have be trained on what to look out for, or your tools are worthless.

It’s not too different in our world of qualitative research. You can implement and use all the latest software and hardware, but without skilled researchers coming up with a research plan, crafting guides, moderating, and synthesizing the results, the insights will suffer. At iModerate, we have access to all the latest and greatest technology, but we couldn’t just plug in a new team with elementary knowledge of qualitative market research and garner the same quality feedback for our clients.

Much like the referee union, it took us years of cooperation, refinement and understanding of how our methods work effectively through a unique platform before getting to where we are today.  Our moderators are expertly trained to uncover the most relevant insights for the ‘full 60 minutes of game time’, and anything less is unacceptable.

Through the first three weeks of the current NFL season, we witnessed the chaos and poor judgment that creates an inferior football product. Since the referees’ union and the NFL have  reached an agreement, we can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to watching the product that we know and love every Sunday. As an industry, we should all take a step back and learn a valuable lesson. Now is a time where every research company races to release the coolest app and the sexiest widget. While some of these advancements really do provide value, it all comes back to who is managing your research on game day. People are still the engine that makes research go. So research companies and clients alike, do yourselves a favor and start with the people. When the right team is in place, the product will shine.

The results we received from the iModerate one-on-one, in-depth conversations were much more enlightening than what we typically garner from open-ended verbatim responses. The live moderator offers us the ability and flexibility to probe deeper on certain points, enabling us to get stronger, less vague information. That unique capability has proved extremely valuable to us, and has made this IM-based platform an integral part of our research toolbox.

Colleen Hepner, VP, C&R Research