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Survey call center criticized for being out of state

The Lake Oswego City Council is, I have learned, conducting research among residents of the city. I know this to be fact because I was interviewed by a research company on April 3. It was a telephone survey lasting 15 to 20 minutes.

The purpose of the survey was/is to learn how satisfied residents are with the city services, how important they feel these services are and rate how well city council is performing. All of the questions required 'rating' answers -1 to 5, or 5 to ten. Higher ratings were 'good,' lower ratings 'not good'.

Satisfaction surveys are pretty basic, like Survey Design 101. This survey was nothing special and probably any research company in greater Portland could have designed it, but it did raise interesting questions in my mind.

First, these kinds of surveys usually have screener questions to weed out would-be respondents who should not participate. This survey had a screener that required you to live within the city limits of Lake Oswego, which my wife and I do. So I was qualified. But, actually, most of these surveys also have an occupational screener to weed out people in marketing, advertising and/or research. As a research provider I should have been disqualified. But no occupational screener was part of the questionnaire. This was either an oversight or sloppy design.

The interviewer was working from a very noisy call center and other interviewers could be heard clearly in the background and I am hearing-impaired. This is just bad form. Additionally, the interviewer stumbled through the questionnaire, an indication that she was not familiar with it (rehearsed) and/or poorly trained.

Again, poor form.

And here's the kicker.

I asked the interviewer where she was calling from. 'Manhattan,' she said. Manhattan? Is there such a place in Oregon? 'Manhattan, Kansas?' I asked. 'No. New York. The island. New York City,' she replied.

New York City? New York City?

Couldn't the Lake Oswego City Council find a research firm and call center in greater Portland? I have personally used PSU students and facilities to conduct similar research. Did the city council have to go 2,918 miles to find such services? Why?

Lake Oswego residents are encouraged to shop locally. Use the Farmer's Market held summer weekends. Drink Oregon wine and craft beers. Use local firms whenever possible to do any number of tasks and for any number of services. So why go out-of-state for such a simple research project? One college marketing students could have designed and conducted.

Now, maybe a local firm designed the survey. But why, then, use a fielding service 2,918 miles away? There are call centers right here that could have employed Oregon residents, maybe even Lake Oswego residents.

Shame on the Lake Oswego City Council.

George Veto

Lake Oswego

Editor's note: Jane Heisler, director of public affairs for the city of Lake Oswego responds:

'The Community Survey currently being fielded has been timed at 15 minutes. Many surveys do have screener questions to disqualify marketing, advertising or research employees. Many years ago, the council determined that it did not want to disqualify those individuals because they are first and foremost citizens of the city whose opinions are valued. The city would disqualify those individuals for some types of research, such as focus groups.

'The city's survey contractor chose the call center because it is able to complete the survey on time and to the city's specifications. The call center, however, should not be noisy and the city has discussed this with the contractor in order to correct the problem.'