Applying quality standards to market research organisations
Europe has witnessed an upsurge of interest in setting quality standards for a varied range of service industries recently. Market research, of course, has not escaped.
The industry recognises that it needs to identify minimum service standards in the wider context of Europe to supplement and extend quality assurance systems (e.g. ISO 9001). Even though such means standards are applied consistently, unfortunately they do not define at what levels these should be applied (self-set standards can be high or low).
Companies and individuals with experience or knowledge of ISO 9001 accreditation know that, irrespective of whether a company has this standard or not, there needs to be a quality system structure to act as a framework for progressing and monitoring the service standard requirements.
All sides of the UK research industry have come together to agree the first quality service standard for market research - published by The Market Research Quality Standards Association (MRQSA). The Association, whose members are organisations representing all of the major parts of the market research industry, was set up to develop minimum standards across the market research process and make arrangements for independent assessment of organisations against these standards.
The MRQSA service standard includes an element of quality assurance, together with minimum standards for data collection, data processing and the executive elements of research, topics which are explained in more detail below.
Managing the Executive Element of Research
As the title suggests, this covers tasks generally carried out by research executives and project managers. This, therefore, includes; working with clients, preparing proposals, research design and discussion guide drafting, recruitment questionnaire preparation and moderation.
Taken from the IQCS standard, this includes the recruitment process, recruiter training and recruitment validation.
Analysis of qualitative field work falls under this heading. The rest of the items covered under data processing relate to quantified studies and include service standards for editing, coding, data entry and DP output.
Remember, the MRQSA service standard has been developed to provide minimum requirements for quality assurance. Alternatively the quality assurance requirements can be fully met with accreditation to ISO 9001.
In designing MRQSA, the market research industry wishes to keep the fullest possible flexibility as far as elegibility criteria. To this end, so as not to deter non accredited ISO 9001 companies from being certified as producing recognised qulaity research, a framework quality assurance system has been specified within MRQSA. In this way both ISA 9001 registered and non-registered companies can be assessed to the same MRQSA service standards.
Applying Quality Standards to Market Research Organisations
The service standard is voluntary in application, but gives organisations the opportunity to be recognised as complying with a specified set of market research industry processes. The first edition was published in January 1996. Later editions incorporate amendments recommended to, and approved by, the MRQSA Council.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, December 1999
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 1999