A tenant of GeoPoll’s research solutions is the ability to collect data remotely; in 2012 we conducted one of the first-ever remote surveys in the Democratic Republic of Congo via 2-way SMS. We have since expanded our capabilities to conduct research remotely via SMS, mobile web link, mobile application, and voice calls. Despite our vast experience conducting research through remote methodologies, the spread of COVID-19 drove us to quickly adapt to ensure the vital research projects we support – which measure food insecurity, humanitarian needs, and consumer behavior around the world – could continue uninterrupted.
In addition to transitioning all of our offices to work-from-home models, GeoPoll was faced with the task of moving our call centers from centralized locations to fully remote operations. GeoPoll currently oversees over 20 call centers with partners around the globe, and makes tens of thousands of CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) calls each week. While research modes such as SMS and mobile web link can easily be administered remotely by GeoPoll’s at-home teams, there are additional considerations that had to be made when switching live call centers to a more remote model.
Call centers typically include a supervisor and a cadre of interviewers making calls out of a central space, supplied with tablets and mobile phones, internet connectivity, and reliable power. GeoPoll’s call centers are located in countries which may not have reliable internet or power connectivity, which adds an additional challenge to those already presented by moving a team to operate remotely within the span of a few days. However, by the end of March GeoPoll’s team was able to successfully transition all of our call centers to virtual operations without interrupting ongoing data collection. Below are some of the plans we put into place while completing this transition.
Ensuring CATI Interviewers Had Access to Internet, Mobile Networks, and Power
The first step of transitioning interviewers to work from their homes was ensuring they had access to the tools they need to continue work. GeoPoll uses our own proprietary CATI software to administer surveys, which is an adaptable solution designed for use in emerging regions: Interviewers only need the GeoPoll CATI application, a charged mobile phone and tablet, and daily data connection to conduct interviews. The CATI application has an offline mode, allowing interviewers to continue their work even if they are not connected to the internet during the interview.
While transitioning our teams to work from home, GeoPoll conducted an equipment audit for all interviewers, ensuring they had functional devices. We have also provided interviewers with backup power supplies in case of power outages. Due to a lack of stable internet connections in many areas where GeoPoll operates, interviewers are supplied with airtime credits so that data can be synced to the GeoPoll platform mid-day, in the afternoon, and at the end of each day. This allows data to continue to flow through GeoPoll’s platform despite the remote nature of each call center.
Increasing Remote Oversight of Call Centers
A concern over transitioning any team to work from a new environment is the change in or lack of in-person supervision provided when teams are dispersed. GeoPoll already had several processes in place to monitor the performance of call centers, individual interviewers, and projects and is now following an enhanced process to oversee interviewers. This process includes random video checks by supervisors, daily progress monitoring by both call center supervisors and GeoPoll’s senior staff, and our usual automated and manual data quality control checks, which flag any unusual data patterns. GeoPoll also conducts reviews via call recording and call-backs on a percentage of calls in each project.
One of the most important elements of this remote tracking is the GeoPoll dashboard, which automatically provides updates on statistics such as call length, number of calls placed, and completion rates per interviewer. An example of the GeoPoll dashboard can be seen below; it shows a real-time view of project progress and allows GeoPoll to immediately identify any unexpected issues with interviewer performance or data collection.
Supporting Remote Teams and Adapting as Needed
As the coronavirus has spread, GeoPoll has provided our teams with guidance on how to work from home and manage remote workers effectively. We have also shared health guidelines provided by WHO to all employees. Senior GeoPoll team members are in regular contact with call center supervisors and are ready to support where needed. In addition, GeoPoll and our call centers have contingency plans in plans in the case of any employee falls ill or is otherwise unable to work.
GeoPoll recognizes that in a rapidly changing environment there are often unanticipated challenges that arise, and is prepared to adapt our operations to changing situations. We are proud that by remaining flexible and responding quickly to changes, we have been able to continue our operations as normal and provide organizations around the globe with the vital data they need. To learn more about GeoPoll’s remote call centers, please contact us.