Editor’s note: Guy Wates serves as director of operations and programmatic at Measure Protocol, London. 

I’ve spent the last decade of my career as a sample buyer with both GfK and Zappi. But today I find myself again dealing in the lifeblood of the market research industry: respondents.In truth, so much has changed that the industry seems almost unrecognizable. When I originally worked on the supply side, it was well before efficiency was at scale. Since then, pressure to reduce costs and increase speed have caused a hyper-focus on ways to achieve efficiency. But are we looking in the right places to achieve this end?

It is clear that automation in online sampling is a good thing. However, using it as a short-term solution has long-term consequences that must be considered. Here's why:

It's not that great to be a respondent. And the good ones who want to participate honestly and get paid fairly are leaving in droves. Budgets are spent trying to subject new respondents to the same, broken ecosystem instead of using funds to find a better way. We're left with ever-increasing pools of respondents who have self-selected to stay engaged in this system and learn behaviors on how to get one over on us. We shouldn't ponder why we see some quality issues in our industry.

I’m the first to admit that during my decade of work on the buyer side, I fueled the problem by not truly thinking about the real people behind the CPI. Now on the other side, I can see that we need to act or face a future where we have no one to share opinions and data with our industry. (The frog in a pan of slowly boiling water metaphor comes to mind.)

We should be seeking a different kind of efficiency that is designed to drive participation in research back up and, therefore, boost quality as well. The solution starts with the user experience. Everyone in the value chain has a part to play, from the panel company to the res...