We can work it out

Throughout our decade of conducting the reader survey for our annual Q Report we’ve only asked a handful of questions specifically about client-side readers’ relationships with their vendor/agency partners (which, if you think about it probably means that the state of client/agency interaction is pretty good), choosing instead to focus more on methods and techniques and any other topics that are top-of-mind at the moment (like, say, a pandemic!).

When we have reported on readers’ open-end comments, it’s of course the pithy or critical ones that stand out. But it’s important to note that there historically have been just as many responses in which readers express happiness, harmony and gratitude for their relationships with their vendors.

In other words, despite what you are about to read, clients generally view their vendors and agencies as partners and colleagues – which is especially clear when you attend the vendor-client-led presentations at our Quirk’s Events and other industry conferences.

With that as a preamble, here is a collection of client-side researcher comments on vendors from the past few years of Q Report survey responses!

There is a real gap between what our vendors can understand about our business and business challenges and what my internal clients need. That gap creates a challenge when translating our business objectives to a research objective and vendors simply are not good at making that connection. I wish they could understand our needs and drivers better so that they could offer better recommendations from the research. Now, all vendors like to make recommendations but they are either super obvious and just a regurgitation of the data or simply not useful and totally ignored.

I would love vendors to understand our business better. Every vendor meeting starts with "so tell me what you do currently." It would be revolutionary for a vendor to come in and say "Here is what I understand about your business and here are some ideas for how our tools can help you." To date, all discussions have been me telling them how they can help us (or not). 

I wish research vendors would believe me when I tell them that our customers are hard to find. During intros and capabilities presentation, they tell me they can find hard-to-reach respondents. Then when I ask them to bid on a project, they take forever to let me know that they no longer can do it because the customer segment is too hard to find. I feel like I've wasted my time in screening and listening to their presentations. 

To be honest, in the last few years I have seen a drastic decrease in the quality and care of account management on the vendor side. A sense of service and partnership has really gone out the window. They are quite interested in selling me things but not that interested to see that the work is being done properly or the results meet basic QC reqs. This is a barrier to everything at the moment.

“I would like a larger discussion on why costs vary so wildly sometimes and why vendors do not do a better job of communicating the value that I'll receive if I pay a higher price for their service.” 

They need to hire higher-level people and stop thinking that reporting is a low-level job. It’s the actual product they sell.

We are sometimes stalled by internal procurement who doesn't understand that research is not a commodity. It would help if our vendors could provide materials for corporate purchasing departments that explain that they are reasonably priced but why they are not necessarily the cheapest. I need their help to explain to others what makes their particular shops a better fit for us and why they are worth more. 

“I am bombarded with cold calls and e-mails on a daily basis. It makes it difficult to sift through the options. All communication should include info on the company, a presentation of capabilities and use cases/white papers.”

Quit selling me your whole “suite” of products/offerings and don't assume I simply manage projects and know nothing of research.

I would like to improve communication around timing and what is and is not feasible. I feel like many vendors say "yes" too often because they don't want to lose the business. However, sometimes they are over-promising and under-delivering. 

The vendors we're worked with have been VERY responsive via e-mail, which is a huge bonus for us.

I have no issue communicating with vendors. I am very transparent about what I want and expect. I want vendors to be more rigorous and make more effort to dig for insights that make a difference in my business.

Would like tried and true vendors to be more innovative and new vendors with innovative products better understand our industry.

Know our business, not cold-call or e-mail telling us what they do. Try to cater pitches to help us be more efficient.

Stop sending so many cold e-mails
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [That’s 34 exclamation points! – Ed.]

I wish they understood the need to keep pricing consistent and affordable. We cannot afford constant price increases like we are usually seeing.

Better coordination on the vendor side so I am not contacted by multiple people from the same company; or by the SAME PERSON multiple times who clearly forgets that we have already spoken or corresponded. That drives me nuts!

I think we're pretty good with vendor communication and management in general. If anything, I find that vendors are sometimes less responsive than we would like, or when issues come up there can be a tendency to sit on it and then come to us with a decision already made (or worse, acted on) without keeping us in the loop. We get it, stuff happens and things go wrong. But it's definitely a pet peeve when a significant issue arises and we are not informed until a decision is already made on what to do about it, especially if that decision has downstream implications we're not okay with.

“Vendors continue to lack the ability to tie together relevant facts into a coherent SHORT story. Twain once said, ‘If I had had more time I would have written you a shorter letter.’ Nine times out of 10 we get a data dump and that's it, even after coaching the vendor as to what we want.”

Stop spamming me. I started out trying to be polite and say "no thanks" to all of them. Then I found out that if I respond, it only gets worse. Send your boilerplate cold-call e-mail twice. If I found it interesting I'll respond. Don't call the company switchboard and call me out of the blue – it's not persuasive, it's invasive.

“Stop trying to sell and listen!!! Please! And don’t tell me you are innovative or a GRIT top 50 company – I want real research solutions, not a sales pitch.”

I am really busy and wish my vendors would remember to provide enough background information to quickly address questions or issues that arise. Often we have an initial meeting, followed by the vendor pulling some additional information we need to make decisions, then meeting again to make a decision.

Our only research vendor is Qualtrics. We use their survey platform. It would be nice to have one account rep who knows us and how we use the platform, and who stays in the job longer than two months. Every time we need to talk with our rep, it's someone new and they know nothing about us. We have to spend time educating them about our needs each time before they can help us.

“Stop thinking that your black box is some great secret sauce. Almost all of it is known, papers published, open-source R code available, etc.”

I appreciate being able to reach out for a phone call to get a pre-RFP sense of capabilities, ballpark costs and timing. 

What's happening during the RFP process? Feels like the RFP goes out, then falls into a black hole until the vendor decides to respond. Are they talking it over? Letting it sit? Waiting for a dept to respond?

Stop trying to only sell us on the high-level benefit and ROI. We already know and believe in that. Vendors must convince us that they will deliver by showing what they will actually do, how they do it, the tool capabilities or differentiation from what others/we ourselves can do. 

We (in corporate research) have to pull plugs, change directions, do things that seem to make no sense, based on our internal demands and pressures. Sometimes I think vendors don't quite get that – they think we're bad clients when we're actually bobbing and weaving the best we can. Also, there are many wonderful research companies and we don't have enough work to go to everyone we think highly of. It's hard on the other side, but when we don't give you a job it may have absolutely no reflection on how highly we think of you.

Pretty satisfied with the research vendors I'm currently working with, but one potential area we could improve on even more is additional ongoing communication for them to further understand our internal issues and be empowered to make decisions and take responsibility on projects they are running without having to get direction from us on every little nuance. (Basically, become even more of a trusted partner and an extension of our research department.)

I want to always be up on the latest techniques, options, etc. Just because it is the latest does not necessarily mean it is the best, but I need to be able to refute as well as learn and grow.

Sometimes we put out an RFP and we are surprised by what we get back. Some are clearly not doing their research on our company and audience. We even had one that had the wrong organization name. Attention to detail, common sense and easy to work with/responsive are all very important attributes. 

“Some research vendors overcommunicate with us. When we indicate early in the year that we anticipate a need in December, they check with us monthly to see if that has changed. Believe me, if anything about the project timeline had changed, I would have let them know.”


The Q Report work life and salary and compensation study of end-client/corporate researchers is based on data gathered from an invite-only online survey sent to pre-qualified marketing research subscribers of Quirk’s. The survey was fielded from May 24 to July 10, 2023. In total we received 1,969 usable qualified responses of which 707 were from end-client researchers and used for this end-client report. An interval (margin of error) of 2.17 at the 95% confidence level was achieved for the entire study. (Not all respondents answered all questions.)