Inside My Usability Toolkit: Participant Scheduling

When scheduling participants for a phone study, in-person interview, or moderated usability study, I ALWAYS call them to set up the appointment.

I do this for several reasons:

Test Articulation + Interest

Can I easily understand the participant? Can they speak in coherent sentences? Do they seem enthusiastic about the study? Were they fully honest when completing the screener?

Build Rapport

I prefer to do my own recruiting because I think it saves time, it’s less expensive for my clients (than using a third-party panel), and I can immediately begin to develop rapport with the participant.

Collect Additional Data

At the exact same time I am developing rapport and testing articulation, I can collect additional data about the participant – saving a few minutes of interview time later.

Answer Participant Questions

I try to do anything I can to put the participant at ease and earn their trust. Sometimes participants are suspicious of your intentions. Some aren’t familiar with a certain term (and a learning moment for me!).

More Flexible Scheduling

When scheduling on the phone (rather than back + forth over email), I can be more flexible with the appointment start and stop times — to better accommodate their schedule (or mine).

My Typical Recruiting Process

1. Intercept or Invite Participants to Study

Intercept people from website or email them an invitation to an online survey (the screener).

2. Set Up Introduction Call

I gave up cold calling participants about a year ago, and instead use Calendly to schedule the “introduction” call. From my list of qualified respondents, I email a link to schedule a 10-minute phone call with me. The purpose of the call is to confirm their information and commitment, explain the study, and schedule our session — not conduct the study. That’s later. In the past, for every 30 people I called (those who signed up for the study!), one would actually pick up the phone. And when I did reach them, half the time I inadvertently woken them up or they were in the checkout lane of the grocery store.

Example Introduction Email

Subject line: Schedule [Gratuity Amount] [Brand/Client] Study Hello [name], We’d love to include you in our upcoming 1-hour research study about [topic]. If you’re still interested, please visit [Calendly link] to schedule a quick 10-minute appointment with me. Choose a time that works best for you, and I will call you with more information. In our 10-minute call, I will:

  1. Explain the details of the research study.
  2. Answer any questions.
  3. Schedule a 1-hour appointment with you to conduct the study.

If you participate in our 1-hour study, I will send you [gratuity amount] as a thank you. Thank you so much! I hope that you will be able to participate. Kristine [My contact information]

3. That’s it, It’s Just 2 Steps

After I recruit them, I send confirmation and reminder emails prior to the study.

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Author: Kristine Remer

Kristine Remer is a CX insights leader, UX researcher, and strategist in Minneapolis. She helps organizations drive significant business outcomes by finding and solving customer problems. She never misses the Minnesota State Fair and loves dark chocolate mochas, kayaking, escape rooms, and planning elaborate treasure hunts for her children.