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Setting an Appointment for Sampled Units... Without their Assent

Kreuter, Mercer, and Hicks have an interesting article in JSSAM. In a panel study, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). They note my failed attempt to deliver recommended calling times to interviewers. They had a nifty idea... preload the best time to call as an appointment. Letters were sent to the panel members announcing the appointment.

Good news. This method improved efficiency without harming response rates. There was some worry that setting appointments without consulting the panel members would turn them off, but that didn't happen.

It does remind me of another failed experiment I did a few years ago. Well, there wasn't an experiment, just a design change. We decided that it would be good to leave answering machine messages on the first telephone call in an RDD sample. In the message, we promised that we would call back the next evening at a specified time. Like an appointment. Without experimental evidence, it's hard to say, but it did seem to increase contact rates slightly in this ongoing survey. However, the telephone facility hated it! It stacked up the calling algorithm with tons of appointments. That was the "failure" that I mentioned earlier.

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