`Home     Our Services     Your Resources     News & blog     About us     Contact

Voxco Command Center reviewed

Does a new integrated survey management tool tick all of Tim Macer's boxes?

At the 2006 ESOMAR Congress this month, Voxco will be launching Command Center, an integrated management tool for multiple streams of fieldwork across four different modes. Back in 2003, in a paper I gave at ASC, I proposed an acid test of ten capabilities that any mixed-mode interviewing system should have. Then, there were many claims by producers that they had mixed mode support, but none of the products could tick all the boxes. To date, only a handful has fully embraced them, often with compromises. The hardest to get right is centralised, fieldwork management across all modes, but this is what Command Centre does, par excellence.

The new product sits on top of Voxco's other existing tools for data collection in Cati, Capi web and IVR (automated voice interviewing). It does not actually add any new interviewing or analytical capabilities, but provides a dynamic cockpit offering a 360º view of what is going on in all your research activities.

From here you can create new surveys using the authoring tool, and the same script can be deployed in all modes, of course subject to the logical constraints of the kinds of questions you can ask in each mode. You can define sample, define quotas, assign interviewers if the mode requires it, similarly create email invitations, or voice prompts for IVR, test launch or deploy the survey.

A clean, easy-to-follow web-browser interface provides access to all the components of the suite. In its "Navigation" area, you are presented with a tree structure of all your projects. Here you can initiate new projects, access the questionnaire authoring tool and manage files. The very tight integration means Command Center offers what, for me, is the Holy Grail when authoring, in that what the survey will actually look like in each different mode is always just a single mouse click away.

With authoring, Command Center actually hands you over from Web browser to a Window desktop tool. Currently, there is no web-based authoring, and the developers are unsure to pursue this due to the better performance obtained with a native Windows application, compared to the somewhat hesitant performance that most web-browser authoring tools offer. I admit to being somewhat on the fence on that one. However, it is one area where it would be possible to get out of step with file management, if authoring at a remote site.

Once a survey is live, the tool provides a very rich offering of information and reports on the state of progress of your survey from the "Dashboard" area. This brings drill-down management reporting to researchers, fieldwork managers and even clients. Dashboard presents all the live surveys, and a series of buttons at the top of the window call up different snapshot views, with the option to burrow further into the data if you need to.

From here you can also view and modify quotas across all modes. As Capi works asynchronously on Blackberries and wireless-enabled devices, provided they are in range, even personal interviews can be quota checked in real time. The same applies to callback rules, which can also be defined or refined from Command Center and actioned in real time for specific modes and across all modes.

Monitoring provides capabilities for monitoring interviews, or playing back recordings, if used with Voxco's Pronto telephony solution, either in the office or out and about, and many other supervisory capabilities.

Perhaps the most powerful new feature is the permissions capability, in the set-up area, is the permissions structure. You can define permission sets, which determine the tasks you can perform, from simply looking at reports, up to defining surveys or setting permissions for others; and you can define profiles, which define which projects or sets of projects you can work on. By defining just a handful of permission sets, and a similar number of profiles, it means that the same tool can be used by everyone from CAI programmers, to supervisors, to clients. And although the tool does not yet support Voxco s new cross-tab package, when it does, this opens up possibilities for it to be a data delivery portal too.

Behind all this is a very open database, and Command Center provides direct access to this too, if desired. This is definitely something you would want to restrict access to in the permissions area. It may look simple, but don't be fooled by appearances, as the developers have done an excellent job at hiding the complexity from end-users.

Command Center is offered as an add-on to existing users, as all the tools will also work in standalone mode without it. Given the ease it brings to the whole complicated business of multi-steam and even multi-site interviewing, it's hard to know why anyone would not want to upgrade.

The User View: Michel Lucas, CIO, Decima on Voxco Command Center

Decima Research, one of the largest full-service research agencies in Canada, uses VOXCO software for data collection and analysis, both in its extensive CATI operation and with its 150,000-strong online panel. Michel Lucas, CIO at Decima, and has been trialling the Command Center and aims to move it to production during the autumn.

"We run large call centres, and our origins are in telephone data collection,â?? reports Lucas. â??You need a supplier that can bring a fully automated solution to bear, including automated and predictive dialling, in order to remain competitive in this market place

"For us telephone is still king, though online is coming on very strong. What is important for us about Voxco is that the tools are completely integrated with their dialling solutions. With Command Center we now get all the other tools included too. You can program simultaneously for CATI, CAWI, CAPI and IVR, and see all of those different methodologies used in parallel.

"I believe the industry's views about how quickly we will all migrate to web [data collection] are somewhat overblown. I think we will see more combined methodologies. We are going to see phone-web-phone, or offered as an alternative during a telephone interview. I think that IR has a large place to play, in the coming mix, either as a handoff to a telephone interview or as an alternative method.

"In short, we are going to have to give respondents more options and make it easier for them to share their views. Command Center allows us to do this in a much more centralised and easier-implemented way."

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, September 2006, Issue 484

© Copyright Meaning Ltd 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

Integrated survey management product for designing and administering surveys across all interviewing modes, including mixed mode methodologies, and sharing controlled access with clients, partners and associates..

Ease of use
Cross-platform compatibility
Value for money

Typical annual rental costs: system with 20 CATI stations, 100 concurrent web interviews, and unlimited use of Command Center, approx £20,900 (£9,300 for CATI, £8,100 for web + 20% for Command Center). Volume discounts available.