Dub it the all-rounder

Tim Macer can't quite dub it the King of MR Software, but NEBU's Dub Interviewer might give other beefier solutions a run for their money.

There was a time when CATI was about collecting data, then came bells and whistles such as diallers to add productivity and relational database integration.
But now one tiny Dutch software company has a completely different take on productivity: don’t just accelerate your processes, know what you are doing through better planning and better productivity measurement. NEBU’s Dub Interviewer could be dubbed the all-seeing all-knowing CATI system. Years ago, it was NEBU that pioneered handheld CAPI on Apple Newtons, and when Apple killed off NEBU’s product, the firm migrated it to a more enduring kit, adding CATI and web functionality.
NEBU says it aims to offer 98% of the capabilities of more expensive high-end CATI packages but without the complexity. Currently, I’d put it between 85 and 95%. The questionnaire design module is certainly attractive to use, with simple uncluttered screens and many novel features. When setting up routing, for each question it shows not only where respondents will variously be routed to next but also the different routes into the current question. Language translation is also a breeze.
There is a SQL Server database behind the Dub Interviewer, making it easy to change surveys mid-flight, and the package includes version tracking to automate the whole process of making changes – also useful on continuous studies.
Java-based survey delivery means visually attractive interview screens, letting remote interviewers work over intranet or internet connection. But it makes monitoring on screen tricky (you need PC Anywhere – far from seamless). Neither is there any support for sound recording or playback, and data export is limited if you don’t use SPSS.
A lot of the system’s merit is in how it relates to the other modules. PanelMan, NEBU’s panel management solution makes it effortless to pass pre-existing data into the survey, such as profile information or answers from previous surveys – and it is just as easy to pass information back again. As the entire model is variable based, it is simply a matter of adding a new variable to the panel database, and attaching this to the interview.
PanelMan has a powerful ‘statistics’ capability that lets you examine the composition of panels as well as usage and response data for panel members.
NEBU's Dub interviewer, PanelMan and PlanMan
Pros
  • Flexible system with integrated panel
  • Sophisticated planning and productivity management suite
  • Brilliant interviewer shift-booking tool
Cons
  • On-screen monitoring of interviewers poorly supported
  • Limited data exports
  • System not built for big multi-site organizations
But the statistics assume only one master user of the sample system: larger organizations would struggle to use the solution as it stands.
PlanMan is the name of the call centre planning management tool. It does just about everything you need to keep a busy interview centre functioning – helping fill shifts and working out the payroll figures. Filling shifts is a dream, as the solution is web-enabled and java-based. Interviewers can log on from anywhere to offer availability by clicking on an on-screen matrix. Supervisors then allocate interviewers to projects and even notify them of assignments by email.
It's a mature and highly developed tool that streamlines one of the messiest jobs in the business – designed for when the project from hell gets extended by a week and it’s all hands on deck.
Quality and performance are at the heart of PlanMan’s productivity recording and reporting capabilities. Unlike most CATI-driven productivity tools, this is focused on the individual. Supervisors can record soft statistics from a range of user-definable criteria, such as sticking to the script, politeness or punctuality, attendance. The system also records the hard data such as completes per hour, and colour-coding an individual’s performance in relation to the whole group for ease of observation. The tool bristles with valuable data, allowing call centre managers to keep a firm grip on costs and profitability.
Blauw ContactCenter is an independent fieldwork organization in The Netherlands that switched to using NEBU three years ago for CATI and planning and management – attracted by the value the package offered, comparing cost with flexibility.
Sanne Krom, account manager at Blauw, commends the system for its ease in providing productivity data at any level, from a six month overview down to an individual interviewer’s performance. “The main advantage of using a good project management system is you make good calculations in advance. When the project is finished you can compare this with the hours.”
The interviewer management tool turned out to be a welcome development. “Our planning department was quite sceptical in the beginning,” says Krom. “But within half a year the negative stories stopped. I’d say it saves the supervisors at least two hours a day. It’s not so much the time it saves as the margin for error, which is significantly less.”
NEBU’s GUI interface allows Blauw’s execs to create surveys without needing specialist programmers. Krom explains: “Almost anyone can do quite complex questionnaires. An experienced programmer could do a questionnaire quicker in the older script-based systems, but if you use the function which imports Word documents into questionnaire format, scripting is easily as fast.”
While NEBU’s previous Paradox database version caused a few headaches at Blauw, the new SQL Server version has proved very stable. Dub Interviewer and NEBU Office Suite will not appeal to every organization. But the beauty of this system is that the two parts are independent. Both are very open and can be wrapped around other technologies.

NEBU: www.nebu.com

Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist and advisor in software for market research. His website is at www.meaning.uk.com

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, March 2002, Issue 430.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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