A Test of Responsive Virtual Human Technology as an Interviewer Skills Training Tool
Link, M., Armsby, P., Hubal, R., & Guinn, C. (2002). A Test of Responsive Virtual Human Technology as an Interviewer Skills Training Tool. In Proceedings of the Survey Research Methods Section, American Statistical Association
Research on survey non-response suggests that advanced communication and listening skills are among the best strategies telephone interviewers can employ for obtaining survey participation, allowing them to identify and address respondents' concerns immediately with appropriate, tailored language. Yet, training on interaction skills is typically insufficient, relying on role-playing or passive learning through lecture and videos. What is required is repetitive, structured practice in a realistic work environment. This research examines acceptance by trainees of an application based on responsive virtual human technology (RVHT) as a tool for teaching refusal avoidance skills to telephone interviewers. The application tested here allows interviewers to practice confronting common objections offered by reluctant sample members. Trainee acceptance of the training tool as a realistic simulation of "real life" interviewing situations is the first phase in evaluating the overall effectiveness of the RVHT approach. Data were gathered from two sources -- structured debrief questionnaires administered to users of the application, and observations of users by researchers and instructors. The application was tested with a group of approximately fifty telephone interviewers of varying skill and experience levels. The research presents findings from these acceptance evaluations and discusses users' experiences with and perceived effectiveness of the virtual training tool.