Interview With Chris Fanning, President & CEO of SSI

Chris Fanning

Chris Fanning

Brief background of Chris Fanning: Chris Fanning, 52, is president and chief executive officer of SSI.His responsibilities include managing the business for growth and profitability, creating a strategic vision for the company, and establishing goals and instilling accountability in the organization to meet those goals.Fanning joined SSI in February 2012 as chief operating officer, becoming president and CEO in June 2012. He lives in Westport, Conn. with his family and enjoys playing and coaching sports, photography, and reading history books, biographies and mystery fiction.

Akshay Kanyal: Can you briefly describe your current responsibilities and how your professional background has helped in full filling them?

Chris Fanning: I’m the president and CEO of SSI responsible for managing the overall company which includes setting strategic direction, driving marketplace performance and achieving financial goals.  My 30-year career in technology and general management provides me a great deal of knowledge and experience in transforming and leading technology companies to the next level of business performance.

SSI is a data solutions and technology company for consumer and business-to-business survey research, reaching respondents in 100+ countries via Internet, telephone, mobile/wireless and mixed-access offerings.  We operate from 30 offices in 21 countries, offering sample, data collection, CATI, questionnaire design consultation, programming and hosting, online custom reporting and data processing.

Akshay Kanyal: What are some of the areas that need immediate attention to prepare your company – especially in context with rapidly changing business dynamics?

Chris Fanning: SSI has a clear focus on four areas that are fundamental to success in the marketplace; people, panels, technology and global presence.  Our proprietary panels are our most important assets.  Continuing to grow the size, breadth and depth of our 11.5 million respondent-strong global panels to ensure broad access to diverse and hard-to-reach audiences is always a top priority.  Last year, SSI completed more than 32 million surveys.

As we grow globally, our investments in technology enable us to achieve seamless operational scale while delivering a consistent product to the market.  We also invest a great deal in innovative product areas like mobile and data analytics as these areas drive the longer-term future and will enable SSI to better deliver value to our customers.

Marketers and research professionals have an increasing need to understand consumers in more markets, especially emerging markets.SSI will continue to expand its industry leading global footprint and organization so that our global product and service capabilities continue to be competitive advantages.

SSI people make the difference. Our top priority is to find, attract and retain the best people in the industry.

We look to execute on this set of priorities through organic growth. And we are continuously evaluating acquisitions that will make our company stronger. SSI’s recent acquisition of MRops demonstrates our commitment to improve operational excellence in high-quality market research and building out our capability in B2B research, and healthcare and management consulting sectors.

Akshay Kanyal: How are you ensuring a seamless marriage between technology and research at SSI?

Chris Fanning: SSI has been able to achieve a seamless marriage between technology and research by investing and optimizing SSI’s single, integrated technology platform, and by investing in newer technology applications such as mobile.  SSI’s integrated platform enables us to deliver very high quality deliverable within industry leading turnaround times, and to do so with a very high degree of consistency of results – all very important needs of our customers.

SSI’s ability to efficiently manage the industry’s largest portfolio of proprietary online and mobile panels enables us to provide the solutions our customers increasingly require.

Akshay Kanyal: What are some of the common challenges you face on a recurring basis to provide value to your clients?

Chris Fanning: The challenges we face as an industry stem from evolving consumer preferences and changing behaviors when it comes to survey research.  More and more respondents are choosing mobile — tablets and smartphones — as their preferred mode for answering survey questions.  And they’re more distracted than ever, so they have little patience for long, complicated surveys.

The overall industry is not keeping up with this shift by re-designing and supplying shorter,more engaging mobile-friendly surveys.  Additionally, those companies owning proprietary panels such as SSI must be able to more effectively leverage their profiling and technology platforms to augment survey results with previously derived respondent information.

Surveys in general, and mobile surveys specifically, will be better constructed and tested at SSI by using our technology and diagnostic SSI QuestTest tool.  QuestTest tests for survey errors, questionnaire length and mobile friendliness, and offers recommendations on how to improve surveys to increase their effectiveness and reduce their overall time to complete.  SSI is investing a great deal in a number of technology areas that will ultimately deliver value to our customers.

Akshay Kanyal: In the coming 5 years what opportunities and threats you foresee for online data collection methodology?

Chris Fanning: I think the next five years in data collection will be shaped by four trends: mobilization, globalization, visualization and privacy.  In mobilization we will see the industry move beyond active mobile survey data collection into passive data collection applications, behavioral metering and a few other early-stage areas.

The two forms of data that will need to be integrated in order to provide the deepest, most complete understanding of the consumer will be determining why people behave how they do and when they do.  This will require a much deeper understanding of choices people make and preferences people express at various times throughout their day, and/or the place and environment where they make these choices.

Of course, what works in large, mature markets around the world, will not always work in new and emerging markets.

Data collection companies that succeed in the future must have strong local knowledge and expertise in collecting data in these new markets backed by a global platform that brings it all together in a consistent, understandable manner.  Which leads to the next trend of presenting data in new ways to make it more understandable, relatable and actionable.

Data visualization will continue to evolve and grow as a “nice-to-have” and as a true differentiator for reporting data.

Finally, privacy and data protection will be a business imperative for all market researchers.  Stricter rules on data privacy are now a reality and only those companies that have secure technology and foresight to proactively invest and manage compliance, guidelines and standards will survive over the next five years.

Akshay Kanyal: In which direction you are planning to take SSI ahead in the coming years?

Chris Fanning: SSI will continue to be the leading global data solutions company for market researchers well into the future by growing and investing in superior panels, people and technology.  We are at the forefront of mobile research innovation, respondent engagement, data quality and privacy. For 38 years, SSI provided unparalleled service to its clients who have come to expect only the best quality data and attention to detail from the market leader in survey research.

SSI_LogoAbout SSI:  SSI is the premier global provider of sampling, data collection and data analytic solutions for consumer and business-to-business survey research, reaching respondents in 86 countries via Internet, telephone, mobile/wireless and mixed-access offerings.  SSI staff operates from 25 offices in 18 countries, offering CATI, questionnaire design consultation, programming and hosting, online custom reporting and data processing.  SSI’s 3,300 employees serve more than 3,000 clients worldwide.  Please visit SSI at

akshay kanyalAkshay Kanyal writes survey research reviews on his popular blog Online MR. He’s an avid blogger, brand consultant and a content marketing expert, helping business owners to craft content that sells.

He provides content marketing advice to start-ups and innovation driven companies. He can be contacted at

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