I just finished a lengthy (20 min.) survey regarding a recent vacation, only to have my input erased due to technical issues. Getting a lot of this lately.
Marketers have become entranced by the ability to survey consumers at very low cost. This is a seeming game-changing alternative to custom studies that can easily get into 4 or 5 figures or more. Technology has made it possible to survey via email, phone and even in restrooms!
What’s not to like?
Well, as a consumer, I’ll tell you what’s not to like. We are getting surveyed to death. Ironically, more surveys might be leading to lower quality insights.
If, like The Armchair MBA, you use your inbox as a de facto filing tool, search for ‘survey’ or ‘what do you think’ or ‘your opinion’ and see what you get.
The answer is: lots. In addition to follow-up questions on every Amazon purchase, flight segment, taxi, Uber or car rental you take, everyone is getting into the act.
The dangers of over-surveying are:
- Response rate/burnout. The more surveys people receive, the fewer they’re likely to fill out. This reduces the number of qualified respondents.
- Bias. Just as you don’t want to use the plumber who’s always available, you don’t want to hear just from respondents who always have time to fill out online surveys.
- Response quality. More surveys = less time per survey. Responses that are rushed are more likely to be cursory and of low quality, particularly late in a survey.
- Annoyance. A company that always has its hand out for info is going to wear out its welcome, or minimally get diminishing response.
All of these things can result in worse, rather than better, information.
So here are a few things you can do to maximize the usefulness of your surveys.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In short, don’t survey if you don’t need to. Make the surveys you do conduct meaningful. Maximize use of info you already have. If you’re tracking attitudes over time, make sure you’re asking in a way where the trends are valid. Again, avoid unnecessary surveying just for the sake of surveying. This makes the surveys you send stand out more.
- Keep it short. No one has time for lengthy, repetitive surveys. Promise brevity in your subject line or where it will show as a thinly disguised plea in the preview pane.
- Offer something in return. This can be free goods, discounts, a chance to win a prize, whatever. Again, get this across in the subject line or preview area or it doesn’t matter. Brevity + bribery is a good combination.
4. Promise to share results of the survey. This is the researcher’s click-bait, especially if it’s something of high interest. Related, give the respondent some level of belief that the results will actually result in something good being done.
5. Flatter the potential respondent. ‘We’d like your expert opinion’, etc. As long as Pride is still one of the Seven Deadly Sins, this will have some effect.
And finally, tip #6 – – don’t put a push-button survey machine in a restroom.