The need to address bad survey technique

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 21, 2008

The need to address bad survey technique

Many businesses are missing out on vital customer data and insight, and even could be losing potential sales as a result of poor customer survey technique, according to predictive analytics software provider SPSS.

As a result, the company has identified the top five "survey sins" (the most common mistakes) and offers advice on how to avoid them when trying to gather honest customer opinions.

While customer surveys can be a very effective way to collect and analyse customer feedback to help increase consumer satisfaction and retention, poorly designed and implemented surveys can actually do more harm than good, leaving customers confused and disappointed, according to Heena Jethwa, product marketing manager for SPSS.

Five sins - and their fixes The top five survey sins that SPSS identified were as follows:

  1. The consumer trap No matter how much you want your customers to tick the right box, designing questions to guide, mislead, or even trick them will only serve to corrupt the survey's results. The point of any customer survey is to get the honest truth. So avoid emotionally charged words and superlatives such as "crisis", "failure" or "superb" which tend to elicit more strongly emotional responses. Keep the questions simple, clear, unbiased, and fair.  
  2. The boring, the bad, and the ugly Customers are bombarded with feedback requests from companies they deal with. If the request itself is dull or uninspiring, it will usually be overlooked. Time spent making a customer survey look more visually appealing can positively affect the number of participants. Content is always vital, but so is presentation. Include colour where possible (but no more than two, ideally) and use animations, video, or even sound to make an online survey more vibrant and engaging. At the same time, be careful not to make the presentation too 'flashy' or loud for your target audience's preferences.  
  3. Hit and miss Surveying customers via one method only (whether that's on the web, by telephone, or on paper) may seem like a money saver, but it will ultimately minimise the survey's impact and relevance. A variety of survey methods can help capture responses from a wider audience. For example, while internet usage grows by 4% - 10% each year, there are still people who prefer the telephone or printed materials for answering questions. The wider your data collection strategy, and the more choice you give your customers, the more valuable and accurate the resulting insights will be.  
  4. The vague idea Lacking clear objectives will affect the relevance and effectiveness of the survey, and ultimately produce poor results. Keep a clear goal in mind when composing the survey, and make sure you design the research so that it can provide the necessary insight to address your current decision-making needs.  
  5. Falling at the final hurdle After the survey's fieldwork is complete, confusing or badly presented results can mean losing the overall message and insights. Don't lose the survey's effectiveness by cutting corners on analysis and reporting. Clear and concise data will help to reinforce an argument, while unclear data simply raises more questions. And, of course, timely analysis and presentation of the survey's results to everyone who needs the data throughout the enterprise is essential.

Jethwa concluded: "It's surprising that we still see companies making these mistakes. Given the message that a bad survey can send out, those that continue to produce sub-standard surveys should review their strategy urgently. The information that can be harnessed by surveying customers effectively can prove vital in making the right business decisions."

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