Are Your Surveys Doing More Harm than Good?

It seems that every single social media platform now includes a survey or polling feature with it. Twitter has twtpoll, PollDaddy has launched a Twitter-specific tool, SocialToo has polling apps for Twitter and Facebook, Zoomerang has a Facebook integrated survey tool, and LinkedIn has their own popular polling application.

More and more companies are deploying surveys and polls to identify issues on how their customers view their products and services. As these survey and polling tools become more prevalent and easier to use, we’re seeing more and more… but the overall quality of the questions and the subsequent results are shrinking. These surveys may actually be doing the companies more harm than good. Writing a bad survey or poll and making decisions on the results can hurt your company.

Here’s an example of a survey I received yesterday:

The problem with this survey question is that it’s vague and requires me to select an option even though I might disagree that any of the responses are true. Since I’ve successfully utilized all but Customer Service, I may be more apt to select Customer Service for my answer. As a result, the company may believe it needs to improve its Customer Service. This is hardly the case… it’s simply the one result that I’m not familiar with.

I’ve also seen polls and surveys abused with companies with high customer turnover. Rather than fix the issues that have been reported over and over with clients who have left, the company hand-selects its own survey questions and responses to concentrate on areas they are comfortable taking action on. So a company with a problem they know is key to their turnover simply avoids asking a question that would spotlight it. Mah.

Obtaining the advice of a customer survey company can help you construct a survey that utilizes best practices and gets higher response rates. Be sure to follow the Walker Information blog – they’ve got a ton of experience and guidance on analyzing customer feedback effectively.

Before you decide to send your next Twitter poll, you may want to get the advice of a professional survey company. They can help you craft your messages, maximize response rates, avoid ambiguous or misleading questions, and understand the error margin on responses.

You may also want to utilize a more robust survey engine. I’m a huge fan of Formstack (not just because they’re friends), but because I can actually develop a dynamic survey. Based on a question’s response, I can lead the survey taker to a new question that digs deeper into their response.


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    I completely agree with you on this, Doug! To further your point, it's worth noting that the vast majority of what passes for research completely ignores the emotional component. Oftentimes, "researchers" are getting what people feel are logical or safe answers. We may say we buy something on price first, but the reality is there is something else driving the decision.

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