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Survey Says… March 4, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
Tags: , , ,

Most people are shocked to learn that I like to give my opinion on things.  Normally reluctant to speak out, with a little prodding I can come up with a viewpoint on almost anything.  Given my natural desire to share, it’s also not surprising to learn that I like to fill out surveys.

Most surveys.  Well-written surveys are fun to fill out, and provide the illusion that someone cares about what I have to say.  I always volunteer to be on a customer feedback list and am actually registered with several online survey companies that periodically send me surveys.  I take my role as a shaper of public thought seriously.

That is, until I get sent a lousy survey.  You’ve all seen them.  For some reason, they tend to be attached to subscription renewal forms, wherein I have to describe my budget and spending habits in excruciating detail.  Who writes these surveys?  Who actually uses the results?

They start out simple enough.  A few questions about your business, gross revenue, employees, etc.  Then you get hit with an enormous chart listing two hundred different technology areas.  For each area, you need to provide your projected spending, ranging from $0 to $10,000,000, divided into 15 or 20 buckets.  Good grief!  I don’t know!  And I’m in charge of this stuff!  We’ll spend what we need to spend, as the business needs it.  Just the act of clicking on each item and selecting the range makes my wrists hurt.

Having waded through all that, you then get hit with comparison questions, having you compare one vendor with another on attributes like “trustworthy,” “humble,” and “good with children.”  For each attribute, you get to make Solomonic distinctions between “strongly agree,” “adamantly agree,” and “insistent.”

Even for a hard-core survey-taker like me, getting through this is tough.  I often punt a survey half-way through, leaving me to wonder if my partial answers were counted.  All things considered, I have to wonder if there is any statistical validity to the results when all is said and done.  Most of these things are clearly written by marketing people with no direct exposure to the technology they address.  I have to assume their understanding of statistics is similarly limited.

I do like the idea of these people sitting around a big table, lattes in hand, poring over the results.  Imagine the discussion: “Brandi, why do 77.293% of our customers ‘reluctantly admit’ that we are less likely to ‘offer actionable solutions’ than our competitors?”  “I don’t know, Geoff, but look on the bright side: 58.909% are ‘unwilling to dispute’ that we ‘bring fresh perspectives’ to the market.”

Here’s my fresh perspective: I want to keep filling out surveys, if companies make them sensible, short, and easy to fill out.  On that, I strongly agree.


1. abbielundberg - March 4, 2009

Spot on – these surveys are ridiculously complicated to construct and analyze, and the results turn out to be more or less meaningless. But they do tend to get the vendors all riled up….

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