Bad questions make for poor customer surveys


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Following on from a recent posting Consumer Research: Poor research approaches give poor answers, I’m starting an occasional posting series looking at surveys (mostly customer surveys) that ask questions unlikely to provide useful and/or accurate information.

Today’s survey is from the Australian Financial Review.  This is a prestigious national newspaper in Australia, similar in focus to the Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times in the UK.

In today’s ( 2 June 2010) edition they ran quite a long customer feedback survey gathering information on a variety of customer needs.  I assume this is to provide feedback to advertisers and themselves.  Most of the survey was pretty straight forward but some of the questions were, I think, not that helpful.

For instance one area of focus for them was employment advertising.

Here they are clearly trying to better understand where consumers look when searching for a job advertisement.  A very good goal.

The problem with both of these question is that even if the consumer has a preference as to where they look, it is not as important as which locations get the best traction.  Readers may well prefer the advertisement to be in the Career section but those same ads may work better, i.e. drive more calls, in the main news pages.

A better approach to answering the question, “where should we place career advertisement”, would be to run a simple test.  Place the same advertisement in different places around the newspaper and see how many calls it produces.

I’m sure the newspaper could find an advertiser willing to offer of their advert for free testing.

This question has similar issues.

What people think makes an advertisement stand out and what actually makes an advertisement stand out are not likely to be the same.  Rather than ask, test.  Try the same content in different configurations to see what is most important.

Have you seen poor survey questions recently?  If so drop me a note in the comments and we can share it here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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