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Use Prequels and Sequels
To Enhance Survey Results

Companies like the apparent simplicity of using free online survey tools to query large numbers of customers. But, with online surveys you can only ask a few rather simple questions before the respondents lose interest. As a result, you must pose each question carefully so that you will end up with insights, not just data.

Create a prequel

When constructing an online survey, construct a few open-ended questions, and speak with a few potential participants to identify their concerns. Factor in the responses when you compose questions for your online surveys. Your survey will then reflect your participants' perspectives, not yours. In one survey we asked, "Why didn't you purchase ABC's latest upgrade?" Although we listed a dozen possible reasons participants could choose, most selected "Other." They then provided comments that showed that we had not anticipated their real reasons for not buying. If we had had a few conversations with customers, we could have listed some of the real reasons. This would have greatly simplified the survey analysis process.

Create a sequel

Surveys often raise as many new questions as they answer. Assume that 5% of survey respondents do not plan to renew contracts for your products or services. Many are switching to a competitor's products or services. Conduct a few phone interviews to find out why they are leaving. Is it better performance, better pricing, newer technology, or better service? The follow up phone interviews will help you decide on which actions to take to address the problem(s). Again, these actions will reflect customers' concerns, not yours.

Online surveys, phone surveys and in-depth phone interviews can work together to provide you with data plus insights. However, don't forget to test online and telephone questionnaires on potential respondents. People interpret questions in unexpected ways. We can help you with in-depth customer conversations before or after you administer online surveys and help you construct more meaningful survey questions.

More Clichés

After reading last month's article on overused clichés, subscribers suggested other common clichés:

"Disruptive innovation"--Clayton Christensen used this dramatic expression to describe innovations that are priced to be available to the bottom tier of the market, ultimately displacing expensive older top tier products. Examples are cell phones and retail medical clinics, which became more widely available as they became less expensive. Now, companies dub many new devices or services "disruptive innovations" even though they may merely be "sustaining innovations," product extensions, or add-ons.

"Back to the future"--This was the title of a 1985 film in which a young man supposedly meets his future parents when they are all in high school. Besides being trite, this expression is ambiguous in other contexts.

"Do you have the bandwidth to undertake this project?"--Originally the width of a communications channel, "bandwidth" now refers to available time. This expression from the telecommunications industry once sounded hip, but is now overworked.

Market Intelligence for Growing Companies © April, 2013

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