In the past customer satisfaction and market research surveys were mostly conducted by research companies. Today, web and mobile technology, increased processing power, single-version-of-the-truth dashboard reporting and user friendly analytical tools has put the capability to conduct meaningful surveys within the reach of the smallest company or department. But surveying is often misunderstood and misapplied.

Surveys can reduce new product and other risk; generate insights about employees, customers, and markets; and align PR, advertising, and other communications programs with target constituencies. However, if the survey process is managed poorly, it can derail strategy and generate misguided marketing, customer service, and communications plans and damage the business’ reputation.

What is a survey?

The concept of surveys is sometimes used interchangeably with a questionnaire. However, the questionnaire is one element that contains the questions devised for collecting data. A survey is a process in which quantitative information is systematically collected from a relatively large sample taken from a large group of interest, known as a population. It is a research strategy and the underlying principles of a survey therefore are still subjected to research design principles.
A survey has a specific purpose, goals and objectives. The research design is planned, taking in consideration the data collection method and instrument and sample group. Once the data is collected, it is processed and analyzed and the required actions are taken.
Taking all these factors in consideration is important, for example, if a specific survey is targeting a slightly older age group (say, 35 to 44), using social media solely might not be the most appropriate data collection method.

Why survey customers?

Knowing what our customer’s perceptions are of our products or services can help us to make key business decisions and to continuously improve. It is therefore important to take in account that the customer’s perception and objective reality is not the same. Perception can be influenced by external or internal factors. The survey should therefore be comprehensive enough to gain data that reflects the “moment of truth” as accurate as possible, but also concise enough not to lose the interest of the respondent. The key to an effective survey would be eliminating as much interference that may result in biased skewed data in order to ensure the right business decisions are taken.

Over the next few weeks we will explore the survey design process in more detail and focus on what you need to know to get it right.