Making surveys less rubbish

Research Live has returned to the topic of poor research surveys again today.

And all credit to them for keeping the topic alive, as rubbish surveys continue to give us all a bad name. The ‘respondent experience’ is so central to everything we do, yet so widely overlooked.

But I’d take issue with a few points.

Firstly, it’s wrong to correlate the quality of the questionnaire with the amount of time spent preparing it. Some of the very worst surveys are those that have been continually revised by committees of ‘stakeholders’ over weeks. These are often the same surveys that lose sight of the people who matter – the ‘respondents’ (or users, as other industries would call them.)

Secondly, the idea that there is a straight choice between surveys and online communities is totally misguided. It’s like the old quant v qual debate all over again. Used well, each are important tools in our toolkit, delivering very different types of consumer knowledge and inspiration. (And used badly, both can be a complete waste of money.)

And thirdly, gamification is one of the things we can do to improve engagement. But it’s not the only thing. We now have so many new ways of making surveys engaging and – dare I say it – enjoyable, it’s a bit depressing to see the old researcher lemming effect kicking in again.

One thing we all agree on – as an industry, every rubbish survey hurts and shames us and we must do better.


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