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Surveys seem simple enough. You share questions with your current customers, your past customers, and your potential customers. You hope you get a large number of participants, sometimes luring them in with an incentive, and then you take the most popular results at their word.

But is there more to surveys than that? The national experts at Pew Research Center have noticed a troubling trend: survey response rates are in decline.

“As Americans are now faced with more demands on their time, they are exercising more choice over when and how they can be contacted.” (Pew Research Center).

This can lead to what is called ‘non-response bias.’ Most of us have been asked to take a short survey after a shopping experience, but we often ignore the prompt.

And it’s only natural to do so. The average user having an average experience will typically bypass the survey. The people who choose to respond usually have more extreme results—either very good, or more often, very bad. This means the survey data is non-representative of the general population.

Then there is the question of survey methodology. Many of us tend to offer more positive feedback when surveys are conducted in person or over the phone, while surveys taken via the internet, email, or regular mail will evoke a more neutral response.

Companies also might ask the wrong questions in a survey and therefore not receive any actionable data in order to make changes. For example, they might ask for a rating (excellent, good, fair, poor) and then not be able to determine causes, or see the specific stores or regions needing change.

Finally, if you want to be sure your customers are objective, it helps to have them surveyed by an outside group. Often times when employees are compensated by their survey results, these employees will prepare customers in advance on how to answer their survey when it arrives, skewing the results.

The truth is, it takes time, training and an objective third party to craft well written surveys that will reach desired populations.

Today many haphazard surveys leave companies with responses from only a small margin of their consumers—those consumers with the luxury of time to fill out a survey.

Even if you have the time and money to conduct a wide-reaching, precisely crafted survey, a survey alone cannot share the personal experience of a customer like the immediate data from mystery shopping and other tactics.

So if surveys are your strategy, remember, they’re only the beginning.  

To start diversifying your consumer intelligence strategy, contact Shoppers’ View today.