A View from Blue Grotto

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Just miles away from Hong Kong

Like everyone else on the planet Earth, I LOVE earning frequent flier miles. So when Northwest Airlines emailed an invitation to join e-Miles® Miles for Minutes® to answer on-line market research surveys for partnering companies, I jumped at the chance. The surveys take only a minute or two to answer and ask a series of questions, ranging from relevancy to your interests or needs, to specific questions about which cruise line is featured in the pop-up advertisement, with a multiple choice list to select from. As if testing to see if you really read the advertisement copy for Oceania Cruises.

Survey completion nets you, on average, 5 miles. Sometimes I receive a survey worth 10 or 15 miles. Jackpot! When you accumulate 500 miles, you can make a deposit into your WorldPerks account. With some surveys only three questions long, it’s very little effort to bank some miles. So little effort that every other survey I feel guilty not providing feedback of real value. On three different occasions I have emailed the folks at e-Miles® and told them so. Urging them to urge their partners to draft surveys that give context to my responses.

I found out I’m not the only one concerned at the lack of qualitative research in these “research” strategies when I came across Jeanne Bliss’ presentation How to Become a Consumer Action Hero in 10 Steps. Bliss suggests that common customer surveys are designed to fail, with the emphasis put on achieving a certain score. She argues that “Any time a business asks a customer how they’re doing, it should be for the purpose of doing something with that information.” Number six, on her list of actionable suggestions is: Don’t ask any question without knowing how you’ll use the answer. Bliss reaffirms my frustration – I am taking the time to answer these silly surveys (though I’m grateful for the chance to get closer to a free trip to Hong Kong) and I’m not sure that you really care about the answers. In my opinion, the silly survey may garner you a deficit in customer satisfaction – demonstrating you already have an answer in mind, and you hope I will cooperate. Companies are essentially training customers to give Pavlov responses.

In Blue Grotto’s knowledge management work, we are often called upon to shore up a client’s collective knowledge to be used in strategic planning, branding, communications, etc. Email me with your approach to acquiring feedback from your stakeholders – customers, employees, vendors – and more importantly, how you use it.

For a copy of Jeanne Bliss’ full presentation:
I also liked #10 on the list: Redirect that survey budget.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.