Polling at the POP

I have been offered short surveys during checkout (i.e. POP: Point of Purchase) several times in the last few months at several retail stores. One such example is at Wal-Mart (okay, they could have been doing this for a while, but I don’t shop there frequently). The screen just asked one question: “Was the cashier friendly today?” I heard from someone else that they asked if the bathrooms were clean (must be a low incidence rate: how many people actually use the restroom in Wal-Mart?).

I think that it is a good idea to solicit feedback as close to the moment of the interaction that they’re trying to measure, but is it too close? The cashier must know that they’re being (formally) evaluated on the spot. I think the value of this particular survey may be to encourage the cashier to act nice since they know they’re being evaluated rather than truly measuring overall satisfaction or performance. As a former retail manager, trying to encourage employees to be “on” at all times with with customers can be a challenge.

Does anyone know how this data is used? Does it directly impact the employee (do they see their results)?

I’ve been SUGGED!

As we’ve discussed previously, it has become a popular sales technique to get a foot in the door by posing as a no-strings-attached research study, and then transitioning to the hard sell. (This is called SUGGING, or Selling Under the Guise of Research.) I’ve recently moved to a new neighborhood, and I’m finding that it’s a hot spot for door-to-door marketing tactics of all kinds. I get fliers left in the screen door by the ton, weekly visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now the traveling salesmen. Salesmen in researcher’s clothing, as it were. Read on.

Earlier this week I answered my door to find a well-dressed man holding a box of baking soda. He asked if I was the lady of the house (who says that kind of stuff anymore? clearly, this should have been a clue …) and proceeded to hand me the baking soda and tell me he gets paid for getting my opinion about a product. As I was wondering, “How does one evaluate baking soda?”, he sprinted away calling over his shoulder that he’d be right back with the product, and I was left on my stoop, somewhat dumbfounded, holding a box of baking soda and watching a grown man run down my sidewalk in slacks and a button-down. He was back in a flash with a box and a friend, and before I knew what was going on, he had a vacuum cleaner assembled in the middle of my two-week-old living room carpet. Then guy number one was out the door (off to the next house) and the new guy was sticking filters in a window box on the vacuum and showing me what was coming out of my new carpet (mostly dog hair), then my couch (horrifying!), and then my mattress (ew!). I was kinda digging the couch cleaning because I’ve got a thrift store number that dates to at least the 60’s and he was doing a really thorough job. And because I’m obviously the most naïve person imaginable, (and in my defense it was my first encounter with the door-to-door salesmen) I was thinking, “This is great! When do I get the questionnaire to fill out?!”

But as you may suspect – and to my great disappointment – there was no questionnaire. There was only a price worksheet with available payment plans for this industrial quality vacuum, which retails for just shy of $2,000 (!), and, of course, includes the carpet shampoo kit, etc. And not only that, but purchasing the vacuum will help the salesman (in researcher’s clothing) to win a contest for which the prize is a trip to Phoenix (!) to hobnob with company executives. Now, I understand that Phoenix in the summer is a top vacation destination, so I can imagine the desire this man has to win the competition. However, under no circumstances (and I say this despite my obsession with cleaning and my newfound awareness of the filth in my home) am I going to purchase a $2,000 vacuum cleaner! So I politely, but firmly, declined and sent the nice men on their way.

What I’ve learned is this: If a strange man solicits your opinion with a box of baking soda (which, by the way, was ground into my carpet and then sucked back out for purposes of demonstration) do not get your hopes up for a survey! These door-to-door “researchers” are already confident that you will like their product; all they want to know is whether you can be convinced to buy it!

They get one right

In a recent post, Auto Dealers and their Research, I chastised businesses that try to sway customer surveys in order to look good, without trying to learn anything from the research.

Well, to be fair, I want to offer some praise for something they recently got right. I recently made several trips to my auto dealer to fix a minor problem under warranty. Four trips into the process it still hadn’t been fixed and on each trip, their “repairs” were causing more damage. I got a survey, filled it out online with my experience and provided my contact information. Less than two days later, I received a phone call from the service manager apologizing and offering to personally take care of it himself.

It is great to see a company actually have the systems in place to route surveys both correctly and quickly. The only problem? At the end of the final visit, they said that I would be getting another survey and asked if I would please give them passing scores. Oh well, it’s a start.

Guess we won’t be getting a call from Apple

Steve Jobs was recently quoted in Fortune’s America’s Most Admired Companies, as saying, “We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants.” Guess that explains why they haven’t called.

I know that innovation often means going out on a limb—revolutionary products don’t come from asking consumers what they want next—but some basic research can prevent costly mistakes. For instance, some basic usability testing would have gone a long way with the Apple puck mouse.

Back to listening to my iPod….

Who is Gen Y?

Thanks to Pure’s blog for posting this article. It’s an excellent summary of who Gen Y is, how they connect, work, use technology, and the marketing implications of all of the above. Definitely worth a read.

As we mentioned in a previous post, digital natives have been a topic of study for us before at Corona, and the demand for research into this segment is only going to increase.

Sugging and Frugging

A comment on yesterday’s post brought up how telemarketers have impacted the credibility of market research. Being able to conduct valid research is our life blood and if we were ever unable to get people to participate in our research, we would be unable to provide accurate results to our clients – at least in a cost efficient manner. That is why Sugging and Frugging are so frustrating.

In case you are unfamiliar with the acronyms, Sugging and Frugging stand for Selling Under the Guise of research and Fund Raising Under the Guise of research, respectively. This occurs when a company or organization tries to use research (e.g. surveys) as a cover for a sales pitch. Needless to say, it is manipulative, disrespectful of the intended audience, and if not strictly fraudulent it is highly unethical.

So what can we do about it? Of course just discussing it and informing marketers of its destructiveness is one way; ironically, the same marketers performing this deception are the same that would benefit most from solid research. To learn more, be on the lookout for the soon to be published Encyclopedia of Survey Research — Corona CEO Kevin Raines and Senior Analyst Geoff Urland wrote the entries on Sugging and Frugging! For those who don’t want to wait for the book to come out, the Marketing Research Association (MRA) has a resource for helping fight these practices. Maybe it’s not ironclad, but it’s a good start.

Ford’s swap your ride “research”

Ford’s recent commercial depicts real people test driving Fords under the premise of “market research.”

Does this have an impact on our industry? Does it discredit true research? Will people be suspicious the next time they’re invited to participate in research (especially for an automaker)?

I personally think the effect will be short lived as the ad campaign runs its course, but anyone doing similar research in the short term should be aware of the possible perceptions respondents may bring with them into the research as a result of this ad campaign.

Shift Happens

While this video has been making the rounds for a while, I recently ran across it again.Clean presentation, gets to the point and it’s more motivating than daunting.That’s one of the reasons I like research – here are the questions, so now what are the answers?

Occasionally, we get to provide some of those answers.We have done many education-related projects here at Corona.Recently, one of our clients posted our findings on digital natives’ needs and desires related to library services.Like any business, libraries must change and adapt to remain relevant to fulfill their mission with the next generation. Just one example of how research is helping determine the needs of today’s generation.

Denver Performing Arts Survey Results

The survey we recently completed for the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs has received two nice write ups in the local press after a great public presentation of the results by DOCA director Dr. Erin Trapp.

This extensive survey of Denver residents consisted of 814 interviews with residents, including 205 with self-identified African Americans and 204 with self-identified Latino Denverites. The final survey answers for the entire city were demographically weighted to ensure they are representative of the population of Denver.

The results show both positives and negatives for the performing arts in Denver. Primary among the positives is that 80 percent of residents are interested in live performing arts performances and a good number actually attend them, as within the past year 58 percent attended live theater, 41 percent went to a festival, 34 percent saw a live musical concert, and 11 percent attended a dance performance.

To read more about the results and their implications for performing arts in Denver click over to the Denver Post article* or to the article in the Rocky Mountain News. In addition, DOCA has released selected findings from the survey into a report available on the Denver City website.

*The Denver Post article begins “You can’t always trust surveys commissioned by people with a vested interest in the results.” We completely agree! When consuming data and survey results, you always need to be aware of who commissioned the research, who completed the research, and how they carried it out. And when you conduct research, this is why it is important to have someone (like us!) who is aggressively neutral, ethically unimpeachable, and methodologically sound.

Auto dealers and their “research”

When I recently bought my new car I was informed that I would be receiving a satisfaction survey in the mail shortly asking me about my buying experience. I thought, “Fair enough.” Then I was told that they really like to see top scores for everything, and that if I feel something wasn’t top notch that they would appreciate the chance to fix it first. Again, “Sounds fair.” But wait, will people actually come back and ask them to make it right? As I once read in the Ultimate Question, people will give a high score because they feel guilty not giving them the chance to correct it. So now no one wins: the dealer doesn’t get good feedback and the consumer is left unhappy.

This seems to be a trend in customer service research. From retail to a recent call to one of my credit card providers (Agent at end of call: “Would you say I provided you with great service today?”)

Obviously the research findings produced are faulty. So why do they do it? I think a lot of it is energetic employees and managers who have a very large incentive to show good results. Taking a longer term view would help these companies immensely (maybe provide short and long term incentives?), as well as better policing by those analyzing the research. Companies should be using customer research to evaluate their policies and practices in addition to employees’ performance. When the outcome of a customer service experience is unsatisfactory, it may be because the customer service representative wasn’t helpful when he/she could have been, or it may be because the customer service representative was perfectly helpful, but handcuffed by a problematic company policy. If the survey only asks whether the employee was helpful, and there’s no response category for “as helpful as they could have been given a stupid policy”, how do you respond? Ideally, companies should measure satisfaction with the interpersonal aspects of the experience separately from satisfaction with the outcome of the experience. (“Do you feel the employee did everything they could to address your problem?” and “How satisfied are you with the outcome of your experience?”)

Have you witnessed this as well? What was your reaction?