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.
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?