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May 20th 2015, by louisa

Understand the limitations of self-service survey software and make the right market research choices for you company

Online surveying tools have made customer information and data more accessible. These quick, cheap products are fast becoming a popular means of creating surveys and running analysis. But businesses need to be aware that the outcomes they produce aren’t always as beneficial as they might hope.

The ability to develop the right questions and determine appropriate actionable solutions is critical to the success of any research, but online tools can make these processes a real challenge. A professional market researcher will always design questions to give you the insights you need to truly understand your customers and produce actionable results that will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Every business, every customer is unique

Customers aren’t just one size and shape, each is unique. It’s really important businesses understand each of their customer’s needs and how well they are serving them. They need to understand what the real loyalty and satisfaction triggers are.

Self-service surveys, however, are often not granular or segmented enough to provide the clear data you need to do this.

Do in-house surveys offer a good ROI?

Organisations often try to save money by doing research in-house. This is understandable, especially for smaller enterprises.

Unfortunately, any savings can be quickly wiped out simply because in-house research is less effective than it needs to be. That’s why it pays to use a professional provider – one with experience and a good understanding of customer satisfaction.

Gaining a more objective perspective

Sometimes organisations choose to run customer surveys themselves because they feel they know their customer best. However, the lack of independence creates a real risk that their research will lack objectivity.

With high quality third-party research conducted under the relevant codes of confidentially customers are often more revealing. After all, customers are often reluctant to criticise and discuss weaknesses if they are approached directly. A third-party provides that critical degree of separation that encourages customers to open up and discuss issues more freely.

Basing surveys on your own assumptions is risky

Self-administered survey tools may be cheap, but they don’t always provide the right answer. They don’t know your business, have never met you and rely heavily on your ability to be unbiased and understand the best questions to ask.

Using your own staff to conduct research can often work against you in the longer term. Building surveys about your business in-house often leads to bias. You can ask the wrong questions and risk skewed, less honest results.

In-house surveys weighed up

Pros and cons of online survey tools 

Common in-house research study problems

One common problem with in-house surveys is the very low number of customer interviews. Respondents are reluctant to provide feedback directly to your business.

Other potential issues include results being skewed by one customer group because the data isn’t segmented in the right way. Targeting only one type of customer can create limited data, for example.

All is not lost (when it all goes wrong)

From time to time research companies, such as TTi Research, have to take over on-going research projects because things have gone wrong in-house or with another third-party.

Professional research companies have the extensive skills and experience required to create decipherable information from your data. They help organisations that are finding it hard to manage their research results to gain a better understanding of their customer.

For example, at the end of every survey TTi Research facilitates an action planning presentation. During the presentation we talk through the findings and help organisations use the results effectively, creating sustainable actions that will have a positive impact on their business.

Investing in your business’s future

Online survey tools can be both helpful and handy. Using them marks a first step in the right direction to understanding your customer, but you need to be aware of their limitations and pitfalls. The questions are often skewed, asked in the wrong way or not actionable. This can lead you to thinking you understand your customer, when you don’t – because you aren’t asking the right questions.

It pays to engage professionals. They will always deliver superior results. Experienced market research companies understand how to write and rate questions, how to use scales effectively and how to deliver the data in a way that is easy to use.

Don’t waste your business’s precious time and resources on the handy online survey tools. For a clear picture and actionable data you need to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience offered by market research professionals.  

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