Survey Sadism

I was abused for want of a smoothie.

I have recently habituated Jamba Juice, a now sprawling franchise that started SLO (San Luis Obispo). In a well-intended effort to assure satisfaction, they randomly offer customers the opportunity to get two smoothies for the price of one if they complete an online survey. Nice approach, and I was willing to participate given that I perform a lot of market research via surveys and understand the benefits.

Willing that is until I hit the second screen.

long-surveysAfter passing the first page of questions, their survey software politely announced that I was 3% done – I had a long road still ahead. I continued, mainly to see how long and horrible their survey instrument might be and did not find out for another five minutes. Avoiding critiques about some survey mechanics (there were flaws), I can safely say the survey was far too long for consumers or anyone with a life to live. The incentive was not enough to make it worth the average persons’ time.

Survey design is a science, and best not left to amateurs (this is not to say Jamba Juice’s survey was amateurish, though it did lack in many ways). In our internet age, where survey invitations land in everybody’s inboxes daily, patience and participation rates are falling fast. The average incented survey has a 0.5% response rate, though we tend to do significantly better here at Silicon Strategies Marketing. Encouraging people to take surveys requires both the right inducement, but also the right balance between the reward and the degree of effort. A $3 smoothie is worth maybe ten questions, but not ten pages of questions.

Survey promotions and incentives also have to match the audience. Surveying executives requires a different touch than teenagers (executives respond well to a blended reward that includes charitable donations whereas gamification does well with teens). Tone of questions, number of questions, and even the artwork that graces a survey page are considerations. But more importantly is being concise and measuring only the critical elements that need addressing.

Jamba Juice’s satisfaction survey is a relevant case. Survey completions could be increased (which would drive more repeat business) by dividing it into four or more smaller surveys, then randomly presenting one to each participant. This would alter the reward-to-effort ratio in favor of the customer without materially diminishing the cumulative value of the survey data. Dividing the questions by area of study (staff, product, environment, brand promoter) would also allow respondents to focus on a single concept, which tends to produce more accurate results.

The market research lesson then is to model surveys to the recipient, not the marketing department. Understand their profile, their incentive bases, their time value, their ability to deliver the necessary information and their patience. Then incent them accordingly. My incentive is a classic Banana Berry with whey protein, make it light.


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