Customer Satisfaction Research & Anonymity

During the June 23, AMA MRC TweetOff session with myself, Jeffrey Henning (@JHenning), and Cathy Harrison (@VirtualMR), one topic we debated was the role of anonymity in customer satisfaction surveys.

Cathy’s point, “Customer satisfaction surveys are for measuring, not intervening.”

And Jeffrey’s, “Follow up with every dissatisfied customer who takes a survey.”

To be frank, my opinion on this topic has changed in just the past year or two. Before then, I was an ardent believer that all research must by anonymous—no matter what. I felt that any direct follow-up would show research participants that their survey responses could result in unexpected communications—and even if “helpful”, this experience could still impact future willingness to participate in research.

But in the past couple of years, two things have happened:

  • First, I have been working with many clients who need to show that market research is not an academic exercise. Who need to demonstrate that research can directly, immediately, have positive outcomes. Many client-side market researchers have to negotiate for budget with non-researchers, who often view such studies as nice, but not necessarily actionable. Imposing anonymity on customer feedback reduces the research’s potential for clear, measurable usefulness.
  • Second, I have seen raw data from several studies where it was obvious that participants expected follow-up. Indeed, anyone who has done a customer satisfaction survey knows that open-ended questions will often return entries such as, “The last software upgrade didn’t work—can you please fix it?” or “I have called your customer service number twice and can’t reach a live human being!”  You can bet that if they take the time to type that into a survey and you don’t follow-up, the damage will be irreparable.

Anonymity in Market Research

Yes, most surveys should be anonymous. But customer satisfaction surveys are an exception. Make it clear at the beginning or end of the survey that respondents can opt out (or opt in, if you prefer) of follow-up. Provide a phone number, web site or email address that can be used for any questions about how responses will be used.  The reality is that most customers expect follow-up.

What do you think? Do you agree? Have a different perspective? Please add your comment here or call the blog comments line at 508.691.6004 ext 702.

Want to learn more about customer satisfaction research? Check out the Research Rockstar class here: ClassList.

  1. Kathryn Korostoff Kathryn Korostoff
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