Everyone has had a bad experience with market research, which is why some of the most successful companies in the industry do not refer to themselves as such on their websites. Some of the underlying issues cannot be resolved – DIY research will always be of varying standards and aggressive salesman will continue to use surveys as an excuse to get the foot in the door etc.
One thing that we can control is how we treat the interviewee, I always treat the work I do as an extension of the client’s brand. This is one reason why I do not recommend Survey Monkey – it suggests that you do not value your customers feedback or by implication the customer at more than 40p.
But this is a minor issue – the biggest problem is time. Long questionnaires or confusing ones (it takes longer to understand a simple yes/no question if the question is confusing than one with a larger number of options that you can quickly scan through) are all too frequent. This is often compounded by unrealistic timings – suggesting it will only take five minutes when it will take at least fifteen and the frequency of questionnaires that individuals are asked to participate in. The perception for a 5 minute survey tends to be about 3 minutes.
Incentives are sometimes seen as a way round this but I find that in B2B the reason why people do the interview is rarely because of an incentive and this is always the biggest complaint of any questionnaire. If you do offer incentives this does not mean you ignore the basic tenant of treating people as you would want to be treated yourself.
Another big issue that is often overlooked is that in some research projects the questionnaire overloads the interviewee. Often the client wants to ask questions that can be answered by an engineer but not by a procurement or finance director who are the individuals that you are asked to interview. This makes interviewing problematic, particularly as the realisation often comes in halfway through the interview.
One of the things I like about the Jobs to be Done technique is that it deals with customers on their own terms – the job that they need to get done. It is important to deal with interviewees on their terms not your own and this can mean mixed media, improved segmentation of the customer base and sometimes leaving certain decisions to the internal experts rather than relying on the voice of the customer.