(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written and sponsored by the National Business Research Institute (NBRI). They have over 30 years of experience in conducting scientific, psychological research for businesses. NBRI clients include Walt Disney World, Marriott Hotels, Oracle and Waste Management.)
Surveys are often touted as a perfect remedy for any of your business’ ailments. Whether you survey employees or customers, a survey company might claim to be able to identify your most glaring business problems. But, as an established businessperson, you might easily identify most of these problems yourself. The important differentiator is to identify not only the problems, but also the root causes of the problems and their solutions. To achieve this accurate look inside your business, it’s vital to employ a company that collects valid data, employs powerful analytics, and turns the combination into a powerful plan for improvement for your company.
Do-it-yourself ‘monkey’ type surveys provide about as much accurate and useful insight as, well, a monkey could. If you ask your employees how they feel about their pay, they will almost always tell you they want more money. The goal is to collect broad and deep information. Composing questions that achieve that goal isn’t easy. In fact, organizational psychologists are the best at doing it – and they’ve earned doctoral degrees to equip themselves.
While you may lament that this gives you more data to slog through, it is absolutely essential to determining the root cause of any issue. If you only have top-layer data, you will only find top-layer problems that anyone could have identified – for free. If you collect that hard (and sometimes tough-to-swallow) data, you will be able to fix the problems at their core, instead of simply placing Band-Aids. It’s most effective and efficient to make decisions that will reap long-term rewards, and that’s no different with surveys.
Collecting accurate data about your business is great, but it has limited value all by itself. The real power of this data is realized when it’s compared against similar businesses within your industry. This process is called benchmarking. Part of the benchmarking process involves normative data, which is the average score of a given survey question. As a decision maker within your company, it’s important to know how your scores stack up against your competition. Without this key data, you are left in the dark as to how you are actually doing within your industry. While do-it-yourself surveys or cheap survey companies might accidentally gather good data, you will only get quality benchmarking data through top of the line research companies.
Collecting data, conducting the research, and assessing sentiment gives you powerful information. However, posting a sign on your wall that says, “We conducted a survey!” isn’t going to convert more customers or improve your employee engagement. The only useful outcome of all this work is creating new procedures and making changes based on the information. And, that’s not even the end of the survey line! You need to know if your changes produced any noticeable improvements. Longitudinal research assesses the impact that your changes produce by re-evaluating your subjects after a pre-determined time.
A quick Internet search will reveal how many survey firms exist today. Some are capable of collecting data, benchmarking, and conducting analyses. Some are simply survey companies while others are research firms. Ultimately, surveys are a vehicle to collect data. You need to combine that data with further research to draw accurate conclusions and implement action plans to improve your company. Don’t fall prey to the quick and easy survey options – you need research that will drive your business past the competition.
Many thanks to NBRI for sharing their expertise. NBRI offers comprehensive full-service research solutions when it’s time to deploy employee surveys or customer surveys. If you’d like to learn more about their services, please visit their website, watch an online survey demo or download their free ebook on “How to Conduct a Survey”.