Square Pegs and Round Holes
by iperceptions, on Jun 17, 2013
Recently, there has been talk that the best days of the random sample are behind us, with passive feedback taking its place in the sun. Much like with politicians, you are only being told part of the truth. It would be the most basic of blunders to make business decisions without considering all the available information before moving forward.
When my siblings and I were young, there was this toy we all enjoyed playing with. In fact, this toy is so basic, I can say with a reasonable level of confidence that you most likely played with a similar toy when you were young. This toy was a simple wooden cube, hollow, with holes cut out on all 6 sides. This toy also came with about 12 blocks in various shapes (circle, square, rectangle, star, crescent moon, etc.), and each block corresponded to a shape in one side of the wooden cube. The principle was simple; place all the blocks inside the cube by putting a shape through its corresponding hole.
This simple toy helped teach me, and millions of others, the basics of spatial orientation. But more important; it helped us all grasp the concept of “the correct fit”. No matter how hard anyone tried, you were never able to force the rectangle shape through the crescent-moon hole. The concept of “the correct fit” should be considered when choosing a Voice of the Customer methodology for obtaining customer feedback.
Random Sampling (via an active solicitation or invitation) remains strong in all the traditional areas. It allows you to collect a statistically significant sample that is representative of your user base. It generally has a higher completion rate than feedback buttons, and when done properly (as an “intercept”, not an “interrupt”), collects both positive and negative feedback without allowing the collection method to influence the data. There are some weakness though; data tends to be more strategic and less tactical, and there are some media where an intercept survey simply doesn’t work.
Passive sampling (also referred to as passive feedback, or opt-in feedback) is most commonly seen as some form of Comment Card or feedback button. This method is great for getting targeted and tactical feedback, and can be used in many instances where traditional surveys simply aren’t feasible or practical. However, much like random sampling, opt-in feedback has weaknesses. The response rates are significantly lower due to its passive nature, are not representative of the user base and the majority of the feedback is highly negative.
Marketers should take both strengths and weaknesses into consideration when creating VoC and customer feedback programs. They may choose intercepts and Comment Cards for use on their website, a direct-to-survey link for their email-based research, and to integrate a feedback button into their apps and mobile properties. Marketers know advocating the use of only one collection method is incredibly short sighted. Preaching a “one-size-fits-all” approach is tantamount to forcing a square peg into a round hole, and we all know from experience how well that works out.