The Danger of Surveys

If you are starting or running a business, you might be tempted to survey your customers. “Please rate how much you enjoyed this sandwich”. Surveys are great as long as you realize, they can only answer the questions you ask. You should also realize, people who take surveys often lie (white lies/omissions/convenience).

You only get answer to the questions you ask

Instead of just using a survey to get answers to the limited set of questions that you ask, why not also do some interviews. Qualitative data like interviews get you insight into the questions you should have (or should) ask.

White lies on a survey

For survey takers it’s just easier and friendlier to say “service was excellent”, even if in reality it was just good enough. The white lies they tell may also point you in the wrong direction. Sure, I’d pay $200 for that, as long as you don’t ask me for the $200 right now that is.

Lies by convenience or omission

You know you’ve taken a survey and just hit, 5, 5, 5, 5 before, just for convenience. When someone gives you all 5s (out of 5) on everything, you know they are probably lying, most likely just to get done with the survey. Ask them to fill in a blank, by the way, and you’ll usually get a blank. Omission is just easier and more convenient.

The solution?

The solution to this is of course combining a survey with an interview. When someone is speaking to you on the phone or in person, omission is not an option and convenience is irrelevant. What about those white lies? My advice is don’t ask questions that put people in awkward positions. Then, they won’t have to tell you white lies. Instead, let people vote with their actual dollars, launch and see if people will pay!


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