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Why Surveys Don’t Cut It

Online surveys are an excellent research tool. They are versatile, able to reach a broad audience and provide businesses with an insight into a customer’s mindset. These tools have been around for more than half a century now. The popular Likert Scale that’s used in surveys even today was introduced back in 1932 by Rensis Likert.

Surveys are undoubtedly useful, but they have their limitations, especially in a B2B environment. We at Thirdside have conducted numerous surveys and value all the data we’re able to collect through them. However, our experts have identified several challenges that hamper collecting accurate win/loss data via this medium.

Surveys are undoubtedly useful, but they have their limitations, especially in a B2B environment

1. Survey Response Rates

Online surveys are a growing medium in the B2C sector, but they’ve been declining in popularity among B2B entities. The Associate Director of Morar-HPI, Adelynne Chao, saw this trend clearly in her company’s campaigns. Response from specific B2B sectors barely touched 2% while the response from her B2C clients was as high as 10%.

If you have low survey response rates, your data pool is too small to collect accurate information. While companies can improve response rates, it often involves making nearly unreasonable trade-offs.

You can add more questions or request more detailed responses, but that can make a survey lengthy and time-consuming. Respondents may experience survey fatigue, which can lead to fewer answers, inaccurate guesses, or less truthful feedback. Here’s a look at some of the different factors that influence customer response rates. 

  • Poor Insight into the Target Audience – Researchers must understand their target audience well before crafting surveys. Different kinds of audiences require different approaches.
  • Lack of Simplicity – If the survey description or content is too complicated, people will avoid it.
  • Frequency of Requests – Businesses shouldn’t bombard customers with survey requests. That will irritate and discourage respondents.
  • Similar Surveys – If your survey doesn’t include fresh or unique questions, you might not get authentic responses. Respondents will copy old answers without thinking them through.
  • Incentives that Offer No Value – People will only respond to surveys if they feel its worth their time.
  • Reputation – The researcher or sponsor’s reputation can influence people’s responses.

All of these obstacles make it difficult for researchers to get authentic responses from customers. It limits how much information you can gain as it doesn’t give you a complete picture.  

2. Creation Bias

Creation bias is one of the most significant weaknesses of online surveys. Researchers need to ask questions that can help them collect authentic information. They must ask questions that reveal a customer’s mindset or thought process while making a purchase decision. This requires a lot of qualitative research and a keen awareness of your target audience.

Researchers often ask questions that could’ve been worded better to gain more information. Some surveys don’t include the most critical queries, making them effectively useless. People also ask questions based on erroneous hypotheses or assumptions, which introduces bias.

These factors influence the quality of the data collected. You may find a survey’s response more favorable than it should be because of creation bias.

3. Survey Response Data

Experienced researchers often experiment with different ways to boost response or reduce survey fatigue. In most cases, they seek to achieve this goal by shortening a survey’s length and including more open-ended questions. While such a format can help you gain more detailed information, it also creates an imbalance. These kinds of surveys attract highly opinionated customers with strongly positive or negative feedback.

While feedback from such clients is useful, it can also influence your win/loss analysis data by compromising its accuracy. Opinionated customers may overshadow more reasonable ones with their passionate feedback.

4. Other Obstacles

Surveys are static, one-way mediums. Respondents have no way of asking for clarification if they don’t understand a question or misinterpret it. This may lead to incorrect responses and compromise data quality. That’s especially true for surveys that don’t provide an option like ‘Not applicable,’ ‘Other,’ and ‘I don’t know.’ Such formats force customers to guess or choose an answer instead of submitting accurate feedback.

Some respondents answer questions based on their first impression of your company or their most recent experience. This isn’t complete feedback about their overall experience with a brand.

If you don’t frame a survey properly, it will only confirm what you already know instead of offering fresh insight. At Thirdside, we believe a combination of a highly-optimized survey and one-on-one interviews can provide the most accurate information.

Value of A Hands-On Approach through Qualitative Interviews

Surveys are useful as they provide a lot of insight into your target audience. However, if you want exact win/loss data, include qualitative interviews in your research campaigns. Post-decision interviews conducted by an unbiased third-party offers remarkable insights into a customer’s thought process. These, along with a well-structured survey, will provide more complete data.

Many companies hesitate to hire third-party agencies for this purpose, creating in-house teams from their marketing or sales departments instead. That can introduce biased data into your analysis. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of conducting qualitative interviews through third-party agencies: 

1. Conflicts of Interest

Third-party establishments aren’t connected to your brand, so they don’t have any vested interest. They won’t be tempted to sway the interview process in a particular direction, be it positive or negative. At Thirdside, we maintain neutrality during interviews, and our experts understand the value of unbiased feedback.

2. Professional Interviewers

While your company’s sales or marketing experts can conduct qualitative interviews efficiently, they won’t have the same level of experience as professional interviewers do. We make sure the interview isn’t generic and employ consultants with expertise in your industry for this purpose. Experienced consultants know how to ask probing questions at the right time. 

3. Nuances 

 One-on-one qualitative interviews have one very distinct advantage over surveys. Researchers can ask respondents to clarify specific observations. They can take advantage of nuances to gain more information. For example, if a respondent provides a generic answer, but his tone implies he has some strong opinions, an interviewer can encourage him to be more open on the matter. Regular surveys are just feedback forms, so there’s no two-way communication.

4. No Best Fit Responses

Customers can respond more authentically on an interview platform. They don’t get a set of 4-5 fixed responses, which can compromise a report. Researchers and respondents have an open discussion where customers can frame their responses per their experiences. There’s less room for guesswork and no options to influence a customer’s response. 

5. Understanding Context

Sometimes understanding context can change how we perceive someone’s response to questions. Researchers introduce a dashboard with different themes during interviews. We identify these themes after observing various interviews or reviewing the survey data. This helps us gain some insight into the context of a win/loss transaction, which provides a more precise understanding.

6. Depth of Understanding 

Survey data only provide information on the point of sale. It doesn’t offer any insight into the entire sales funnel or a customer’s journey through it. Interviews help us explore various aspects of a transaction. We can look at factors like: 

  • Product or service requirements
  • Influence of customer service
  • Sales team performance 
  • Brand strength 
  • Influence of pricing 
  • The perceived value of a product
  • Factors influencing a purchase decision

This data can help a business refine several processes, including sales, marketing, product development, customer support, branding, customer profiling, etc. 

7. Being Proactive 

 Interviews and surveys will help you identify common themes or issues that hinder sales. You can remove these obstacles before they cause more damage and win some clients back. People appreciate it when brands take their feedback seriously. It tells them they can trust you with their business, which improves your company’s overall reputation.

For example, if a common theme in most interviews is complications during bulk purchase transactions, you can review the process and find ways to refine it. More B2B clients will convert if this transaction is more straightforward.

8. Resources 

Most businesses run tight operations, with every employee being a vital part of the machinery. They can’t afford to take people away from other essential business processes, which is why businesses should consider hiring a neutral third party. Your employees can keep working on vital tasks while we handle the complex win/loss analysis process. Thirdside has the manpower and resources needed to complete this task efficiently. 

Relying on a sales team’s report on why they won or lost an opportunity isn’t enough because it offers one-sided information. Sales and marketing teams can participate in this process by providing valuable information about customer demographics, sales data, and marketing responses.  

A comprehensive qualitative interview process, along with efficient surveys, will offer much better insight. As the data comes directly from your customers, it is more authentic.