In This Issue
If you’ve got any research “hair don’ts” that you’d be willing to share, please send them to us at email@example.com and we will share our favorites in our next issue (unattributed to preserve contributor confidentiality)!Questions? Click here to send us an email with your request.
- Vol. 16, Issue 4, August 2021
We hope that you are all enjoying summer!
For us, August is the most wonderful time of the year, AND the most likely time to have a hair disaster (the wind, the sun, the humidity!). In celebration of the season, we hope that you enjoy this edition of CSR’s newsletter, Research with a Twist, titled “Bad hair day.”
Bad hair day
Recently, I started going to a new hair salon. It’s a local business, and literally one of the last places I’d expect to have a market research experience — though I’m always ready and willing to have one. While it’s turned out to be a great salon, sadly, we started out on shaky ground (but thankfully, not quite a “hairy mess”) because of market research. In fact, it stood out in my mind so much that it became almost a cautionary tale, as it reminded me that surveys don’t always accomplish their intended objectives.
1) Resist attempts at premature edification
Prior to the first visit with my new stylist, the salon sent me emails asking me to complete a survey. I didn’t yet have a relationship with this place, so did not prioritize completing it. When I got to the salon, a little late after a very long, busy day, the receptionist told me that because I hadn’t completed the survey, I’d need to finish it in the lobby before I could start my appointment. I asked whether it would be OK to do it later, and she said no. Feeling like I should either leave without a much-needed haircut (honestly, I was tempted), or take the survey, I decided to take the survey.
Granted, completing the survey took less than ten minutes, but this was not the ideal beginning of a relationship. The requirement that I complete it before even meeting anyone from the salon led me to rush through it, often giving less than complete responses. Not informing me before I showed up for my appointment that I would need at least 10 minutes to complete a survey before seeing a stylist added to my anxiety.
Sometimes requiring a customer to complete a survey too soon in a burgeoning relationship, or requiring feedback before “allowing” a customer to take further action, can be off-putting. As they say in the business, hair today, gone tomorrow! Don’t let market research be the reason for “gone”!
2) Online surveys can’t replace in-person contact
When filling out the survey, which seemed to go on and on, I noted that the first long battery of questions was about how I wanted my hair cut, what products I use, and how much styling I do (the “usage” part of an attitude and usage study!). I realized, as I answered the questions, that these were questions the stylist (my new hairdresser – a very important relationship in my life) would usually just ask me as we started our first session together – in fact it would normally be an opportunity to bond.
It felt like the salon wanted to replace the “get to know you” discussion that I’d usually have with the new stylist with a survey. Now, of course, I love surveys much more than most people, but even I know that a survey should not be used to replace an important part of getting to know a customer personally.
3) Don’t ask closed-ended questions without escape options
The second long battery of questions in the salon survey had to do with hair style preferences (the “attitude” part of an A&U study!). For example, they asked me to select from a long list of attributes how I’d like my hair to look, including, “soft,” “sensual,” “girly,” “feminine,” “sexy,” “romantic,” “glamorous,” with no “other” option. I didn’t have an adjective in mind, but none of these fit the bill. Maybe, “research-y”? Or, “data wonky”? “Analytical?” There were a number of questions I was flummoxed about how to answer, and which did not have the option of “other,” or “fill in the blank,” or “does not apply.”
The bottom line is that when creating a survey, don’t make assumptions about your customers! It can be a turn-off to feel pigeon-holed into categories that don’t fit.
Here’s the Twist: Surveys are great, but sometimes they are administered too soon in a relationship, used to replace important personal interactions, or are administered without accommodating a broad variety of viewpoints. These are research equivalents of “hair don’ts”, rather than “hair dos”!
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
Sometimes conducting a survey isn’t what’s best for your business. Here are some of those times:
- When it’s too soon: When converting a prospect into a customer, especially for a personal or high-end product or service, wait until a connection has been made before asking for that person’s feedback.
- When it’s too impersonal: If customers are likely to expect a personal interaction, which we find holds particularly true for those personal or high-end products or services, a survey is likely not a desirable substitute.
- When you don’t truly know what your customers think: There are a lot of reasons that surveys don’t provide the wide range of options that customers need to capture their ideas. While sometimes it’s imperfect research design, it can also be attributable to simple challenges (inability to capture open-ended “other” responses) or overconfidence (subject matter experts who think they’ve included every possible response option in a list). In these cases, rather than creating a closed-ended survey, try an open-ended conversation!
If you’ve got any research “hair don’ts” that you’d be willing to share, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will share our favorites in our next issue (unattributed to preserve contributor confidentiality)!
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.