tainted

I’m seeing it happen more and more.

As the cashier hands me a receipt, she draws a circle on it and says, “Please visit this link and take the online survey about your experience. Please make sure to give me all 5s.”

I was staying in a hotel in Cincinnati the other night (in the “quiet zone”). On the desk in the room, there was a high quality printed piece that had instructions on how to complete the e-mail survey I would receive from the corporate parent of the hotel. The manager had written on these instructions to “give the hotel all 10s or your response won’t count”.

And I could go on with real-life examples as I’m sure you could as well.

This is either dumb or crooked or both.

Why even conduct the customer response if you or your employees are tainting the results? Customer surveys are shaky enough without meddling interference.

If you’re doing it to avoid hearing bad feedback, then grow a thicker skin before you run yourself out of business.

If your employees are scared of how you treat them because of surveys, try having them improve actual customer service instead of numbers on a spreadsheet.

By the way, these attempts to influence the election could backfire.

what customers think of your marketing and social media strategy

I enjoy reading James Lileks daily for several reasons. Foremost, he’s clever. He has the knowledge and sensibility of looking back at the past while living in the present and embracing the future. (Sounds complicated, but read him and it makes sense.)

I am always impressed at the constant churn of content that he is able to produce daily. I couldn’t do it. (as evidenced by this blog) He does go off into some areas that I could care less about. His meticulous OCD shopping, eating, and household habits are disturbing at times. He refuses to use a real CMS and hand codes too much. But it’s his corner of cyberspace so go at it.

What I want to bring to your attention in today’s Bleat, he provides a somber reminder to all the marketing peons working hard to try engaging the consumer on a social blah, blah, blah…

But there’s the constant, omnipresent suggestion that I need to log on to a website and tell them how their bread was. I bought some bread today, and of course the seven-inch receipt had a CODE and an URL and a CONTEST and a begging plea to tell them how they did. Based on my recent Topper Scares remarks, you might think I relish every opportunity to tell them just what I think, but no: it’s rare. I bought a fargin’ baguette. That’s it. There’s nothing more to be said. The counter-help was helpful. The bread was bready. The coffee was okay. What can you do to make my next purchase of coffee and bread better? A Dixieland quartet that plays 12 bars of energetic jazz while I sign my name on the receipt, but only 12, because I tire of Dixieland quite easily.

What’s more, dear bread company: I will not like you on Facebook. It is a meaningless act, an empty gesture, and I could not care less if it means I miss out on upcoming deals and events – why, if I find myself in your store unable to get ten percent off a purchase of a dozen bagels during BagelFest ’12 I can live with the sorrow. I will not follow you on Twitter because you have nothing to say. I will not check in on Foursquare because no one cares if I am the deputy sub-commissioner for a place that wants everyone to experience Salad Summer with new sesame-chicken stripes and pita strips. Burger King does this as well, and I remember looking at receipts that told me I’d get a code for a free hamburger if I just filled out the got-damned survey, and even then I thought “no” because A) I would lose the code, B) it would be an exercise in futility, because my complaints would be things like “staff consists of the kind of people who treat customers with rote contempt but then get all oh-no-you-did-nt when they get the same attitude when they’re a customer, and C) really? I tell you that the food was like eating a wad of woodchips soaked in beef bouillon, and this is a surprise to you?

At least the clerk didn’t circle the code with a red marker, which is humiliating for everyone. Her, because she has to do it. Me, because I have to pretend that I might just call it up.

James Lileks

I say this quite a bit when I do consulting and speaking to non-profits, but it’s true for all businesses and organizations: Apathy is marketing’s biggest enemy.

Defeat it and you win. And contrary to what you might think, the way to defeat apathy is NOT always to bring everyone to your way of thinking. Sometimes the way to win the apathy battle is to make the realization that not everyone is interested in your wares. Stop bothering them.

UPDATE: Lileks broke down and took the survey. Useful to look at if you’re interested in how dumb your customer service surveys are designed. My assumption that it was a Panera was right.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

bad marketing research exampleI see alot of misplaced gusto for marketing. Some of it comes in the form of bad print or broadcast advertising. And while bad ads or bad media buys are not as effective as they could be, at least they’re reaching some audience. They’re not causing the business any harm.

But one of the biggest marketing mistakes that businesses make that CAN cause harm is doing marketing research incorrectly.

Now, marketing research is GOOD. It’s one of the best things you can do to make sure that you’re getting the most out of marketing. The problem happens when people assume that they can quickly throw together a survey or focus group and get some data to work with. There are many little things that can be missed when designing a marketing research project that will drastically change the results. You need to have some idea of what you’re doing or hire a reputable firm to do it for you.

I’ve personally seen some really bad practices….

There was the business owner who wanted to do a “focus group”. He invited his friend, his friend’s wife, and some other people he knew. And then, he personally moderated the group. Shockingly, he was very pleased with what the group had to say.

There was the doctor who mailed out a massive survey to find out the age distribution and other demographic data in his city. He was shocked when I told him that his tax dollars were already being used to pay Census workers to gather this exact information and much more for him and that he could fully access the data.

I’ve seen hundreds of comment cards that were either designed to prompt an incorrect response or too confusing/long to provide useful feedback. The big sin with comment cards is usually the return methodology. It’s either a box located in the midst of employees who you’re commenting on…or makes you put a stamp and your return address on it.

And I’m sure you’ve seen numerous examples of one of the worst mistakes now happening in marketing research…the web survey. You do NOT have a good sample of people who come to a website to conduct accurate research. Take results from a web survey with a grain of salt unless your business is completely online.

The big trouble is that when you “do research” and then publish the numbers, it becomes real. When people are shown statistics, very few question the methodology that was used to get the numbers. Bad decisions are made with bad information. Then there’s a backlash of not trusting research…which should not be the case.

The truth is that marketing research is quick and easy to do wrong. It’s expensive and/or time consuming to do right. And it’s too important to mess up.

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