Market research and, ultimately, the success of a business both rely greatly on receiving honest feedback from customers.  If you were always told what you wanted to hear and that you were doing the right thing, rather than the truth, where would you be now?  Where would businesses be right now?  While this general question (and point behind it) can hold true to nearly everything in life, it certainly holds true for market research.  I’m sure there is no disagreement here – in order for a company to progress, they need honest and truthful feedback from their customers.

Confidental survey responses

Just the other day I received a survey that I was quite eager to fill out (I had some comments to make about less than adequate service I had received)!  After completing nearly all of it, I found myself hesitant to hit ‘submit.’  The survey offered no guarantee of anonymity or confidentiality; it was also hosted and conducted by the company itself.  There was also no mention of how my comments were going to be used.  I asked myself, “Is it really worth the possibility of burning bridges or upsetting someone I would be dealing with in the near future in order to give feedback about one visit?”  If I was asking myself this, I’m quite sure other people were, too.

 This gave me yet another reminder of one of the most important factors that needs to be put in place during a company’s research process in order to receive both honest and useful feedback.  Putting a respondent at ease is of upmost importance.

  • First – create a guarantee of anonymity and confidentiality for the respondent. Without that guarantee, the respondent won’t feel comfortable knowing where their feedback is going.  Could their feedback land on the desk of the person they commented on, with their name attached to it?  Could the respondent be featured in the next Domino’s commercial as the company chef rushes their house asking them to try the revised product?  The answer to these questions should be no – their feedback is confidential and all data is reported in the aggregate. 
  • Second – another way to establish a level of anonymity is to add a level between the user and the provider or, in other words, disconnect the direct relationship.  The use of a third-party market research vendor is the easiest way to accomplish this.  When the respondent is opening a dialogue with a third party, it creates a much easier means for them to convey issues they may have with the company. 
  • Last – one other thing that can be used to make the respondents feel more comfortable is by stating how the feedback is going to be used.  Is their feedback going to be used to better a product/service in the future?  If yes, say so.  It’s all about trust and making the respondent comfortable. 

Here in the Bunker, when we write our survey introductions, respondent confidentiality is one of the first aspects of survey writing we consider.  If our respondent can’t trust us, then how can we expect truthful feedback from them?  Receiving positive feedback is always good to hear, but negative feedback is more actionable feedback for a business.  Clarifying confidentiality, using a third-party and stating how the data will be used are three ways to garner honest and quality feedback through the research process.