Don’t wanna hear it? Don’t ask!

One of the most important marketing activities you can do is listen to your customers. You can do this via social media, focus groups, surveys, or using other market research techniques. There is both art and science to creating research questions. You don’t want to ask too many questions, double-barreled questions, or leading questions.

A corollary to market research: if you don’t want to know what a stakeholder really thinks, don’t ask. 

We recently received a survey from a national political party regarding the performance of an officeholder. The survey question rephrased: “In general, how do you think this person is doing in their job?” The response choices read:

  • Okay
  • Good
  • Great
  • Fantastic

Obviously, the party doesn’t want to know what I think. Any reasonable human being would recognize that.  That reasonable human being should be insulted by the assumption they can’t have an opinion other than that which the party finds acceptable.

I was very careful to eliminate mention of the officeholder or party here, because this is a nonpartisan issue. If you received a survey from the opposing party that offered choices like…

  • Bad
  • Terrible
  • Really terrible
  • Truly awful

…and you’re a reasonable human being, you should be insulted by that one, too.

In both cases, you should be unhappy that your political party is willing to use you as a propaganda tool by having you fill out this survey. Honest feedback requests should provide a scale of possible responses, both positive and negative.

Another example is provided by a nearby city government, who asked on their Facebook page when would be a good time to close the local dog park for re-sodding. The overwhelming response was “Don’t bother resodding, just put down some more mulch. The dogs don’t care about the grass, and neither do we.”

Rather than acknowledging this response and either providing reasons why re-sodding was necessary or alternate solutions to closing the dog park for re-sodding, the city government simply deleted the post and comments. They closed the dog park for eight weeks in the part of the season when it’s most used. They did so without notice. When Seamus and I went to the gate one day, it was simply locked and a sign posted.

Listen to your customers. If you limit the range of responses to what you want to hear, you’ll never know what your customers really think.

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