Honesty in market research

I just swapped emails with Tony Hufflett of The Fat Group. They’re trying to shake up the dull old world of market research; it certainly needs shaking up.

I thought this was an interesting point they make on their site about the honesty of responses to surveys.

There is room for respondent dishonesty in any questioning environment. The level of dishonesty grows with the increase in boredom or disengagment.

Our experience tells us that dishonesty (in any environment) occurs when the questioner either bores the respondent or the tone is wrong. This is even more true on the net when respondents are not having to act in an acceptable manner before another person (in a face-to-face encounter or over the phone (which creates its own artificiality)) instead they are able to be truly themselves and show how they feel straight away.

So the key to on-line honesty is to be creative, make it fun and don’t ask too many questions. If you still doubt on-line honesty you have only to look at the recent U.S and U.K elections. In both instances the web research came closest to the actual result. The reason: people couldn’t articulate face-to-face or over a phone something they felt the questioner might find unacceptable (such as under 35 and voting Tory in the last election) but would be honest about with their impersonal screen and in the voting booth.

When I do surveys, I recognise the point where boredom kicks in and I stop trying to articulate my real views and start rushing to get to the end.

3 thoughts on “Honesty in market research

  1. Flaunt It

    Just Make it Fun

    Have you ever hit that point in an on-line survey where, in Johnnie Moore’s words “boredom kicks in and I stop trying to articulate my real views and start rushing to get to the end.” There’s a really important point…

  2. Jack Yan

    There’s certainly something to this. Web respondents, too, often volunteer to give their opinion, so they are willing participants. Offline respondents often do so grudgingly when stopped in the street or called. I have had my number removed from the phone book partly for this reason.

  3. Paul Goodison

    I often find market research quite insulting becuase it firstly assumes that you have no intelligence and then proceeds to ask you sometimes stupid questions. I recently participated in an online survey that asked about drinking habits which asked me what I drunk (I drink bitter or wine) and then it asked why I liked Lager (er I don’t) and then which brands I drunk (I don’t). This could have been a good opportunity to find out what I don’t like about lager or find out what I like about alcoholic drinks in general but the research was focused in a particular area and given the format could not break out – therefore I ended up lieing in annoyance. Sometimes then I would agree with the quote however human interaction can develop much more in depth insights if handled by people who understand people. Could dialogue techniques be used in this way I wonder?


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