This post will be short and incredulous.
There’s a lot of discussion about the lack of respondent engagement, the lack of respect for respondents’ time, the lack of survey relevance, and other issues which many people feel are harming the research industry. Experts and wanna-be experts debate, discuss, blog, tweet, and give speeches about how to improve the industry.
Yet how much hope is there, really, when one of the major brands in the industry acts like a first-year research intern – and not a particularly bright one at that?
I just took a call from a research vendor to which I have subcontracted quantitative fieldwork in the past. They wanted to talk to me about my satisfaction with our most recent project. I recognized the brand immediately – you would too – but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what project I had done with them recently.
Then they told me the survey was about my satisfaction with my most recent project with them: in January 2013. The first question was how satisfied I was with the overall experience on a five-point scale.
I assume the survey would have gone on from there to other standard customer satisfaction questions, but I stopped the interviewer and told her there is no possible way I could remember the details of a project nearly three years old. I had no idea who my client was, what the sample frame was, whether it was B2B or B2C – nothing. She didn’t have the information in front of her to tell me any of the details to jog my memory. As I’ve created and managed dozens of projects in the 31 months since the project ran, I was dumbfounded that they would expect me to remember a single thing about that particular project.
I won’t divulge the brand, although I am sorely tempted to just for the purposes of shaming them. It is inexcusable that a major research firm – really, that a research firm of any size – would actually expect me to remember details from a project nearly three years old. It’s bad enough when I see research companies fielding bad surveys from clients that don’t have a clue, but with the research company itself creating this project, the lack of basic research competence is beyond mind-boggling.
Companies need to understand how mistakes like this impact their brand. This particular company (like many others) has spent a lot of money trying to position their brand as one with industry-leading expertise, through white papers, webinars, advertising, conference appearances, research-on-research, etc. In my mind, all of that has been undone by one personal demonstration of a shocking lack of basic competence and common sense.
Do they truly know so little about research that they expect me to remember details this far back, or do they just not really care about response quality? Is my business so unimportant to them that they can wait 31 months to find out how satisfied I was? Is executive management this incompetent to design and approve a project such as this, or this incompetent that they don’t even know about a survey effort being done by someone lower down the food chain in their own company?
Forget industry expertise – they just flunked Research 101, Business 101, and Brand Development 101. At least they got the trifecta.
This also represents opportunity lost. Had they contacted me right after the project, I would have been happy to spend time telling them the good and the bad, which they could use to a) be more likely to satisfy me as a client on the next project, and b) help evaluate their overall process so as to improve client satisfaction in general.
Had they called about my perceptions of their brand, their competence, their business model, or anything else in general about the company, I and others could have given them feedback that would have helped them understand how they are perceived by current, former, and potential clients.
Had they called with a survey about why I haven’t given them any business in a long time, I would have been happy to have that conversation with them. Depending on the direction of the conversation and on the aftermath, they might have even re-engaged me as a client.
Instead, they did this.
I weep for our industry.
Editor’s Note: After Ron sent this, he emailed me to say the company in question contacted him AGAIN with the same survey for the same project, adding further proof to the incompetence claim here. Pretty sad.