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Do customer surveys really work?

I am behind reading my blogs and just caught up today with a great post from last week on grokdotcom that demonstrates how hard it is to get action-oriented information from customer surveys. Follow the link above to read the post—I’ll wait right here.


Scary, isn’t it? When you think about how many questions you’ve asked customers and how little information you might be getting back.
Surveys are seductive. They are easy to construct, easy to implement, they provide statistical data, and everyone understands exactly how they work. They are persuausive.
But the simple question that Bryan Eisenberg asked shows how flawed a survey can be.
Down deep, we all know that surveys are flawed, but we’re accustomed to them. We are familar with them and we overlook the flaws because getting the information seems so important. And when you think about the fact that there is no perfect way to get information, your brain hurts.
When you think about how you need to watch customers use your product or your Web site, that you need to do interviews, mine your phone logs and support e-mail queue, track opinions in the blogosphere, and watch every mouse click on your Web site, geez, it’s overwhelming.
We’d all rather retreat to our surveys. They are simple, we know how to do them, and everyone is so used to them that they don’t question the results—we just point our business in whatever direction the survey says.
The problem is that they are often wrong, just like any single method of collecting customer feedback.
What about your business? Do you listen to what customers say out on the Web? Do you watch what they do? Or is your product development and marketing campaigns driven only by customer survey results?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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