Survey Says?


Surveying our audiences has never been easier.

Online tools and email allow us to reach people like never before. With little effort and almost no cost, we can ask people almost anything we want in order to gather the information we need.

But perhaps it is all a little too easy. Perhaps naively, we can also ignore the questions that could produce answers we don’t want to hear and results that will not support our efforts and goals.

Now, you may think that is cynical, but let’s consider a typical word-of-mouth question: How likely are you to tell your friends and family about my company?

This question might return an 85% approval rate from those who scored the question 9 and 10 out of 10. This is great news and something well worth trumpeting to fans and funders.

In the past, knowing I had worked hard, and with a sense of validation, I certainly had been a proponent of this approach to approval ratings.

In the past, seeking validation for the hard work I had done on behalf of the audience, I certainly had been a proponent of this approach to interpreting approval ratings.

However lately I have been thinking about those people who have not been so magnanimous with their ratings. These people have taken the time to complete our survey, and they have purposely told us they are unlikely to – or definitely will not – recommend the company to their friends.

Where do they, the detractors, fit in the word-of-mouth picture? Should their influence really be ignored?

Well, we can think of this situation as a simple profit-loss statement. On one side we have those who have given a high approval rating – they are our assets and our promoters.

On the other side we have those who have given low ratings - our liabilities and our detractors.

In our survey, we might find that 12% of the respondents rated the word-of-mouth question between 1 and 6. Deducting this liability from the assets, and we have a net balance of 73%. Now we can see the real and sobering effect the low-scoring group has on our word-of-mouth clout.

Perhaps for the first time, we are truly seeing the net effects of our successes and failures, and appreciating a more complete picture of our customer relations.

So when considering your approval rating, or any other rating for that matter, don’t just look at your fans, but consider the influence and effect of your detractors. Then consider what you can do to move these people to the other side of your profit-loss statement.