Good Reasons to Ask Bad Questions
In the Versta Research spring newsletter, Build a Better Customer Satisfaction Survey, we mentioned—but did not speak to—the seventh question in our newly developed survey for clients. It was added at the last minute. We put it right at the top, so it is the first question you see.
If you didn’t yet test drive the survey (please do—it gives you a peek into the overall aesthetics and functionality of how we build all manner of surveys), here is that seventh question:
Why didn’t we address this question in the article? Because the focus of that article was on super-duper useful questions. And unlike the other six questions, this one is not terribly useful. In one sense, it is a bad question.
Here was our strategy in developing our customer satisfaction survey:
Design a survey that focuses on the research and what it achieved or failed to achieve. Avoid asking questions about ourselves or about how well we performed. Dump NPS, because a customer recommendation has no impact on how we would improve the work. Make sure all questions focus squarely on the outcomes of the research, and that they help point us towards improved outcomes for the future.
Why did we include the question then? Because it is what clients expect. Without a soft and expected opening (“Hey, how’d we do?”) the survey is too tactical and jarring. It jumps right into the specifics of how results achieved objectives, or business teams felt engaged, and so on.
True, these specifics are what matters, but people who take surveys want to express themselves, as well. They want a place to tell us they were happy or disappointed. As my colleague, Peter, pointed out, people will feel cheated if they can’t get something off their chest. For those who like the word “actionable,” note that there is nothing actionable about this question. But it is useful, because it builds rapport.
The idea is similar to several comments we got back from our clients who lamented that, however good the rationale for dumping NPS, they can’t. Whether it is useful or not, NPS is what top management wants and expects. Fair enough. That’s another good reason to ask a bad question, especially if you can pivot the survey quickly to substantive questions that will really help you.