The new Batman vs Superman movie was panned by critics and loved by fans. Do you:
- Strongly agree
- Somewhat agree
- Neither agree nor disagree
- Somewhat disagree
- Strongly disagree
What I love about the idea of surveys is that someone wants to know my opinion about something. They actually care about what I think. Me. My voice is going to count for something.
Now, with everything going digital, it’s easy to conduct surveys all the time. We get asked what we think about things constantly. But there’s a striking similarity between SAT questions and general survey questions: you get a choice of four or five answers, none of which are yours, and you have to pick the one which most nearly represents the answer you wish to give. It’s not ideal.
The other major problem with structured questions is that you have to know the right questions to ask. If you’re trying to pinpoint why product A isn’t selling so well, you can’t just ask customers why they aren’t buying your new fragrance. Can you imagine the multiple-choice nightmare of trying to cover every possible option? Everything from “1) Is Eau de SmellGood too expensive?” to “567) Does your girlfriend’s mother dislike the main ingredient?” would have to be asked, and you probably STILL won’t get to the core of the problem.
The solution then, is open-ended questions. But the reason most companies and national exam boards don’t offer the open-ended survey option is because they take too long to code (positive, negative, neutral) manually, and too long to read manually in order to harvest the information.
When I was in school, we were always warned about writing boring essays because we were told that teachers get bored of reading and writing boring essays. No one wanted to fight the uphill battle of getting an exhausted teacher to give a good grade on an essay which had made them switch off halfway through the introduction. Well, people who have to read long form answers to surveys probably feel the same way. That is, until text analytics.
Text analytics has made large open-ended surveys viable again, thanks to its ability to speed up processes of reading, coding, and analysing the answers. What once used to take weeks or months, now takes seconds.
With open-ended questions, companies can now discover unknown unknowns, the element of surprise, the danger lurking in the darkness. As mentioned, structured questions assume that you know the right questions to ask. Open-ended questions allow your respondents to talk more about what’s actually important to them, helping you close in on what they’re actually concerned about, and not just what you think they should be concerned with.
Text analytics also gives us the opportunity to spot trends in responses, find recurring problems and keywords, pull out important brands, and more.
This means that the Batman vs Superman movie survey can be replaced by one question: “what did you think of the movie?”, and we can still spot overall trends in their responses. The best part is, we’ll probably get responses that we never would have expected, and find answers to problems we didn’t even know existed.