Confession time: I lie in surveys all the time.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had to connect to the same airport WiFi three different times.
Each time I connected, I was forced to complete a survey before I was allowed to connect.
I didn’t even read the questions.
I think between the three connections, I was once an 11-year-old business traveler, a 90-year-old professional athlete, and a 60-year-old leisure traveler.
The truth is I’m a 29-year-old who just wanted WiFi.
But in six weeks, a highly paid reporting agency will go and report on their $50,000 survey that there was a glut of 11-year-old business travelers going through that particular airport.
In other words, the airport just wasted $50,000.
Let me give you another example.
I have a non-profit that I love. I often make donations to them via their website.
Every time I go to make a donation, I’m required to use a drop-down selection box that says: “What prompted you to make a selection today?”
Unfortunately, there’s no option that says “I like what you do and I’ve been supporting you for 10+ years so leave me alone.”
So instead, I just pick a random source. Usually, it’s something related to an “internet website”.
When their Director of Marketing opens the reports, there’s going to be 4 years of donations attributed to a source that doesn’t matter.
Now, I’m just one person in of thousands of travelers or donors every day.
I get that.
But I also know I’m not alone.
If I speed through your garbage survey, so are many other people.
When you require me to answer questions, I’m going to give you whatever answer gets me to the goal the fastest.
But I’m not alone.
If you’re honest, you probably do it too. If you don’t, you’re a better person than me.
At the airport, there’s no way to exit the survey. So I blitz through it.
At the non-profit, I have to make a selection. So I just pick something. It’s either I lie or they don’t get my money.
Those are both terrible choices.
Here’s my point: Most surveys are garbage.
Not all. Most.
But many businesses are making decisions based on these garbage surveys. Billion dollar decisions are made on them.
Airports will be designed around the needs of 11-year-old business travelers.
If you’re making decisions based on surveys, you must ensure the data is accurate.
Forcing people to answer questions is one way to get extremely inaccurate data.
Leading questions are another way.
There are a million ways to mess up a survey.
And when you make a decision based on that survey and it all falls apart, you’re going to blame the data.
But the data wasn’t the problem. The data collection was.
Data often lies.
It’s your job to make it tell the truth.
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