Surveys Capture Moods and Not Transactions

I’m addicted to the Op-Ed section of the paper.  Every morning I have to have that first cup of coffee while reading a real-live giant crinkable newspaper.

And after reading a recent article by Caroline Baum from The Bloomberg View  I had to sit down and share it with you.

Here is the short skippy:

The basic subject of the article was about “uncertainty” and how during the election small businesses and “job creators” were surveyed and said that they would not spend any money until they saw who was elected.  They said they were feeling uncertain.

I can vouch for this since I live in Ohio and have actually had real CEOs and small business owners tell me outright that they wouldn’t spend any money until they had a better idea o what the tax rate was going to be.

As they were talking, I was thinking to myself — “Are you kidding?  You started this business when everyone told you it was stupid.  You grew this business inside some of the worst economic conditions this country has ever seen and now you’re telling me you’re going to sit on your hands?!  OK — if you say so”

OK — so back to the article.  Then the article goes on to say that all the surveys they did proved out this idea of not spending money and sitting on cash — it was basically a story that everyone was telling and retelling — and based on my own anecdotal experience — believing.

But guess what?!  It wasn’t true because actual, real-life transactional data showed that:

During that time, the private sector added 675,000 jobs making it the second best quarter since the recession

Business spending on equipment and software rose about 12% — the biggest increase since the 3rd quarter of 2011

Sales rose 4.2% – the strongest quarter of 2012

Then came THE MOST POWERFUL statement of the article “surveys capture the fears (emotions) in people and not transactions.”

The wonderful point that this makes for those of us who conduct surveys is that we have to make the distinction about what the surveys we create will ultimately deliver.  This puts the onus on the survey creator to be very clear about what they are asking and what the results will actually MEAN.

This is why I’m so rigorous about getting clarity on the purpose of the survey and how the results will be used to make a decision.  I mean it’s not just about asking questions to see what people will say – it’s about being rigorous and focused on what specific outcome you are looking to achieve.

The good news is that QuestionPro is uniquely designed to capture that “transactional” kind of information collection.  For example, you can use QuestionPro’s mobile features that allow your respondents to respond from the actual place where they are doing the transaction — they can actually take a picture of what they are doing at the time that they open the survey, for example.

What experiences have you had with surveys where the results differed from the actual real-life behavior data that came out at the same time period?