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1. Fragments of data from non-random sources are inherently unreliable. You
may get several bits of information from a survey, but judging whether or
not those bits are helpful ones may be exceedingly difficult. There is
always a great risk of mistaking outlying data points for meaningful
patterns. Acting based on those outlying data points can do significant
harm. Interpreting survey data is a non-trivial exercise. It is quite
terrifying how often we see people overestimating the quality of their data,
and blithely acting on it.
2. Re. " even if some (if not most) users are annoyed by the thought of a
product pushing a survey on them...I figure at the very least, overall,
using surveys can't hurt". No, annoying users always hurts. It may not hurt
you, at least not in immediately obvious ways, but it hurts the
organization. Some companies can get away with annoying customers (think
Airlines and IDPs) but generally it is something you want to avoid doing
unnecessarily. There are a number of companies I do not do business with
because they have annoyed me in the past.
Surveys are content that you push to your customers. As such, they affect
the customer experience either positively or negatively. You should assess
customer impact vs the quality of the data collected before you start
From: techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+mbaker=analecta -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf
Of David Renn
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2016 3:24 PM
To: Robert Lauriston
Subject: Re: Seeking Online Help Surveys Advice
It seems there's quite a variety of opinions about surveys, both as creators
and as participants. I guess I figure even if a survey isn't the most
helpful way to get information from our users, and even if some (if not
most) users are annoyed by the thought of a product pushing a survey on
them...I figure at the very least, overall, using surveys can't
hurt---especially since they're so inexpensive to create and implement.
Even if you get one tidbit of helpful information from a survey, it's
probably worth it in the end. But nonetheless, it should be an effective and
So for those who work or have worked with online help:
- What questions would you most want to ask your users in order to
better understand and accommodate their needs?
- How would you frame those questions to elicit the best responses?
- What sort of information ultimately would you seek to better their
experience with your online help?
And I ask these questions now in a general sense. Whether it be
face-to-face, via skype, via email, via survey, over the phone, morse code,
sign language, telepathically (Ok, I'll stop there), etc.
By the way, for what it's worth, we're probably going to offer prizes to
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