A lot of what is said here can be applied to market research and incentives. For instance, when it comes to basic mechanical tasks, the higher the reward, the better the performance. But, when it comes to tasks calling for rudimentary cognitive skills (e.g. surveys), not only do larger rewards not improve performance, but after a certain point, larger rewards lead to poorer performance!
Here’s the video, then we’ll talk some more:
So what does this mean for market research?Well, it seems to me that people want to be rewarded by being recognized and valued rather than simply being “paid”. Indeed, outside the world of intentional research, people already freely give their opinions, reviews, experiences and knowledge on sites like Amazon, Wikipedia and Yelp. Why do they do it? Why do you do it?… because I’m guessing you probably do. Why do I write this blog? Don’t we all want to feel that we have something worthwhile to contribute, that other people might reward us with praise and thanks? Or, that by voicing an opinion we might make the world a little better, if only for one person? Perhaps we can solve a tech problem, recommend a book, expose a terrible restaurant, offer comfort to someone with the same illness. It feels good to be connected, to be part of a wider community and have something to offer. The internet has made this possible, all based on a currency that has nothing to do with money.
In a nutshell, let’s pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table, so we can focus on what really motivates them.
Which gets us back to surveys. Here we intentionally seek out opinions on a specific topic rather than gather opinions offered freely and organically on web sites and in social media. It’s good to bear in mind, therefore, that people are already accustomed to getting a non-monetary reward when they share online on these non-survey platforms. Then surely any reward for participating in a survey has to go beyond a monetary or points payment and tap into this desire people have to be heard and valued.
What can we do differently or better? Here are a few ideas:
1. Explain honestly from the outset who you are and why you are doing the survey. How will the information be used? Be transparent.
2. Design surveys for human beings. Write as you talk, and then take the survey yourself. How do you feel as the respondent?
3. Keep it as short as possible, but leave plenty of opportunities for open-ended responses. Remember the point in the video about self-direction leading to higher engagement? And also the desire of people to show off their knowledge and mastery?
4. Offer to share the results if possible. This is where those little polls excel. You vote, and then get to see how everyone else voted.
5. Respond to the respondent. Remember what your mother taught you – if someone does something nice for you, send a thank-you note.
6. If the respondent expresses concerns in the open-ends, make sure someone gets back to them.
7. In the case of telephone surveys, listen in to some of the calls. Are the respondents being treated with respect by a literate and articulate interviewer? Are there instructions as to how to handle unhappy or frustrated respondents?
I could go on about huge grids, compound questions and all the other problems with questionnaires. But that’s another topic for another day. (Somewhere I have an old blog post: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how annoying are these questions?“)
Quite simply, let’s apply the golden rule and treat the people who are kind enough to take our surveys in the same way in which we ourselves want to be treated. That would be a start.