Scales – More Than Doe a Deer
Scales drive a survey much like caffeine drives this market researcher from time to time (ok most of the time). We ask how likely are you on a scale of one to five to purchase, what’s your opinion on a scale of one to seven, if you were to recommend on a scale of one to ten what would you, and so on.
It’s such a small thing to think about, but it can have a critical impact on the ability to analyze data. It’s something a client shouldn’t have to think about, but something a researcher should never take for granted.
Why is that? Simply put, a scale is the best reflection of a consumer’s opinion. When we ask someone to choose a point on a scale, we’re taking their experience and transforming it into a number or word, and giving it a lot of power. When combined with other answers, we form the pattern or picture of analysis.
Important right? So what’s the best scale? Now things get tricky, as each individual survey requires an answer to this question to ensure we’re getting to the heart of the question. Plus, I think every researcher has their favorite scale. Some folks are 10 pointers, some lean towards lucky 7. I find 5 does the job just fine. Although I’ve never been terribly keen on 4 point scales.
Regardless of the numbers, a great scale allows for a strong positive and negative end-point. It has some gray area for those folks who may not feel strongly but are somewhat negative or positive. And it has to have a neutral, because let’s face it, on some topics we just don’t have an opinion. (That’s ok too and helpful to know. It could mean that I haven’t been swayed yet in either direction, and I’m just waiting for some stellar marketing to bowl me over.)
Granted there’s a lot more to be said about scales, and it is a topic that researchers can debate for hours given our druthers. I’d say simply put, a scale should have enough gray area to allow for variability, a neutral as the get out jail free, and strong end points for those who feel strongly on the topic. From there, we can build a tool to talk to anyone and better translate their experience to actionable results.
Photo Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billsophoto/4175299981/