Open-ended feedback from survey questions can be important for a number of reasons. The most obvious one being that you don’t know enough about consumers to give them a complete set of response options. This is particularly true of new products.
Last year we had a product that was being introduced in the United States for the first time. We needed to figure out what reasons there were, if any, why consumers might not buy it. Open-ended questions have some obvious answers (e.g., too expensive, loyal to my current brand), but you need to stay open to the possibility that there could be more to it than that. As such, we also left an open-ended text box on the survey to see what else consumers had to say.
Reporting on open-ended feedback
It didn’t end there though. With each report we sent to the client we included a breakout of what consumers had said about the product.
The responses ranged from useless (don’t want to buy) to informative, but not helpful (don’t like taste), to both informative and helpful (didn’t know product was available/ product was not located with other brands of same product).
This not only let us to identify an issue that could be addressed to increase sales, but also allowed us to update the survey to include the more frequent open-ended responses as regular answer options.
Over time, this refinement of the survey helped us to better understand customers’ barriers to purchase. With each report we wrote on the product, we were able to deliver more insight for the team.
The ability to incorporate new information and to be flexible in our research was a great asset to this project. It is something that should be taken into account for anyone doing long-term projects.
Just because something is working today, that doesn’t mean it will be working six months from now.
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