If You Ask A Stupid Market Research Question

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…then you’ll get a stupid market research answer.

OK, I admit, it’s not fair to call to call the questions that Pitney Bowes asked of consumers in the UK, France, Germany, and US “stupid.”

But the conclusions that PB draws from consumers’ responses to the survey demonstrate the pitfalls of asking survey questions in a certain way.

According to the study:

— 74% of consumers welcome a monthly special offer in the mail. One benefit of postal communications is that they are often opened at leisure, while email tends to inspire instant, and often more fleeting, attention.

Three-quarters of customers say customer satisfaction surveys are perfectly acceptable. This presents a real opportunity for brands to use surveys to get to know their customers, and to then use their findings to broaden the brand experience, removing the need to second-guess customer desires and concerns.

Source: Pitney Bowes

My take: Not so fast, bucko.

Email inspires instant, fleeting attention, but snail mail is “opened at leisure”?

Oh really? According to the US Postal Service (which means, who knows what the Brits, French, or Germans do), 77% of people sort and read their mail immediately upon bringing it into the house. So much for “opened at leisure.”

If they open it at all, of course. DMCN says about a third of consumers don’t open direct mail (which, of course, means that two-thirds do).

But all of this is missing the more important point: How does a consumer know that a piece of direct mail contains a “special” offer?

Do you think that consumers think of the volumes of credit card offers and other offers that come through the mail as “special” offers?

Or were they thinking of something more like “special discount” or “something for free” when they said “yes, we’d like special offers through the mail”?

The Keepers of the Direct Mail Channel will, of course, use the Pitney Bowes study as evidence that consumers prefer the direct mail channel. But smart marketers will take a more critical look at the study’s findings.


The question regarding customer surveys is interesting, as well.

Somehow, PB went from “consumers say customer surveys are acceptable” to brands can use surveys to “broaden the brand experience, removing the need to second-guess customer desires and concerns.”


What does “broaden” the experience mean?

OK, survey respondents said surveys were acceptable. But did they say (were they even asked?) how often it was acceptable to ask for their opinion? Did they say (were they asked?) what types of questions it was acceptable to ask?

I don’t know about you, but I HATE it when I visit a website for the first time and a customer satisfaction survey pops up. In fact, I hate it when it comes up on the 5th, 50th, or 500th visit.

And tell me again how it is a brand can “broaden” or improve the customer experience by asking me how likely I am to refer them to my family and friends on a scale of 1 to 10?


Thanks for doing the research, Pitney Bowes.

But you’ve neither proved the value of the direct mail channel, nor provided new insights into customer satisfaction.

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