Companies are always interested in improving their products or services and one of the best ways of doing this is to interrogate either those who use their product or service, or those who potentially might do so. One way of achieving this is by producing and administering a survey. There are two main methods of conducting a survey: one way is for a researcher to personally interview members of their product or service’s target market with a set of questions, the other is to allow members of the target market to answer a questionnaire without an interviewer.
In each case it is important to the effectiveness of the surveys results that details of each interviewee or questionnaire taker are known. In most cases random interview and questionnaires produce random results; so, prior to an interview or questionnaire, potential subjects will be “screened” in order that the process can be as “scientific” as possible.
What this “screening” will mean is that a lot of details will be taken from each potential subject prior to the interview or questionnaire. The basis of a lot of this detail will be what is known as “demographics”; which are the characteristics of a population. Demographic information is usually things like age, sex, racial background, where you live, religion, employment status, marital status, accommodation details, etc.
So, prior to even taking the survey, each “volunteer” will have to answer a long list of questions about their lives and backgrounds in order to allow the researchers to assess what each person’s demographic profile is. The majority of surveys will be targeting specific demographic profiles, based on the details of their product or service’s target market, and therefore they will only actually be interested in those subjects who fit the profile they wish to research. This means that after answering a lengthy questionnaire on your personal details, you may get turned down and never get to take the actual survey.
Demographic profiles are very important to market researchers. When a product or service is originally designed or created, much of its development will be based upon the results of market research. What this means is that the company behind the product or service will have a clear “profile” of their target market, i.e. the people who are going to most likely to become their clients or customers.
When creating or developing a product the research will target these groups to ask them about their experience with competitors, and what they would like to see improved or changed or introduced, etc. These results will help in the development of the new product. After a product has been released into the market then these same target groups will be surveyed for their opinions upon the product.
Due to the strict demographic profiling applied to each subject, it is not important that the same people are interviewed or surveyed. They may be the same people but it is not imperative that they are. The demographic profiling of many different people allows the researchers to create an aggregate profile representing each different group.
Once a person has been accepted to contribute to a survey and answer the full questionnaire, they will then be faced with a range of questions related to a product or service. In a well constructed survey questionnaire, the questions will interrogate a range of opinions or experiences and attempt to elicit a range of responses. There may be a series of direct questions and a series of indirect questions. The purpose of the questionnaire may only become apparent after answering many questions or else it may not be entirely apparent after answering them all.
It is not important for a survey subject to understand the purpose of the questions so long as they understand what is being asked and they are able to answer each question. A survey taker is much like a laboratory rat; they are not expected to understand why they are doing something so long as they do it and are happy with their reward for doing so.
The good news is that this sort of detailed survey does reward its subjects and, very often, they will seek to use their subjects again. If you are considering taking online surveys this is the process to expect; it has an accumulative effect and, while you may spend time filling out screening questionnaires, once you begin to get accepted onto programs it is likely you will be approached again.