V. Krishna Kumar, PhD
The Internet has made it all too easy for anyone to create and administer surveys. In the past several months, I have received surveys from book publishers, hospitals where I have consulted with medical doctors, heating and plumbing companies, students gathering data for their dissertations, professional agencies I belong to, car dealers, hotels where I have stayed, and some agencies I have never heard of. Surveys are administered via e-mails, home phones, cell phones, and sometimes by US mail. Typically, surveyors want anywhere from a few minutes to 20 to 30 minutes of your time. Sometimes, it looks as if the survey I am completing is never going to end with questions and follow-up questions. Most surveys require voluntary and anonymous participation, but some provide you with an incentive such as drawing a monetary gift card in which case they ask for your name and e-mail address.
If you call a TV/Internet provider for tech support, before they even provide you with the service, they will invite you to participate in a brief survey via an automated phone call within 30 minutes of completing the call. They do follow-up. Automobile repair shops are more interesting and more likely to tell you as they hand you the bill that they would appreciate the highest rating of “10” on all items on the survey that they would send in a few days. Some repair shops would follow-up by a phone call or a text message requesting you to mark 10 on all items.
Sometimes I have wondered if surveys from business firms (including hospitals) are meant to serve a public relations function, more so than to make real changes based on the feedback received. Surveyors do assure you of the privacy of the information you provide. They inform you that a third party would be tabulating the results of the survey and the people being evaluated will not know who the respondents are. So, they do seem to be earnest in their intentions about making use of the data gathered.
I also wonder about the response rates for customer satisfaction surveys. Perhaps those who are very happy with the service provided and those very upset most likely respond; a large number in the middle most likely do not respond. What might affect the response rates for these surveys? Procrastination, I am sure is one of them—I will get to it later (quite true in my case and sometimes I never get to it). Incentive of a chance to win a monetary gift card in a random drawing has motivated me to respond occasionally, but I have not been lucky thus far! Another incentive that might work is when a repair shop provides you with a service discount coupon. More important perhaps is the extent to which people are happy or unhappy about the services they receive or their felt loyalty to the company conducting the surveys.
An Internet survey site called “surveyjunkie.com” offers you a chance to earn rewards and get paid for completing surveys. I found a survey site Quizopolis that offers a variety of surveys for fun (e.g., “Halloween survey,” “This or That Survey,” “Random flirting Survey,” “My Secrets Survey,” and others). Interestingly, it appears there are many takers of these surveys.
If you complete every survey you receive, you may not have much time to do anything else. I wonder if completing surveys can become addictive, possibly not quite worth an ICD diagnosis. I think, I would just stick to the term “survey junkie”—it does not appear to have the same negative connotation as “addiction” or “compulsive survey completer”—of course, I had no idea Likert scales can be addictive!