Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Dear Online Survey Providers: At Least Buy Me Dinner First!

Added on by Tom Webster.

Last weekend my wife and I went to see Keith Urban and Sugarland at the RBC Center in Raleigh. It was a fantastic show and a good experience all-around (save for the parking lot, which was a Mad Max movie.) Because I had opted in to a LiveNation promotion related to the show, I got an email a few days later with this message:

If you thought Keith Urban was great – tell us! If you thought Keith Urban was just okay, tell us! Whatever your reaction – tell us! Your feedback helps us build a better concert experience. It should take only about 5 minutes for you to help shape the future of Live Nation concerts.

Now, I never turn down a survey, and five minutes of my time is surely not an onerous request, so I took the survey. Sure enough, there were about five minutes of questions about the event, followed by the demographic/classification questions that to me signal the end of a well-constructed quantitative survey instrument. Except, that wasn't the end. Immediately after I answered the demo/classification questions, I got a new page advising me that now they'd like to ask me a series of questions about my entertainment preferences and music tastes. By page three of a series of long, tedious menu-based questions and sliders, I quit. Since I wasn't allowed to skip questions, I assume that my prior inputs on the wonderful experience I had at the RBC Center were lost (creating a clear bias), but that is up to whoever is administering the survey.

Let's set aside the fact that this survey was clearly in excess of the "about five minutes" I was promised. The real issue with this sort of survey is that this survey is more than just an anonymous survey instrument--it is the first step in an online relationship with LiveNation (I don't believe I had ever attended a LiveNation concert before, and certainly wasn't in their database). An online relationship is a lot like an offline relationship--there's a courtship, a few awkward exchanges, eventually a kiss (or a kiss-off). First base comes before second base, and so on. With this survey, my initial relationship with LiveNation began with a modest request--five minutes of my time to talk about my recent concert experience. Anything after that was essentially trying to 'score' before getting to first base.

The 'courtship' of email marketing and the process of giving up customer data should be a true value-exchange; a genuine quid pro quo. I give you five minutes of info on a recent concert, you give me something of value on a subsequent email. Maybe on the next email you give me a coupon, or a line on buying tickets before they go on sale. Next time, you can ask me for information about my music preferences. In the future, if you show me how giving up that data provides me with value, maybe I'll give you something else.

Keep it up, and you just might score.

Try to round the bases all at once, however, and you'll probably end up getting slapped--which is exactly what my cancellation of their lengthy survey amounted to. It's not that I am averse to giving them this data--they just have to earn it first. If this were merely an anonymous online survey executed by an online market research company, then presumably I would have received some kind of incentive to complete a lengthy survey. In the case of a branded survey, however, it's not just a data collection instrument, it's the start of a relationship. This one, unhappily, is off to a rocky start.