Workzone: Internet surveys on the rise

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At the risk of sounding like a codger, back before the Internet, every visit to a store didn't trigger a request to take a survey.

Now, as the clerk hands over the receipt, he regularly circles an area at the bottom showing how to get a chance at winning a gift card of varying amounts in return for answering a few questions.

But are the surveys valuable?

Car dealers will give you a better deal if you promise to give them all 10s, the highest mark, on the company survey. Clerks tell customers that it will help them out to get good marks -- and who wants to hurt someone? -- so the results are skewed.

Websites have surveys, and even the federal government wants to get statistics on the use of the site to access the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bennett Porter, the vice president of marketing and communications for SurveyMonkey in Palo Alto, Calif., said the surveys have real benefits for employers because the turnaround time for an Internet survey is so quick. "That becomes really powerful when you can pivot your business immediately," she said.

There are still older methods of surveying.

Classic polling organizations such as Harris and Gallup still use random telephone dialings. The Pew Research Center in Washington. D.C., issued a report that found Internet surveys tend to exclude the poor and the elderly, who lack online access.

Ms. Porter agreed that randomly dialed telephone surveys are the gold standard of surveys, but she added they are starting to skew older as younger people give up land lines for cell phones.

Now, Ms. Porter said, in a large survey it is best to have a mix of telephone polling and access to the Internet. As for direct surveys of customers, an online process does the job.

The SurveyMonkey system allows businesses, government and nonprofits to contact their customers directly since they are doing surveys about an organization to which they have a direct connection.

The company has even gone beyond businesses into helping with wedding plans: "Will you be in town: 1) the entire weekend; 2) just Sunday for the ceremony," and "Do you prefer: 1) chicken 2) beef or 3) fish."

Internet surveys, Ms. Porter said, are not replacing traditional telephone surveys as much as they are replacing paper and pens and a whole lot of hash marks.

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Ann Belser: or 412-263-1699. First Published August 26, 2012 4:00 AM


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