The Master of All I Survey

Regardless of your ideology or political leanings, November 6, 2012, was a triumph. As the longest election campaign in America history wound down, a growing number of professional pundits were trying to undermine the polling data and the statistical analysis based on that data. This hostility was not based on any rational counterargument; rather, they took an ostrich-like approach to facts they didn’t like. Oddly, this anger and frustration coalesced around one brainy statistician, Nate Silver. And, despite their best efforts to discredit the polling process and Silver’s methodology, the polls were right the entire time.

Silver developed a model that aggregates and analyzes the results of state polling data and assigns them weight based on their historical accuracy. Based on this model, Silver was able to predict 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 election, 36 out of 37 governorships in 2010 and was within the confidence interval for the 2010 House races. When his model forecast a 2012 victory for Obama, Silver’s methodology came under intense scrutiny and attack.

While Silver’s formula is far too complex for me to wrap my head around, he insists that his predictions are only as accurate as the polling and survey data he receives. If the polling data would have been inaccurate, then the public trust in polling and statistical analysis would have been undermined. As it stands, a well-crafted survey with solid participation rates can still yield accurate, actionable results.

All is well with the world.

I have never doubted the efficacy of survey data and statistical analysis. However, I have a better understanding of the concept of GIGO — Garbage In, Garbage Out. Your survey data is only as good as the survey itself. The survey itself is only beneficial if it reaches your intended audience and convinces them to complete and submit it. Creating a well-designed, engaging poll or survey, while minimizing error, is fundamental to describing, understanding and predicting human behavior.

Not only did Nate Silver correctly predict the outcome of the 2012 presidential race, but he was also alarmingly accurate. While Silver is not the only statistician to utilize a highly accurate model, his emergence onto the pop cultural landscape should be celebrated.

Public confidence in a number of institutions is eroding. So, even if you don’t fully understand his formula or methodology, Silver’s reliance on accurate polling and survey data is reassuring.

Stretch Those Survey Muscles

The Higgs boson discovery. The London Olympic Games. And Zarca’s new 9.5 Release.

Yes, summer 2012 is one for the record books.

Just like those ridiculously lithe gymnasts, Version 9.5 possesses exceptional flexibility. Whether you’d like to login to your Zarca account directly from your desktop, protect your public surveys from non-human participants by using CAPTCHAs, or send Private Access invitations and post a Public Access link for the same survey, Version 9.5 has all those features plus oh-so-many more.

Your invitees will enjoy an easier, more eye-catching survey experience, while you’ll relish the chance to get more creative with your survey layouts. The end result of all this flexibility?  Higher response rates.

So check out Version 9.5 today. It’s a win/win. (Minus the gold medals.)

Training Made Easy

Remember that late night when you had to get your survey done to meet your deadline, and there was that one feature you just didn’t know how to implement?  I’d bet that frustrating feature was branching, piping or a specific report that you just didn’t know how to generate.

Now, in the same training tab that you used to schedule training sessions, you can find on-demand training videos on some of our most commonly used features.  We’ve got videos on features such as piping, simple and advanced branching, reports and many others.  We also have more in-depth videos that will give you an overview of how to use the Zarca Interactive platform.  And each video is organized by chapters so you can watch what you need and skip what you don’t — just like you would if you were watching a DVD.

So the next time you’re stuck on any aspect of your survey, browse our collection of training videos and finish your project faster!

Survey Invites

I recently returned from a weeklong business trip. After two flights, three hotels and a handful of events, I returned to an inbox flooded with customer satisfaction surveys.  While I’m always up for putting in my two cents — regardless of whether the experience was great, terrible or mediocre — I was struck by how amazingly uninviting some of these emails looked. No personalization, no customization, just plain old text with a link. I couldn’t help but think, are they serious?

One easy way to avoid the delete button and increase response rates is to customize your survey invitations. Using brand colors and including your logo shows effort and legitimacy, while personalizing your email sets the right tone for this big event, a.k.a. your survey. After all, would you attend a party thrown by someone you kind of know after receiving a lazy-looking invitation? I know I wouldn’t.

Zarca Interactive has many tools in place to help you customize your survey invitations. You can pull the color scheme directly from your website or pick and choose your own colors. You can also select fonts and borders that best reflect your company’s brand. Adding a logo is the final touch to creating a great first (or second) impression.  The invitation is the door to your survey, so it should be as welcoming as possible.

The Responsibility of Inviting Feedback

Have you ever had a discussion during which a friend asks for your thoughts on a particular issue? You think carefully and provide the best advice you can muster.  Your friend “listens” and, when you are done says, “Yeah, but I think I am going to go ahead and…”  You think to yourself, “Why did you ask my opinion if you already knew what you were going to do?”

When friends engage in this behavior it can be a mere annoyance, but when you engage in this behavior with your customers it can be detrimental to the relationship.  Obtaining feedback from your customers is an awesome responsibility.

While you cannot and should not comply with the opinion of every person who participates in your surveys, you should go into the initiative with an open mind, prepared to change positions and alter your approach.  What you thought your customers needed may not in fact be the case.  The rewards program you were planning to end may be a greater draw than you previously anticipated.  The factors that you thought motivated your employees may not matter after all.  Be prepared to revise the plan.  Otherwise, why are you even asking for feedback?