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.

You have my attention…now don’t lose it.

As a lifelong shopper, I’m at the point where I anticipate survey invitations following a purchase or a trip. (Although I’m still not sure how much valuable input I can share from a two-minute visit to purchase a pack of gum.) In fact, I’m surprised if I don’t receive a request for feedback.

A few weeks ago I went on vacation and, like clockwork, received a survey invitation within 36 hours of returning home. Since I was on a mission to ensure one of the staff members will be named the next Employee of the Month, I was eager to participate. Unfortunately, though, my interest dwindled as the minutes ticked by. Although I diligently answered page after page of  questions, the progress bar barely moved. This survey felt longer than my entire vacation.

There are many challenges when launching survey initiatives. First, you have to entice your audience to open the survey. Then, once you have their attention, you have to keep it. If they feel the survey is too long, they’ll soon bolt.

Since I work in the survey business, I understand wanting feedback on every little detail to best improve your product or service. But, seriously, everyone shouldn’t be asked everything.

For instance, if someone didn’t visit the spa, even if they wish they had, then they shouldn’t be forced to wade through pages of spa questions. That’s where tools like Branching and Question Display Logic come into play. Branching respondents to just the most relevant survey questions cuts the survey’s length, which helps ensure that participants not only finish your survey but also provide quality feedback. It’s a win-win situation.

With Zarca Interactive, you can quickly and easily create powerful, personalized surveys. Get feedback you can put into action, such as making Ricky “Employee of the Month” (hint, hint.)


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?

Creating Complex Reports Quickly & Easily

Surveying is a valuable way to communicate with customers and employees, while providing insight into their thought processes. But while most companies can easily collect survey data, it’s much more of a challenge to make sense of all the responses and ultimately create powerful reports.

Before 2009, most businesses simply didn’t have the expertise and time to properly filter and quantify survey data. Therefore, it was nearly impossible to use that data in strategic decision-making.

Over the past few years, Zarca Interactive has refined tools to address the painstaking process of creating reports, charts and analyses, with particular emphasis on minimizing the steps required to create complex reports. This means that reporting can be done by any employee in your company, not only those in your research department.

In just a few moments, you can easily create complex pivot tables, pie charts, statistical analysis, segmentation reports and much more — all via Zarca’s wizard-driven, point-and-click reporting tool. And, once you’ve generated those reports, you can easily email or share them in nearly every major format or on any website.

Zarca helps you quickly and easily create and generate complex reports — allowing you to use those reports to make informed, strategic business.

Survey Security, Minus the Pat-Down

Getting the old holiday pat-down by a TSA agent last month got me thinking about security.  Here at Zarca Interactive, the protection of your data is our top priority.  We’ve recently moved to a highly secure office space and installed high-resolution cameras within our office to ensure that your data has more protection than Britain’s Crown Jewels.  Our safeguards are in place, but are you doing everything possible to ensure the safety of your survey data?

Enabling SSL (Secured Socket Layer) in your surveys adds an extra layer of encryption to all transmitted data.  SSL is essentially the TSA of the online domain.  It serves as a checkpoint, only allowing your participant’s browser and our web servers to interact after we have given proof of our authenticated SSL certificate.

The SSL feature enables a uniquely encrypted channel for private communications. When participants submit their survey responses, you can rest assured that nobody’s eyes but yours will see the data — you get full-scale security without the full-body pat-down.

Planning Ahead with the Survey Calendar

My 2012 New Year’s resolution is to become more organized.  This year I’ve made a conscious decision to clean my desk, make my to-do lists, and start thinking one step ahead.  Just as our personal lives need an occasional re-examination, a survey project also needs a well-defined plan and basic organization to be successful.

Zarca Interactive makes it easy to organize your survey from creation to deployment with the Survey Calendar.  The Survey Calendar helps you create a strategic plan, which answers several important questions about each survey, including the intended audience, the department(s) involved, and what will be included in the final report.  Not only does the Survey Calendar make it easy to plan ahead, it ensures that you won’t over-survey any of your participants.

Once you’ve created a calendar of survey deadlines, you’ll be able to see whether you risk over-surveying.  If one department is planning to send three client satisfaction surveys each month, and a manager is going to send bi-weekly post-event surveys, your participants will quickly suffer from survey fatigue and stop responding altogether.  Begin planning every project on the Survey Calendar, and watch your response rates soar!

Stop wasting your time trying to organize the details of each survey by hand.  Just like my desk dividers, pencil holders and daily planners are helping me manage a variety of projects in 2012, the Survey Calendar is a powerful tool that will improve the way you approach each new survey.

Hello, I Must Be Going . . .

You know that uncomfortable feeling when you pass the same person in the hall over and over and over? You go from saying a friendly “Hi!” to a more subdued “Hey” to an interior “My head’s down because I’m pretending to check my BlackBerry” as you stealthily slink on by.

You may not have any control over how many times a day you run into certain co-workers, but you can ensure that you don’t wear out your welcome with survey participants.

Zarca’s Touch Rules Management allows you to filter out certain people who have already received a certain number of survey invitations from you, or who have already participated in a certain number of your surveys on or after a particular date.

By managing your participant lists with Touch Rules Management, you show your respondents that you not only value their feedback but also respect their time. So, when they do hear from you, they’ll be more likely to participate in your surveys.

Avoid over-surveying with Zarca’s Touch Rules – your participants will remain loyal, and you’ll enjoy higher response rates.