Asking for help

30th March, 2011

Asking for help is what we do in our business. We ask people to help us by sharing their opinion or expertise with us.

It means that the questions we ask have to be relevant to the person we are asking, for example you wouldn’t stop someone in London to ask them where the train station in St. Austell is.

We call that classification of the respondent (i.e. right location for the survey, right number of employees, a subject they can relate to, etc.)  Businesses need to know the facts in order to run their business. And some facts they can only get by asking the right people – you can only ask your customers and not your staff, if your customer service is good, to get an accurate opinion.

And most importantly if you would stop someone in the streets you ask them what you need to know and not everything you like to know. So you would keep our questions short, precise and to a ‘minimum’. If you have stopped someone in order to help you to find say a train station, you might also ask them the time and if they know if there is a ticket office at the station. By then you feel a certain ‘I wish I hadn’t stopped’ attitude in your ‘helper’ because it is taking more time than he or she had anticipated. So you wouldn’t add a long list of questions, for which it would be nice to know the answer (i.e. do you think I dressed appropriately for train travel?) but you don’t have to know in order to make your journey.

The same is true for market research. If a questionnaire is too long you run the risk that people ‘switch off’ and answer questions in order to get the researcher of the phone rather than telling them what they really think, or even stop answering all together.

So before you start your market research, decide you need to know to run or better your business. Those thoughts will determine which questions to ask and who to ask them to.

If you find afterwards that you need other facts as well – well, there is no harm in stopping someone else at a later date and ask them to help you.

But most important, once you have your facts and answers, act on them. Nothing is worse than being asked for an opinion to see that the person who asked you doesn’t take notice. Having asked someone directions you wouldn’t walk off the opposite way, would you?