June 8, 2008

How can this survey mean anything?

I just got a survey in the mail. There’s a crisp $2 bill and the promise of $10 more if I fill it out and return it. It’s only 108 pages long, and full of easy and interesting questions like “Is either adult head of household aware of variable annuities that include a Guaranteed Minimum Accumulation Benefit or a Guaranteed Minimum Withdrawal Benefit?”

It shouldn’t take me long to look up my life insurance policy disclosures, so I can answer “Does the interest rate paid on the cash value of either adult head of household’s policy change with the money market rate or with the performance of underlying investments that have been chosen?”

Does anyone fill this out? Accurately? And wouldn’t this be a highly specialized, self-selecting group of obsessive-compulsive personal finance geeks guaranteed to not in any way be representative of the general population?

This has to be what happens when a company gets too big. You have a hundred departments each contributing their dozens of questions to an outside firm that promises to handle all the messy survey details. And nobody with any sense looks at the result to ask, “Will anyone actually answer this accurately? And if they did, would I want that person as a customer?”

Comments

  1. In the words of Ed McMahon you are correct sir.
    After 20 years in publishing I should be used to seeing the swings from completely benign useless questions proffered to the overly obsessive you’ve noted. Surveys should be desinged with the end user in mind, not the author of the survey

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